Justia West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics
by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's professional malpractice claim brought under the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act (MPLA), holding that the circuit court did not err in dismissing the claim with prejudice.Plaintiff sent to Defendant a notice of claim and certificate of merit consistent with the pre-suit notice requirements of the MPLA. Defendant neither requested pre-suit mediation nor declined it. Long after the expiration of the statute of limitations and any statutory tolling periods, Plaintiff received a response letter from Defendant explicitly declining pre-suit mediation. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed her claim. The circuit court dismissed the claim on the grounds that the MPLA does not permit an indefinite tolling of the statute of limitations to facilitate pre-suit mediation and there was no evidence of any affirmative conduct by Defendant that would have induced Plaintiff to delay filing her claim so as to equitably toll the statute of limitations. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error in the circuit court's decision. View "Adkins v. Clark" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the portion of the circuit court's order granting Respondent's motion to dismiss this Petitioners' claims asserting, inter alia, medical negligence, res ipsa loquitur, and loss of consortium, but vacated the court's decision to grant the dismissal with prejudice, holding that the court erred in dismissing the action with prejudice.At issue on appeal was whether Petitioners' failure to serve a screening certificate of merit upon Respondent before filing their complaint warranted a dismissal of Petitioners' complaint with prejudice. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to proceed in this case due to Petitioners' failure to comply with the pre-suit notice requirements of the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act, W. Va. Code 55-7B-6; and (2) therefore, the circuit court properly dismissed the civil action, but erred in dismissing it with prejudice. View "Tanner v. Raybuck" on Justia Law

by
In this legal malpractice action, the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court effectively granting summary judgment to Defendants, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding that the continuous representation doctrine was not applicable to the facts presented in this case.The circuit court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss, concluding that the applicable two-year statute of limitations on Plaintiff's claim had expired before the filing of his legal malpractice lawsuit. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in failing to apply the continuous representation doctrine to find that his complaint was timely filed. The Supreme Court converted the dismissal to summary judgment because the lower court considered matters outside the pleadings and affirmed, holding that because there was no continuing representation of Plaintiff by Defendants, the circuit court properly ruled that Plaintiff's complaint was time-barred. View "Hupp v. Monahan" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition seeking to vacate the circuit court's order denying Petitioners' motion to dismiss the underlying suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that the circuit court erred in failing to dismiss the claims.Respondents sued Petitioners - various medical providers, pharmacists, and pharmacies - under the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act (MPLA) asserting claims of medical negligence, pharmacist negligence, and loss of consortium. Petitioners moved to dismiss the claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on the grounds that Respondents did not serve a notice of claim upon Petitioners before filing their complaint. The circuit court denied the motions to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to proceed due to Respondents' failure to comply with the MPLA's pre-suit requirements. View "State ex rel. Hope Clinic, PLLC v. Judge McGraw" on Justia Law

by
In this case arising from a phishing/spoofing scheme that caused Plaintiffs to lose $266,069 the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court denying Plaintiffs' motion to alter or amend its previous grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant, holding that Plaintiffs were unable to establish that Defendant breached any duty owed to them.Plaintiffs made an offer on real estate, which was accepted. Plaintiffs intended to pay in cash. To handle the closing, Respondent was retained. Respondent sent wiring instructions for the settlement funds to Lynn Frum, Plaintiffs' real estate agent. Before the closing, an email purportedly from Frum's email address to Plaintiffs started a series of emails between Plaintiffs and the scammer. However, the email address was not the same email address from which the email from Frum was sent that day. Plaintiffs instructed their bank to transfer funds from their account to the scammer's account. When it became apparent that Plaintiffs were victimized by a scammer, they brought suit, alleging legal malpractice. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Respondent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs did not establish that Respondent neglected a reasonable duty. View "Otto v. Catrow Law, PLLC" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court denied the writ of prohibition sought by the West Virginia Regional Jail Authority (WVRJA) seeking to have the Court prohibit the circuit court from enforcing its order denying the WVRJA's motion to dismiss Bobbi Bryant's complaint against it as time barred, holding that WVRJA failed to demonstrate that the circuit court's order was clearly erroneous.The WVRJA moved to dismiss Bryant's complaint on the sole basis that the claims asserted against it were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The circuit court found that because the statute of limitations was appropriately tolled as to the co-defendant and because Bryant alleged a civil conspiracy cause of action the statute of limitation as to the co-defendant was imputed to the WVRJA. The WVRJA then filed a petition for writ of prohibition with the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court denied the petition, holding that the circuit court did not commit clear legal error in denying WVRJA's motion to dismiss the complaint as time barred, based on the applicable statute of limitations, such that a writ of prohibition is warranted. View "State ex rel. Regional Jail Authority v. Honorable Carrie Webster" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court answered a question certified by the federal district court by concluding that the term "person" as used in the wrongful death statute, W. Va. Code 55-7-5 and 55-7-6, does not include an ectopic embryo or an ectopic fetus.Three years after Defendant performed a bilateral tubal litigation on Plaintiff for permanent sterilization purposes doctors discovered a live ectopic pregnancy located in Plaintiff's left fallopian tube. Because the ectopic pregnancy had no chance of resulting in a live birth and would result in Plaintiff's death if allowed to continue, the ectopic embryo was removed. Plaintiff, on behalf of herself and as the administratrix of the estate of her ectopic embryo, and her husband filed suit against Defendant, asserting wrongful death. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The federal district court then certified two questions to the Supreme Court for resolution. The Supreme Court answered the second question, rendering the first question moot, holding that the term "person" as used in the wrongful death statute does not include an ectopic embryo or an ectopic fetus. View "Saleh v. Damron" on Justia Law

by
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

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court affirming a decision by the West Virginia Board of Medicine that imposed professional discipline upon Dr. Omar Hasan, including a one-year suspension of his medical license with the requirement that he petition for reinstatement, holding that there was no error in the circuit court's order affirming the final order of the Board.On appeal, Hasan argued that the Board erred by failing to adopt recommended findings of fact by its hearing examiner, by misstating various facts in its final order, and by improperly considering the content of certain text messages. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board has the authority to amend findings of fact recommended by its hearing examiner so long as it provides a reasoned, articulate decision that explains the rationale for its changes, and the Board provided such a rationale in this case; (2) the Board did not err in considering the challenged text messages; and (3) the Board did not commit reversible error by misstating certain evidence. View "Hasan v. West Virginia Board of Medicine" on Justia Law

by
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