Justia West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Products Liability
Stevens v. MTR Gaming Group, Inc.
Stacy Stevens, the personal representative of her late husband, Scott Stevens, filed suit on behalf of Scott’s estate against MTR Gaming Group, Inc. and International Game Technology, Inc. after Scott allegedly developed “gambling disorder,” embezzled more than $7 million from his employer to play video lottery machines, spent his family’s savings, and fatally shot himself. Stacy brought claims for negligence, breach of the duty of care, products liability, wrongful death, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for failing to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. The federal district court certified to the Supreme Court questions of law relevant to resolving the motions. The Supreme Court answered the first certified question in the negative and declined to answer, as effectively moot, the remaining certified questions, holding that no duty of care under West Virginia law exists on the part of manufacturers of video lottery terminals, or the casinos in which the terminals are located, to protect users from compulsively gambling. View "Stevens v. MTR Gaming Group, Inc." on Justia Law
State ex rel. Ford Motor Co. v. Hon. Warren R. McGraw
Jarred Wellman, a West Virginia resident, was killed in a one-car rollover crash in West Virginia. Jarred was operating a 2002 Ford Explorer at the time of the accident. Plaintiff, a West Virginia resident and the father and administrator of Jarred’s estate, filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Wyoming County against Ford Motor Company alleging product liability, negligence, and breach of warranty. Ford filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction on the grounds that it was a nonresident corporation. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. Ford requested the Supreme Court to issue a writ of prohibition seeking dismissal from the underlying action. The Supreme Court granted the requested writ as moulded, holding (1) Ford has not shown that it is entitled to extraordinary relief whereby the Court would dismiss it from the underlying civil action; but (2) Ford’s assertions regarding its challenge to jurisdiction are of such a significant nature that the parties are entitled to an opportunity to develop the record and submit argument to be considered and determined by the circuit court. View "State ex rel. Ford Motor Co. v. Hon. Warren R. McGraw" on Justia Law
State ex rel. J.C. v. Hon. James P. Mazzone
Nineteen unrelated mothers brought in the Circuit Court of Wayne County claims against Pfizer, Inc. and related entities (collectively, Respondents) on behalf of their respective minor children, alleging that their ingestion of Zoloft during their pregnancies caused their children to suffer birth defects. Petitioners hailed from fifteen different states. Respondents moved to refer the litigation to the Mass Litigation Panel. After the motion was denied, a virtually identical complaint was filed in the Wayne County Circuit Court by six unrelated plaintiff families against Respondents. The circuit court consolidated the two civil actions. The twenty-five plaintiff families then moved to refer the litigation to the Panel. The chief justice transferred the two civil actions to the Panel. Respondents filed a motion seeking to dismiss twenty-two non-resident plaintiff families on the basis of forum non conveniens. The Panel granted, in part, the motion to dismiss and dismissed twenty of the twenty-two plaintiff families. Petitioner sought a writ of prohibition to prevent enforcement of the Panel’s dismissal order. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that there was no basis to prevent the Panel from enforcing its dismissal order. View "State ex rel. J.C. v. Hon. James P. Mazzone" on Justia Law
State ex rel. Ford Motor Co. v. Hon. David W. Nibert
Jack Garrett Ford, Inc. sold a Ford Expedition to an unidentified individual from a dealership located in West Virginia. The vehicle was manufactured and designed in Michigan by Ford Motor Company, which had its principal place of business in Michigan. The Expedition was later sold to a Michigan resident, who in turn sold it to Plaintiffs, also Michigan residents. After the Expedition rolled over multiple times, resulting in two children being killed, Plaintiffs filed a complaint in a West Virginia state court, asserting claims against Jack Garrett Ford and Ford. Defendants moved to dismiss the civil action based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens, arguing that Michigan was the correct forum for the litigation. The circuit court denied the motion to dismiss. Defendants then filed this petition for writ of prohibition asserting that the circuit court erred in its decision. The Supreme Court granted the writ as moulded, holding that the circuit court failed properly to evaluate Petitioners’ motion to dismiss in a manner that comported with W. Va. Code 56-1-1a. Remanded. View "State ex rel. Ford Motor Co. v. Hon. David W. Nibert" on Justia Law
Posted in: Products Liability
Williams v. Werner Enters., Inc.
The decedents in this case were long distance drivers for Werner Enterprises. When the tractor-trailer they were driving as a team hit a guardrail and overturned, the tractor-trailer caught on fire, killing the decedents. Werner later disposed of the remains of the tractor-trailer. Plaintiffs, the family of the decedents, filed this lawsuit asserting, among other claims, product liability claims against the manufacturer of the tractor-trailer, Freightliner Corporation, Inc. Plaintiffs alleged alleged that Werner had either negligently or intentionally spoliated evidence, including the tractor-trailer. The circuit court granted summary judgment to Werner, thus dismissing all of Plaintiffs’ claims except the claim concerning whether Werner intentionally spoliated evidence when it disposed of the tractor-trailer. The circuit court eventually entered summary judgment on this claim, concluding that there was no question of material fact as to whether Werner had knowledge of Plaintiffs’ potential civil action when it disposed of the tractor-trailer. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court was correct in granting summary judgment. View "Williams v. Werner Enters., Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Products Liability
State ex rel. J.C. v. Judge Mazzone
In 2012, nineteen plaintiff families filed a single complaint alleging products liability and negligence claims against Defendants. In 2013, six plaintiff families filed a single complaint also alleging products liability and negligence claims against Defendants. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court referred Plaintiffs as two civil actions to the Mass Litigation Panel. The Panel entered an order that transformed the two civil actions into twenty-five separate actions. Plaintiffs sought a writ of prohibition to preclude enforcement of the order on the grounds that the Panel did not have the authority to alter their status as two civil actions. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding that the Panel did not have the authority to separate the cases. View "State ex rel. J.C. v. Judge Mazzone" on Justia Law
Landis v. Hearthmark, LLC
Parents filed a product liability action on behalf of Child, who was severely burned while attempting to start a fire in his family's fireplace with a fire starter gel. Defendants filed third-party complaints against Parents. Parents argued that the parental immunity doctrine barred Defendants from arguing that Parents' negligence caused or contributed to Child's injuries. The district court subsequently certified questions to the Supreme Court regarding the law on the parental immunity doctrine. The Supreme Court answered by holding that in a product liability action brought for injury to a child (1) the parental immunity doctrine precludes a defendant from asserting a contribution claim against the child's parents, but an allegedly negligent parent may be included as a third-party defendant for the allocation of fault; and (2) the parental immunity doctrine does not preclude a defendant from asserting the defense of abnormal product use by the parents to establish the negligence or fault of the parents or from asserting that the conduct of a parent was an intervening cause of the child's injuries. View "Landis v. Hearthmark, LLC" on Justia Law
State ex rel. Mylan, Inc. v. Zakaib
In two consolidated original jurisdiction actions, petitioners Mylan, Inc., Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and Mylan Technologies, Inc. sought writs of prohibition in two actions pending in the circuit court of Kanawha County. In each action, the circuit court denied a motion filed by petitioners to dismiss the case on the basis of forum non conveniens. Petitioners filed a petition for a writ of prohibition, asserting that each of the circuit judges erred in applying the forum non conveniens statute, W. Va. Code 56-1-1a, and seeking to prohibit the circuit court from refusing to dismiss their actions. In a show cause order, the Supreme Court held that the circuit court erred in failing to make findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding the eight factors listed for consideration in Section 56-1-1a. The Court, therefore, granted the writs and remanded the actions. View "State ex rel. Mylan, Inc. v. Zakaib" on Justia Law
Mace v. Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc., et al.
Randy Mace, as personal representative of the estate of Kathy Mace, appealed from an order of the circuit court dismissing his wrongful death lawsuit on the basis of forum non conveniens. Applying the forum non conveniens statute, the circuit court concluded that North Carolina, the state in which the action accrued, was a more convenient forum for Mace's claims. Mace argued, however, that he was unable to try his claims in North Carolina because they were barred by that state's statute of limitations. Thus, he argued, the circuit court erred in dismissing the case because it misinterpreted the forum non conveniens statute as permitting dismissal despite the lack of an alternate forum in which the claims may be tried. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded. Finding the language of the statute ambiguous, the Court construed the statute in a manner consistent with the Court's prior case law and the federal common law doctrine of forum non conveniens. Under this construction, the circuit court erred in its interpretation of the statute. View "Mace v. Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc., et al." on Justia Law