Justia West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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The Supreme Court upheld the Workers’ Compensation Board of Review’s finding that, based on the preponderance of the evidence, Jimmie Lemon’s injury was work related. Jimmie Lemon filed a workers’ compensation claim claiming that his low back injury occurred in the course of and resulting from his employment with Arch Coal, Inc. The Office of Judges found the claim compensable and designated Lemon’s compensable condition as a herniated disc. The Board of Review affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case with directions that the claim be rejected, concluding that Lemon’s injury was not work-related. Upon reconsideration, the Supreme Court upheld the prior administrative finding that Lemon’s injury was work-related. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Review and remanded with directions to reinstate the decisions of the Office of judges and the Board of Review that Lemon’s claim was compensable. View "Arch Coal, Inc. v. Lemon" on Justia Law

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Under the plain language of W. Va. Code 23-4-8, the claims administrator did not have discretion to deny Claimant reimbursement for his meal expense he incurred while attending a required medical examination on the ground that his travel did not require overnight lodging. Claimant, who applied for workers’ compensation benefits, was ordered by his claims administrator to attend a medical examination 100 miles away from from his home. Claimant ate one meal while attending the medical examination. The claims administrator denied Claimant’s request for reimbursement for the meal expense he incurred on the ground that his travel did not require overnight lodging. The Workers’ Compensation Board of Review affirmed the denial of Claimant’s request for meal reimbursement. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the claims administrator violated the clear mandate in section 23-4-8 that Claimant be reimbursed for his reasonable travel expenses. View "Silveti v. Ohio Valley Nursing Home, Inc." on Justia Law

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Under the plain language of W. Va. Code 23-4-8, the claims administrator did not have discretion to deny Claimant reimbursement for his meal expense he incurred while attending a required medical examination on the ground that his travel did not require overnight lodging. Claimant, who applied for workers’ compensation benefits, was ordered by his claims administrator to attend a medical examination 100 miles away from from his home. Claimant ate one meal while attending the medical examination. The claims administrator denied Claimant’s request for reimbursement for the meal expense he incurred on the ground that his travel did not require overnight lodging. The Workers’ Compensation Board of Review affirmed the denial of Claimant’s request for meal reimbursement. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the claims administrator violated the clear mandate in section 23-4-8 that Claimant be reimbursed for his reasonable travel expenses. View "Silveti v. Ohio Valley Nursing Home, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered two certified questions from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in this dispute between two insurance companies as follows: (1) The Workers’ Compensation Office of Judges does not have jurisdiction over a declaratory judgment action involving a dispute between insurance carriers regarding whether one or both carriers are responsible for contributing toward payment of an employee’s workers’ compensation benefits; and (2) Pursuant to W. Va. Code 33-46A-7(a), parties to a professional employer agreement must designate either the professional employer organization (PEO) or the client-employer as the responsible party for obtaining workers’ compensation insurance coverage for covered employees. Further, when parties to a professional employer agreement designate the PEO as the responsible party for obtaining workers’ compensation insurance coverage for covered employees, the policy obtained by the PEO is primary over a policy obtained by a client-employer. Thus, coverage under a workers’ compensation policy purchased by the client-employer is triggered only if the PEO or its carrier default on their obligation to provide workers’ compensation coverage. View "Brickstreet Mutual Insurance Co. v. Zurich American Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court affirming a decision of the Board of Review of Workforce West Virginia that granted twenty-five Verizon employees ("claimants") unemployment compensation benefits for a period of time during which they were on strike. The Court held that that claimants were disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits under W. Va. Code 21A-6-3(4) because (1) the phrase “factory, establishment or other premises at which he or she was last employed” in section 21A-6-3(4) means the distinct geographical location where the claimant was last employed prior to the labor dispute; (2) the lower tribunals erred in the instant case by considering Verizon’s nationwide operations to determine whether a “work stoppage” occurred during the strike at issue; and (3) a “work stoppage” occurred at Verizon’s Clarksburg facility during the labor dispute, which disqualified the claimants for benefits under the statute. View "Verizon Services Corp. v. Board of Review of Workforce West Virginia" on Justia Law

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In this action brought by Plaintiff alleging a deliberate intent claim and violations of the West Virginia Human Rights Act (Act) the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s rulings and remanded the case for entry of an order dismissing the action and compelling arbitration. Plaintiff instituted this civil action against Hampden Coal, LLC, his employer, and his supervisor alleging a deliberate intent claim related to his workplace injury and two violations of the Act arising from his demotion. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to compel arbitration pursuant to an arbitration agreement Appellant signed as a condition of his employment. The circuit court denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss and refused to compel arbitration, concluding, among other things, that the arbitration agreement was invalid because it lacked consideration and was both substantively and procedurally unconscionable. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) more stringent or different standards do not apply to consideration of arbitration agreements in the employment context; (2) the parties’ agreement to arbitrate their disputes served as consideration for the agreement; (3) the agreement was neither substantively or procedurally unconscionable; (4) Plaintiff’s claims did not fall outside the scope of the agreement; and (5) the circuit court erred in finding that the agreement was an employment contract. View "Hampden Coal, LLC v. Varney" 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 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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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

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court upholding the finding of just cause for Petitioner’s discharge made by the Mason County Civil Service Commission for Deputy Sheriffs. Petitioner was discharged from employment with the Mason County Sheriff’s Department based on two separate incidents. The Commission concluded that just cause existed for Petitioner’s discharge. The Circuit court affirmed the Commission’s decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Petitioner was not denied procedural due process; (2) the Commission’s practices and procedures were not flawed; and (3) The Commission’s finding of just cause not not clearly wrong or a misapplication of the law, was not arbitrary or capricious, and was not contrary to the evidence. View "Fruth v. Powers" on Justia Law