Justia West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Contracts
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court granting a preliminary injunction, holding that the court did not err when it found Plaintiff had a likelihood of succeeding on the merits of its claims and was likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of action by the court. Pachira Energy LLC entered into an agreement with Northeast Natural Energy LLC establishing the Blacksville Area of Mutual Interest (Blacksville AMI) and setting forth guidelines for exploiting oil and gas leases and other mineral interests. Pachira later filed a complaint against Northeast Natural Energy LLC alleging that Northeast was breaching various agreements and was abusing its power to benefit itself, to the detriment of Pachira. Among other requests for relief, Pachira sought a permanent injunction stop Northeast's use of a jointly-owned water system within the Blacksville AMI to support Northeast's drilling operations outside the Blacksville AMI and to sell water to third parties outside the Blacksville AMI. The circuit court granted Pachira's motion for a preliminary injunction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that it was fair for the circuit court to preserve the status quo until the parties' resolve the merits of their dispute and that there was no error in the preliminary injunction order. View "Northeast Natural Energy LLC v. Pachira Energy LLC" on Justia Law

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In this action stemming from the auction of a plot of land, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's grant of summary judgment to Plaintiff, holding that the circuit court properly construed the law of auctions and contracts. Plaintiff won an auction of certain property with a high bid. Plaintiff subsequently brought suit alleging, among other things, breach of contract because Defendant had permitted an unqualified bidder to bid on the property. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Plaintiff. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) no genuine issue of material fact existed to be tried regarding the formation of the contract between Plaintiff and Defendant and Defendant's failure to comply with the terms and conditions of that contract; and (2) the circuit court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff. View "Alex Lyon & Son v. Leach" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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In this case involving an order compelling Plaintiff to arbitrate her dispute with an investment firm the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's order to the extent that it included language that invaded the province of the arbitrator but otherwise affirmed the order dismissing Plaintiff's suit and compelling her to arbitrate. Plaintiff's deceased husband created two accounts with an investment firm, and the documents he signed required the arbitration of any account disputes. After the investment company paid the proceeds of both accounts to two other individuals, Plaintiff brought this suit, asserting her right to the proceeds of the accounts. The circuit court concluded that Plaintiff was required to comply with the arbitration agreements even though she was a nonsignatory. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court properly determined that Plaintiff was required to arbitrate her claims to the proceeds of both accounts; but (2) the circuit court erred in including improper language in its order that exceeded the court's authority. View "Bayles v. Evans" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioners' motion to compel arbitration of Respondents' claims against them, holding that a merger clause in the retail sales installment contract (RISC) between the parties served to supplant the arbitration agreement contained in the previously-executed credit application. Respondents purchased a new truck from Petitioners. Respondents first executed a credit application that contained an arbitration provision. Thereafter, the parties executed the RSIC, which did not contain an arbitration clause. After Respondents defaulted on their loan Petitioners began collection efforts. Respondents filed this complaint asserting that Petitioners harassed them by phone even after being advised they were represented by counsel. Petitioners moved to compel arbitration based on the arbitration provision contained in the credit application. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the arbitration provisions in the credit application did not survive the merger clause of the RISC, thereby nullifying Respondents' obligation to arbitrate their claims against Petitioners. View "TD Auto Finance LLC v. Reynolds" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order granting summary judgment to LML Properties, LLC on Hanover Resources, LLC's complaint alleging breach of contract against LML for enforcement of $4.7 million in mechanic's liens on the basis that the mechanic's liens were invalid under West Virginia law, holding that the mechanic's liens at issue were invalid. The liens in this case were filed under W. Va. Code 38-2-31 and -32 by Hanover, a provider of coal mining services, against the fee interest of a mineral estate partially owned by LML. The circuit court concluded that the liens were invalid and granted summary judgment to LML. The Supreme Court affirmed after considering the undisputed facts in the form of stipulations by the parties regarding their contractual responsibilities along with the framework in the mechanic's lien statutes and relevant case law, holding that the circuit court did not err in granting LML's motion for summary judgment. View "Hanover Resources, LLC v. LML Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the request for extraordinary relief sought by Vanderra Resources, LLC asserting that the circuit court's denial of Vanderra's motion for summary judgment on Chesapeake Appalachia, LLC's claims against it was clearly erroneous and an abuse of the court's power, holding that because the denial of summary judgment was an interlocutory ruling, there was no error. Vanderra was a reclamation contractor hired by Chesapeake to implement a stabilization plan at one of Chesapeake's shale drill pads. While Verderra implemented the plan, earth movement and landslides occurred. Chesapeake filed suit against Vanderra to recover its costs incurred in repairing the collapsed drill pad. Vanderra filed a motion for summary judgment, which the circuit court denied on the grounds that genuine issues of material fact existed. Vanderra then brought this action for a writ of prohibition, or alternatively mandamus, arguing that the circuit court lacked any factual or evidentiary findings. The Supreme Court denied Vanderra's request, holding that the circuit court did not exceed its legitimate powers when it denied summary judgment. View "State ex rel. Vanderra Resources, LLC v. Honorable David W. Hummel" on Justia Law

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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 the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment against Petitioners in their action against Respondents based upon a coal lease agreement between the parties and granting summary judgment against Respondents’ counterclaim, holding that there was no error to the dismissal of the parties’ respective claims. In granting summary judgment against Petitioners, the circuit court concluded that Respondents had no obligation to diligently mine coal and did not have to make royalty payments based upon comparable sales by other mining companies. The circuit court also granted summary judgment against Respondents’ counterclaim seeking damages for Petitioners’ refusal to consent to an assignment or sublease of the coal lease and for alleged tortious interference with an asset agreement Respondents had with another company. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error in the circuit court’s judgment. View "Bruce McDonald Holding Co. v. Addington Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court certifying as final the prior orders that granted summary judgment to Respondents in this civil action arising out of the modification of covenants pertaining to a residential subdivision developed by RJM Holdings, LLC, holding that the genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment. On appeal, Petitioners argued that the circuit court erred by granting summary judgment because genuine issues of material fact existed regarding whether Respondents were engaged in a joint venture with RJM to develop the subdivision and whether the corporate veils of the respondent businesses should be pierced to hold certain individuals personally liable. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed, holding that genuine issues of material fact existed with respect to the conduct of Respondents and the use of the various business entities to develop the subdivision. View "Dailey v. RJM Holdings, LLC" 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