Justia West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court denying Petitioner's motion to set aside a default judgment entered against him, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying Petitioner's motion to set aside the default judgment. Respondent filed a breach of contract claim against Petitioner for allegedly failing to pay insurance premiums. Petitioner did not respond to Respondent's properly served complaint, and Respondent obtained a default judgment against him. Nearly sixteen months later, Petitioner filed a motion to set aside the default judgment on the grounds that he was not a proper party to the action. The circuit court denied the motion as untimely because the grounds on which Petitioner sought to have the judgment set aside were subject to a one-year limitation period under W. Va. Rule 60(b). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Petitioner's grounds to set aside the judgment were untimely under Rule 60(b); and (2) while void judgments are not subject to the strict time frame set forth in Rule 60(b), the circuit court did not lack personal jurisdiction over Petitioner so as to render the judgment void. View "Amoruso v. Commerce & Industry Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed two orders of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint against the City of Shepherdstown and Shepherdstown University for malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress, holding that Plaintiff’s appeals were without merit. In its first order, the circuit court granted the City’s motion to dismiss. In its second order, the court granted the University’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. The two dismissal orders were nearly identical. The circuit court determined that Plaintiff’s complaint failed to establish a claim of malicious prosecution and a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the complaint failed to set forth sufficient allegations to sustain Plaintiff’s claims against the City and the University. View "Goodwin v. City of Shepherdstown" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the circuit court granting declaratory relief in favor Berkeley County on the County’s suit against the City of Martinsburg seeking a ruling that real property owned by the County but located within the City limits was not subject to the City’s zoning ordinances, holding that the circuit court’s order was advisory in that it lacked a justiciable controversy sufficient to confer jurisdiction under the Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act. In vacating the circuit court’s order, the Supreme Court noted that the complaint revealed no actual, justiciable controversy because there was no specific project, building, or property identified by the County. Rather, the underlying suit claimed to apply generally to all real property owned by the County that may be involved in future, unspecified projects. The Court held that, under these circumstances, the circuit court engaged in an academic exercise, and its order amounted to an advisory opinion and, therefore, must be vacated. View "City of Martinsburg v. Berkeley County Council" on Justia Law

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In this property dispute, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court setting aside the jury’s verdict in favor of Defendants for insufficient evidence and granting Plaintiff a new trial, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in this case. Plaintiff proved at trial that she had a written easement to cross Defendants’ land. Defendants, however, introduced evidence that Plaintiff had abandoned the written easement through decades of nonuse. During trial, Plaintiff never objected or filed a motion that challenged the sufficiency of Defendants’ evidence. After the jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants and on appeal, Plaintiff filed a motion seeking a new trial, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support Defendants’ abandonment theory. The circuit court granted the motion and set aside the jury’s verdict for insufficient evidence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Plaintiff did not file a motion challenging the sufficiency of evidence at trial, before the jury returned a verdict, and because the jury’s verdict had support in the record, the circuit court abused its discretion in setting aside the jury’s verdict and in granting a new trial. View "McInarnay v. Hall" on Justia Law

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In this property dispute, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court setting aside the jury’s verdict in favor of Defendants for insufficient evidence and granting Plaintiff a new trial, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in this case. Plaintiff proved at trial that she had a written easement to cross Defendants’ land. Defendants, however, introduced evidence that Plaintiff had abandoned the written easement through decades of nonuse. During trial, Plaintiff never objected or filed a motion that challenged the sufficiency of Defendants’ evidence. After the jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants and on appeal, Plaintiff filed a motion seeking a new trial, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support Defendants’ abandonment theory. The circuit court granted the motion and set aside the jury’s verdict for insufficient evidence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Plaintiff did not file a motion challenging the sufficiency of evidence at trial, before the jury returned a verdict, and because the jury’s verdict had support in the record, the circuit court abused its discretion in setting aside the jury’s verdict and in granting a new trial. View "McInarnay v. Hall" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court dismissing Petitioners’ civil action as a sanction for alleged discovery violations, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion by imposing the sanction of dismissal. Petitioners bought this civil action against Respondent alleging unfair and deceptive acts, breach of express and implied warranties, breach of contract, and other causes of action. Respondent eventually filed a second motion to dismiss the civil action as a sanction for alleged discovery violations. The circuit court identified ten instances of alleged wrongful conduct by Petitioners and granted Respondent’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, even assuming that there was a discovery violation, the circuit court’s imposition of the extreme sanction of dismissal was an abuse of discretion. View "Smith v. Gebhardt" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the circuit court properly granted Shutler Cabinets, Inc.’s motion to quash a subpoena duces tecum seeking all of Shutler’s business records for a one-year period and whether the court properly awarded Shutler attorney fees and costs. Shutler was a nonparty to the litigation in this case, which was filed in Pennsylvania. Plaintiff sought discovery information from Shutler, a West Virginia company that was a nonparty to the litigation in Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the circuit court’s order quashing the subpoena, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that the category of information in the subpoena that sought business records for a one-year period, including that names and addresses of Shutler’s customers, was unduly burdensome; and (2) affirmed the attorney fee award regarding the fees counsel for Shutler incurred in its initial response to the petition for a subpoena duces tecum and reversed the attorney fee award regarding fees counsel for Shutler incurred in connection with Plaintiff’s W.Va. R. Civ. P. 59(e) motion. View "Kahle's Kitchens, Inc. v. Shutler Cabinets, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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At issue was whether the circuit court properly granted Shutler Cabinets, Inc.’s motion to quash a subpoena duces tecum seeking all of Shutler’s business records for a one-year period and whether the court properly awarded Shutler attorney fees and costs. Shutler was a nonparty to the litigation in this case, which was filed in Pennsylvania. Plaintiff sought discovery information from Shutler, a West Virginia company that was a nonparty to the litigation in Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the circuit court’s order quashing the subpoena, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that the category of information in the subpoena that sought business records for a one-year period, including that names and addresses of Shutler’s customers, was unduly burdensome; and (2) affirmed the attorney fee award regarding the fees counsel for Shutler incurred in its initial response to the petition for a subpoena duces tecum and reversed the attorney fee award regarding fees counsel for Shutler incurred in connection with Plaintiff’s W.Va. R. Civ. P. 59(e) motion. View "Kahle's Kitchens, Inc. v. Shutler Cabinets, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The Supreme Court issued a writ of prohibition requested by the Fairmont State University Board of Governors (Fairmont State) prohibiting the circuit court from hearing a lawsuit against it and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC), holding that venue was not proper in the Circuit Court of Marion County. Some faculty members at Fairmont State sued the Board of Governors and the HEPC in Marion County Circuit Court, alleging, among other things, that Fairmont State violated the West Virginia Open Meetings Act and that it did not fully comply with Plaintiffs’ Freedom of Information Act request. Fairmont State and the HEPC filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit based on improper venue, asserting that lawsuits against state agencies must be filed in Kanawha County. The circuit court denied the motions to dismiss. In response, Fairmont State filed this petition for a writ of prohibition. The Supreme court granted the writ, holding that the lawsuit against Fairmont State and the HEPC must be filed in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County. View "State ex rel. Fairmont State University Board of Governors v. Honorable Patrick N. Wilson" on Justia Law

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Two recently enacted statutes relating to damages - W. Va. Code 55-7-29 and 55-7E-3 - are remedial and apply in a trial conducted after the effective date of the statutes when the underlying facts in the case occurred prior to that effective date. After he was discharged from employment, Plaintiff filed a complaint against his former employer under the West Virginia Human Rights Act claiming that he was unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of race, national origin and/or ancestry. Defendant removed the case to federal district court on the basis of diversity. The district court then certified questions to the Supreme Court regarding the two statutes at issue. The Supreme Court answered the two certified questions in the affirmative and dismissed the matter from the docket of the court. View "Martinez v. Asplundh Tree Expert Co." on Justia Law