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In these consolidated appeals requiring the Supreme Court to interpret various provisions of the West Virginia Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Rule (WVSCMRR), W.Va. CSR 38-2-1, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the circuit court. The Supreme Court held that the circuit court (1) did not err in finding that the WVSCMRR does not require a coal company, in its application for modification of its mining permit, to demonstrate compliance with the Utility Protection Standard found at W.Va. 38-2-14.17; (2) did not err in ruling that the permit application sufficiently described how the coal operator would comply with the Utility Protection Standard; but (3) erred in finding that the WVSCMRR applied regardless of a coal operator’s common law property rights. View "Texas Eastern Transmission v. W. Va. Department of Environmental Protection" on Justia Law

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At issue was the admissibility of expert testimony valuing wetland property for the purpose of just compensation in a condemnation proceeding where the highest and best use of the wetlands was determined to be the development of a wetlands mitigation bank. The Supreme Court held (1) the highest and best use of the wetland property as a mitigation bank may be considered in a condemnation proceeding to the extent that such a factor would be weighed in negotiations between private persons participating in a voluntary sale and purchase of the land at the time it was taken; (2) however, the market price of mitigation credits that ultimately may be produced from the property cannot be the sole basis for measuring the land’s value in determining just compensation; and (3) because the expert testimony at issue in this case provided a value that was based solely upon the market price of mitigation credits that could be developed from the land, as opposed to the fair market value of the land itself in a voluntary transaction between a knowledgeable buyer and seller, the circuit court erred in admitting that testimony. The court remanded the case for a new trial. View "W. Va. Department of Transportation, Division of Highways v. CDS Family Trust, LLC" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the City of Fairmont, which entered into a lease purchase agreement for equipment with Comvest, Ltd., may assert claims and defenses against Blue Ridge Bank - to whom Comvest assigned its interest in the lease purchase agreement, including its right to the City’s monthly payments - based on Comvest’s conversion of funds designated for the purchase of the equipment. The Supreme Court held (1) the Bank took its assignment subject to the City’s claims and defenses arising from Comvest’s breach of the lease purchase agreement; and (2) therefore, the City may assert claims and defenses against the Bank based on Comvest’s conversion. View "Blue Ridge Bank, Inc. v. City of Fairmont" on Justia Law

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The felony offense of driving on a license revoked for driving under the influence (DUI) does not involve actual or threatened violence. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment under the recidivist statute based upon a predicate felony conviction for unlawful assault and two prior felony convictions for driving while license revoked for DUI. Defendant appealed, arguing that his life sentence was not proportionate because the two prior felony offenses did not involve actual or threatened violence. The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s sentence, holding that the recidivist life sentence imposed on Defendant based upon the predicate felony conviction for unlawful assault, together with two prior non-violent felony convictions, violated the proportionality principle in W. Va. Const. art. III, 5. View "State v. Kilmer" on Justia Law

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In this dispute between the West Virginia State Lottery, the Lottery Commission, the Lottery Director (collectively, the State Lottery) and certain entities issued permits to operate limited video lottery game terminals (Permit Holders), the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the circuit court denying the State Lottery’s denial of its motion to dismiss on the grounds that it waived its sovereign and qualified immunity defenses. The dispute arose after the State Lottery instructed the Permit Holders that they would be required to use a different software program at their expense. The Permit Holders alleged a taking without just compensation, deprivation of property without due process, and civil conspiracy. The Supreme Court held (1) the State Lottery did not waive its rights to sovereign and qualified immunity; and (2) because the circuit court did not make any findings or inquiries relating to qualified immunity, this case must be remanded for a determination of whether the State Lottery was qualifiedly immune under the circumstances. View "West Virginia Lottery v. A-1 Amusement, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital Corporation’s (Hospital) motion to dismiss Dr. Tuan Nguyen’s (Physician) claims alleging that the Hospital discriminated and retaliated against him for reporting patient safety concerns. The Hospital sought dismissal under W. Va. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), arguing that Physician’s claims were linked to its decision not to reappoint him to its medical staff, and therefore, it enjoyed qualified immunity pursuant to Mahmoodian v. United Hospital Center, Inc., 404 S.E. 2d 750 (W. Va. 1991). The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Physician’s claims were distinguishable from Mahmoodian; and (2) accordingly, Physician sufficiently pled his causes of action to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. View "Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital Corp. v. Nguyen" on Justia Law

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The circuit court erred in vacating Respondent’s conviction for felony murder and granting him a new trial based upon newly discovered evidence in the form of serology test results on a $20 bill, a $5 bill, and a $1 bill. The test results linked the money to the victim during Respondent’s underlying trial. In 1994, the serology evidence at issue was ordered to be retested, and the circuit court made specific findings regarding the evidence in a prior omnibus proceeding brought by Respondent. In 2016, the circuit court granted Respondent a new trial after an omnibus hearing. Specifically, the circuit court found that the previously adjudicated 1994 DNA results concerning the serology evidence constituted “newly discovered evidence.” The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for reinstatement of the 1987 conviction for felony murder, holding that even if the serology evidence were excluded, there was sufficient evidence presented to the jury to support Respondent’s conviction. View "Terry v. Ward" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting mandamus relief to Lieutenant Gregory Scolapio and finding that Scolapio was entitled to a hearing before the Harrison County Civil Service Commission for Deputy Sheriffs regarding the decision of Robert Matheny, Sheriff of Harrison County, to terminate his employment. The court held (1) the circuit court did not err in determining that Scolapio was entitled to receive both a pre-disciplinary hearing before the hearing board and a de novo evidentiary hearing before the Commission; and (2) the circuit court did not err in permitting the Sheriff to intervene in the proceedings. View "Matheny v. Scolapio" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, former shareholders of Kay Company and Kay Co., LLC, appealed orders entered by the circuit court in which summary judgment was granted to Respondent, Petitioners’ former legal counsel, in connection with claims Petitioners filed against Respondent. Petitioners challenged the circuit court’s (1) ruling that a settlement reached by all but one of Petitioners with the IRS prevented them from establishing causation and damages on any of their claims, (2) finding that there were no factual issues in need of resolution, and (3) ruling that the lack of settlement with the IRS precluded Jennie Graham, executrix of the estate of James Graham, prevented her from asserting claims against Respondent. The Supreme Court held that the circuit court (1) erred in reasoning that the settlement with the IRS prohibited Petitioners from going forward on all of their claims; (2) erred in ruling that the lack of a settlement with the IRS precluded Graham from asserting any claims against Respondent; and (3) did not err in its rulings with regard to detrimental reliance and joint venture. The Supreme Court remanded this matter to the circuit court to permit Petitioners to proceed on their claims of legal malpractice, negligent misrepresentation, and fraud. View "Kay v. McGuireWoods, LLP" on Justia Law

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The circuit court did not err in refusing to dismiss a former employee’s failure to rehire claim, filed only nine months after the alleged failure to rehire, because the claim was not barred by the relevant statute of limitation. Plaintiff, who worked for Defendants, surface coal mine operators, was excused from work due to serious heart problems. Defendants later “idled” the surface mine and dismissed all employees from work. When Defendants again began mining coal, Plaintiff sought to be re-employed by Defendants but was not rehired. Nine months after being denied reemployment, Plaintiff filed suit against Defendants, alleging that Defendants’ failure to re-employ him were based upon his age and disability in violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. The circuit court found that Plaintiff’s complaint contained allegations of both wrongful termination and failure to hire and dismissed Plaintiff’s wrongful termination claim as time-barred. The court, however, concluded that the failure to rehire claim was not barred by the statute of limitation because it was a separate and new act of discrimination. The Supreme Court denied Defendants’ request for a writ of prohibition, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying Defendants’ motions to dismiss Plaintiff’s claim for failure to rehire. View "State ex rel. Raven Crest Contracting, LLC v. Honorable William S. Thompson" on Justia Law