Justia West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court insofar as it denied summary judgment to Beth Thompson on Joseph Whitt's intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment claims, holding that Thompson was immune from liability on those claims. Whitt was terminated from his employment as IT Director for Cabell County. Whitt sued Thompson, the Cabell County Administrator who informed Whitt of his termination, and the Cabell County Commission, which made the decision to terminate. The circuit court denied Thompson's motion for summary judgment on grounds of immunity and both Defendants' motions for summary judgment on the merits of the substantive claims in the complaint. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the court's order insofar as it denied statutory immunity to Thompson on the claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment, holding that Thompson was entitled to immunity; and (2) declined to review the court's ruling denying summary judgment on Whitt's whistleblower claims. View "Cabell County Commission v. Whitt" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted in part and denied in part a writ of prohibition sought by Defendants challenging the circuit court's denial of Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint, holding that the circuit court erred when it refused to dismiss Plaintiff's claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress but did not err when it refused to dismiss Plaintiff's claim for general negligence. Plaintiff brought his complaint alleging that he suffered emotional injuries after witnessing a co-worker sustain fatal injuries due to Defendants' negligence. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss under W. Va. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) because the Plaintiff and his co-worker did not meet the "closely related" requirement. The circuit court denied the motion. Defendants then filed this petition requesting a writ of prohibition challenging the denial of the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court granted the writ in part and denied it in part, holding (1) an employee cannot recover damages for emotional distress after witnessing an injury to an unrelated co-worker under a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress; and (2) the circuit court did not err in denying Defendants' motion to dismiss as to Plaintiff's claim for general negligence because the claim was not duplicative of Plaintiff's claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress. View "State ex rel. Maxxim Shared Services, LLC v. Honorable Warren R. McGraw" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court granted the writ of prohibition sought by PrimeCare Medical of West Virginia, Inc. (PrimeCare) to dismiss the Estate of Cody Lawrence Grove's (the Estate) claims against PrimeCare for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that the circuit court erred by failing to dismiss the claims against PrimeCare brought under the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act (MPLA). The Estate sued a correctional officer, a regional jail authority, and Prime Care, which provided monitoring of inmates, arguing that Cody Grove was able to commit suicide while he was an inmate because the correctional officer failed to conduct one or more safety checks on Grove. PrimeCare filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the Estate failed to serve the notice of claim and the screening certificate of merit required by the MPLA. See W. Va. Code 55-7B-6. The circuit court denied the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's order, holding that to the extent the MPLA's pre-suit notice requirements were not complied with, the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to proceed. View "State ex rel., Primecare Medical of West Virginia, Inc. v. Honorable Laura V. Faircloth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff's claims against a sheriff's deputy, a county, and its sheriff's department alleging that his earlier arrest violated his constitutional rights and was intentional infliction of emotional distress and battery, holding that Plaintiff's claims were time barred and that Plaintiff's motions for disqualification were properly denied. The circuit court dismissed Plaintiff's claims because he did not file within the two-year statute of limitations. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the circuit judge should have been disqualified from the case and that the tolling provision of W. Va. Code 55-17-3(a) should have applied once he gave notice of his claim to the sheriff's department. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the tolling provision of section 55-17-3(a) did not apply because the sheriff's department is not part of the executive branch of state government; and (2) Plaintiff's allegations that the circuit judge should have been disqualified were properly adjudicated by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and were without merit. View "Patton v. County of Berkeley, West Virginia" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's claims, holding that the circuit court did not err in finding that Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. Plaintiff, an eighteen-year-old high school student, filed a civil action against Defendants, the county board of education and the county's sheriff's office and deputy, based on injuries he received while wrestling on a public school soccer field after leaving the high school building without authorization after the seventh period of class. The circuit court ruled that Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity and that, because Plaintiff was an adult when he left the school, Defendants did not owe him a duty at the time of the injury. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the county board was a state actor for purposes of determining whether it was entitled to qualified immunity; and (2) Defendants did not violate any statutory duty to Plaintiff, and therefore, Defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. View "Goodwin v. Board of Education of Fayette County" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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In this medical malpractice action the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment to Defendant and finding that Defendant did not have a duty to provide follow-up medical care after Plaintiff left Raleigh General Hospital against medical advice, holding that the circuit court properly granted summary judgment to Defendant. The day after Defendant performed surgery on Plaintiff, Plaintiff left the hospital against medical advice (AMA). Plaintiff was later diagnosed with an infection resulting from the fact that the temporary stents she received in her surgery had never been removed. Plaintiff sued. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Defendant, determining that the patient-doctor relationship between the parties ended the day that Plaintiff left the hospital against medical advice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff failed to establish that Defendant had a duty to provide medical care to her after she terminated their physician-patient relationship; and (2) in discontinuing the physician-patient relationship she had with Defendant when she left the hospital AMA, Plaintiff removed herself from the class of individuals sought to be protected by the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act, W. Va. Code 55-7B-1 to -12. View "Kruse v. Farid" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Defendant's motion to dismiss and remanded this case to the circuit court for the entry of an order dismissing Plaintiff's claims against Defendant, holding that the circuit court exceeded its jurisdiction by failing to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against Defendant. Plaintiff was injured while working for Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc. and was subsequently terminated. Defendant, Old Dominion's third-party claims administrator, denied Plaintiff's claim for workers' compensation benefits on behalf of Old Dominion. Plaintiff sued Defendant. Defendant moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claims, but the circuit court judge denied the motion. The Supreme Court granted Defendant's motion for a writ of prohibition, holding that the circuit court exceeded its legitimate powers when it refused to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against Defendant. View "State ex rel. Gallagher Bassett Services v. Honorable Carrie Webster" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioner's motion for a new trial and renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law, holding that the verdict in this case should be upheld. Petitioner failed a medial professional liability action against Respondents alleging that Respondents were negligent and breached the applicable standards of care by failing to timely deliver an infant, thereby resulting in the infant's death. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Respondents, and the circuit court denied both of Petitioner's post-trial motions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding, among other things, that, contrary to Petitioner's arguments on appeal, the evidence at trial did not constitute a clear case of medical negligence, and the verdict was not against the weight of the evidence. View "Smith v. Clark" on Justia Law

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In this case involving the deaths of seventy-eight minors in 1968 the Supreme Court answered questions of law certified to it by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit by concluding that the law in effect at the time of the tragedy did not recognize a cause of action for fraudulent concealment with respect to a statutory wrongful death claim. Petitioners were survivors of the seventy-eight miners who were killed in 1968 when methane gas exploded at a mine in Farmington, West Virginia. Petitioners sued Respondent, the parent company of the owner and operator of the mine, alleging that Respondent fraudulently concealed facts regarding the cause of the mine explosion such that Petitioners were prevented from timely pursuing a claim for the wrongful deaths of their decedents. The federal district court dismissed the complaint, concluding that Plaintiffs' wrongful death claim was barred by the then-applicable two-year limitation period and was not tolled by the fraudulent concealment doctrine. The court of appeals certified two questions of law to the Supreme Court. The Court answered that a fraudulent concealment claim is not cognizable when the alleged injury was the plaintiffs' loss of a timely claim for wrongful death and that the second certified question was moot. View "Michael v. Consolidation Coal Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court reversed the portion of a circuit court order dismissing two counts in Jane Doe's complaint that asserted the Logan County Board of Education and its employees were negligent but affirmed the dismissal of Jane Doe's fiduciary duty claim against the Board, holding that instead of wholly dismissing Doe's negligence claims with prejudice, the circuit court should have first allowed a different option. In dismissing Doe's negligence claims the circuit court concluded that Doe had failed to plead sufficient facts in her complaint to state a claim for relief. The Supreme Court held (1) the negligence claims contained some factual allegations to support aspects of the alleged negligence, and therefore, the circuit court's dismissal, with prejudice, of the negligence claims was in error; and (2) the circuit court properly dismissed Doe's fiduciary duty claim because Doe did not satisfy the requirements of the Tort Claims Act, W. Va. Code 29-12A-1 to -18. View "Doe v. Logan County Board of Education" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury