Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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In this matter arising from a condemnation proceeding initiated by the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways, the Supreme Court accepted questions certified by the circuit court and answered, among other things, that when the DOT initiates a condemnation proceeding that involves a partial taking of land in connection with a highway construction project and when, as a result of the project, a residue tract not needed by the State for public road purposes has been rendered landlocked, a court cannot require the Division of Highways to acquire the landlocked residue by condemnation. The federally-funded highway construction project in this case resulted in residue property being rendered landlocked. The Supreme Court answered questions certified to it by the circuit court and answered, under the circumstances of this case, that (1) the question of whether the residue has become an "uneconomic remnant" is not a question of fact to be determined by a jury; (2) the Division of Highways, over the objection of the landowner, may mitigate the damage to the residue by restoring reasonable public road access thereto; and (3) the trial court cannot require the Division to acquire the landlocked residue by condemnation. View "West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways v. Echols" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed a consolidated order of the Circuit Courts of Randolph, Barbour and Upshur Counties pursuant to which the Tax Commissioner’s determination was upheld that Penn Virginia Operating Company’s (Penn) forest properties were not eligible for lower valuation for tax year 2016, holding that Penn was deprived of its right to an administrative appeal of the denial of its application. Penn sought to have its timberland taxed at a lower appraised value subject to a cooperative contract with the State Division of Forestry (Forestry) pursuant to the Division’s Managed Timberland Program. The consolidated order in this case denied relief from the Commissioner’s determination that Penn’s forest properties were not eligible for lower valuation because Penn filed its application with Forestry for certification of its properties as managed timberland sixteen days after the deadline. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded this case with directions to allow Penn to appeal the denial of its application to Forestry’s Director, holding that Penn received incorrect information from Forestry and could have appealed the denial but was advised otherwise. View "Penn Virginia Operating Co., LLC v. Honorable Phyllis K. Yokum" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court reversing the order of the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) affirming the revocation of Respondent’s driver’s license for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), holding that the circuit court erred in reversing the OAH’s revocation order. In reversing the order of the OAH, the circuit court ruled that there was no “lawful evidence” that Respondent was under the influence of alcohol when he was arrested for DUI, and therefore any secondary chemical test was not lawfully administered. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the OAH’s order was supported by substantial evidence demonstrating that Respondent was lawfully arrested for DUI; and (2) the circuit court abused its discretion by substituting its judgment for that of the OAH. View "Reed v. Winesburg" on Justia Law

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In this condemnation proceeding, the Supreme Court granted the writ of prohibition sought by the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways (DOH), holding that the circuit court exceeded its legitimate authority and committed clear error by hindering the DOH’s exercise of its legislatively-granted discretion with respect to planning and engineering a road expansion project. The DOH filed petitions to condemn private property for use in expansion of a highly-trafficked road and moved for immediate right of entry and transfer of defeasible title. The circuit court held the motion in abeyance in lieu of denial and directed the DOH to return to its engineers for additional consideration of traffic safety issues and alternative plans to minimize the impact on local businesses. The Supreme Court granted the DOH’s petition for a writ of prohibition, holding that because the project was indisputably for a public use, the circuit court exceeded its legitimate authority by effectively denying for failing to rule on the only issue properly before it - that is, whether the project was for a public use. View "State ex rel. W.Va. Department of Transportation, Division of Highways v. Honorable Susan B. Tucker" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) finding that it did not have statutory jurisdiction to consider Petitioner’s complaint challenging the Greater Harrison County Public Service District’s (the District) rate increase, holding that the District was not subject to the PSC’s jurisdiction with regard to ratemaking authority. In 2015, the Legislature adopted deregulation measures to limit the PSC’s jurisdiction and to exempt larger public service districts from the requirement that the district obtain approval from he PSC before changing the rates it charged for water or sewer service. After 2015, larger public service districts, statutory defined as having at least 4,500 customers, were only required to obtain approval of a rate change from a local elected body. After the Harrison County Commission approved a rate increase sought by the District, Petitioner, a District customer, brought suit arguing that the PSC had jurisdiction because the District did not have at least 4,500 customers. The PSC found that the District provided service to at least 4,500 customers, and thus, it did not have jurisdiction to examine the District’s rate increase. The Supreme Court affirmed. View "Pool v. Greater Harrison County Public Service District" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the Board of Review in these consolidated workers’ compensation cases, holding that the four claimants’ applications for occupational pneumoconiosis (OP) benefits were properly rejected pursuant to W. Va. Code 23-4-15(b). Section 23-4-15(b) provides that a claimant may either file an OP claim within three years of the claimant’s date of last exposure to the hazards of OP or within three years of the date a diagnosed impairment due to OP was made known to the claimant by a physician. None of the claimants here filed an application within three years of their date of last exposure. Relying on the second time limitation, however, the claimants asserted that because they were not informed by a physician that they had a diagnosed impairment due to OP, they were not barred from filing new claims with the same date of last exposure as in their prior claims. The Supreme Court ruled that the claims were properly rejected, holding that the claimants’ interpretation of the statute was unconvincing. View "Pennington v. W.Va. Office of Insurance Commissioner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Public Service Commission finding that the Jefferson County Public Service District may “indefinitely delay” a project to upgrade its sewer service, holding that the Commission did not exceed its authority or make factual findings that were not supported by adequate evidence and that the substantive result of the Commission’s order was not improper. The Supreme Court may reserve an order of the Commission when it exceeded its authority, it made factual findings that were not supported by adequate evidence, and the substantive result of the order was not proper. In affirming the Commission’s order, the Court held that, under the facts of this case, none of these three situations applied. View "Jefferson County Citizens for Economic Preservation v. Public Service Commission of West Virginia" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Board of Review concluding that Employer could reclaim temporary total disability benefits it paid to a claimant for an extra 156 days beyond the date Employer was statutorily required to pay, holding that the overpayment decision violated W.Va. Code 23-4-1c(h). Employer paid benefits to a claimant for almost two-and-a-half years while the claimant was undergoing medical and physical rehabilitation. When Employer discovered it had paid the claimant benefits for 156 days beyond what it was required to pay, Employer declared those days an overpayment and sought to recover the benefits from the claimant. A claims examiner concluded that Employer could reclaim those benefits under this state’s workers’ compensation laws. The Board of Review upheld the decisions regarding overpayment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Employer wholly failed to follow the process set forth in section 23-4-1c(h). View "Reed v. Exel Logistics, Inc." on Justia Law

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Workers’ compensation dependents’ death benefits awarded under West Virginia law are payable as long as the benefits awarded under the laws of another state for the same injury remain suspended due to a related third-party settlement. Petitioner received awards of dependents’ benefits in both Rhode Island and West Virginia. The West Virginia award was subject to W. Va. Code 23-2-1c(d), which provides for a credit of workers’ compensation benefits “awarded or recovered” under laws of another state. No benefits were paid out in connection to the West Virginia award because the weekly benefits paid in relation to the Rhode Island claim were greater than, and credited against, the West Virginia benefits awarded. After Petitioner reached a confidential settlement with defendants in a civil action she filed in relation to the decedent’s death her Rhode Island dependents’ benefits were suspended. Petitioner then requested payment of West Virginia dependents’ benefits. Petitioner’s request was denied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the dependents’ benefits awarded under Rhode Island law were suspended, Petitioner was entitled to receive payments of dependents’ benefits awarded to her under West Virginia law. View "Moran v. Rosciti Construction Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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Workers’ compensation dependents’ death benefits awarded under West Virginia law are payable as long as the benefits awarded under the laws of another state for the same injury remain suspended due to a related third-party settlement. Petitioner received awards of dependents’ benefits in both Rhode Island and West Virginia. The West Virginia award was subject to W. Va. Code 23-2-1c(d), which provides for a credit of workers’ compensation benefits “awarded or recovered” under laws of another state. No benefits were paid out in connection to the West Virginia award because the weekly benefits paid in relation to the Rhode Island claim were greater than, and credited against, the West Virginia benefits awarded. After Petitioner reached a confidential settlement with defendants in a civil action she filed in relation to the decedent’s death her Rhode Island dependents’ benefits were suspended. Petitioner then requested payment of West Virginia dependents’ benefits. Petitioner’s request was denied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the dependents’ benefits awarded under Rhode Island law were suspended, Petitioner was entitled to receive payments of dependents’ benefits awarded to her under West Virginia law. View "Moran v. Rosciti Construction Co., LLC" on Justia Law