Articles Posted in West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

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In 2006, Respondents obtained an adjustable rate mortgage loan from a mortgage company. Respondents executed a deed of trust on the real property being purchased and separately executed an arbitration rider. Respondents later defaulted on the loan, and Petitioner, which serviced the loan, assessed a number of fees. Respondents filed an action against Petitioner alleging violations of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act. Petitioner filed a motion to compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable under the Dodd-Frank Act and that it was procedurally and substantively unconscionable. The Supreme Court granted Petitioner's requested writ of prohibition to prevent enforcement of the circuit court's order, holding (1) the Dodd-Frank Act did not apply to the mortgage loan because the loan was executed prior to the Act's enactment; and (2) the arbitration agreement was neither procedurally nor substantively unconscionable. View "State ex rel. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC v. Circuit Court of Kanawha County" on Justia Law

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Employee filed this action against Employer, alleging that his exposure to diesel exhaust fumes while employed by Employer caused him to develop cancer. Employee subsequently died, and his wife (Petitioner) was substituted as the plaintiff. Petitioner amended the complaint to allege that Employee's death was a result of his exposure to diesel exhaust fumes. Employer moved to exclude the testimony of Petitioner's three expert witnesses on the grounds that their methodology was not reliable. After a hearing, the circuit court excluded Petitioner's experts' testimony. The court then entered summary judgment in favor of Employer because Petitioner did not have an expert. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's order excluding the testimony of Petitioner's experts and the grant of summary judgment, holding that the trial court exceeded the scope of its review of the reliability prong of W. Va. R. Evid. 702 in concluding that Petitioner's experts were not reliable. Remanded. View "Harris v. CSX Transp., Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitioner was a guest passenger in a vehicle insured by Progressive Classic Insurance Company when the vehicle was rear-ended by a truck. Petitioner received medical payments coverage under the Progressive policy for some of the medical expenses she incurred for the treatment of her injuries. Petitioner later successfully sued the truck owner and driver and received damages. Progressive subsequently asserted a subrogation lien on the recovery for the amount it paid under the medical payments coverage. Petitioner filed this complaint against Progressive, alleging common law and statutory bad faith claims. The circuit court dismissed the action, determining that because Petitioner was not a named insured under the Progressive policy and paid no premiums for the policy, Petitioner was a third-party insured and was, therefore, precluded from pursuing her bad faith claims against Progressive. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Petitioner was a first-party insured under the Progressive policy because the policy included within the definition of an insured person "any other person while occupying a covered vehicle"; and (2) therefore, Petitioner may pursue an action against Progressive for common law and statutory bad faith. View "Dorsey v. Progressive Classic Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Petitioners in this consolidated appeal were engaged in various aspects of the collection of consumer debts. After the Attorney General (AG) received complaints from consumers indicating that certain Petitioners had violated consumer protection laws, the AG issued an investigative subpoena, to which Petitioners objected. The AG filed a civil action against Petitioners seeking to compel Petitioners to comply with the subpoena. The circuit court ordered Petitioners to comply with the subpoena and temporarily enjoined Petitioners from collecting debts they had acquired before they were licensed. The Supreme Court primarily affirmed the circuit court's orders, holding (1) when the AG files a cause of action against an entity that is subject to an investigative subpoena, the AG's subpoena authority ends as to those matters that form the basis of the complaint's allegations, and the rules of discovery provide the method by which the AG may investigate the wrongdoing; (2) the investigative subpoena survives the AG's filing of a lawsuit when the subpoena pertains to matters that do not form the basis of the complaint; and (3) once the AG has instituted a civil action against an entity to enjoin unlawful conduct, the AG may seek temporary relief against the entity during the pendency of such proceedings. View "Cavalry SPV I, LLC v. Morrisey" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff fell down a staircase in a commercial parking lot that lacked handrails. Plaintiff filed a negligence action against Defendants, who constructed and maintained the stairs, asserting that Defendants were prima facie negligent because a local ordinance legally required the installation of at least one handrail. Defendants asserted that the missing handrail was an open and obvious danger, and therefore, Plaintiff was barred as a matter of law from recovering any damages. The circuit court granted summary judgment to Defendants, finding no actionable negligence because Defendants had no duty of care toward Plaintiff. The Supreme Court first abolished the open and obvious doctrine and then reversed the circuit court's orders in this case, holding (1) if a hazard is open is obvious on premises, it does not preclude a cause of action by a plaintiff for injuries caused by that hazard; and (2) instead, a jury may consider the obviousness of the hazard in determining the comparative negligence of the plaintiff against that of the owner of the premises. Remanded. View "Hersh v. E-T Enters., Ltd. P'ship" on Justia Law

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The Acting Commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (the Commissioner) affirmed the revocation of Michael Doonan's driver's license for second offense DUI. Doonan sought review of the revocation order in the Wood County Circuit Court. After notifying the court that Doonan had moved out of state, Doonan's counsel requested that the matter be transferred to the Kanawha County Circuit Court given the statutory requirement that a petition for review must be filed either in the Kanawha County Circuit Court or the circuit court of the county in which the petitioner resides. The Commissioner objected, arguing that the Wood County Circuit Court did not have jurisdiction over the administrative appeal and thus lacked the authority to transfer the matter. The Wood County Circuit Court granted Doonan's request and ordered that the case be transferred. Thereafter, the Commissioner filed a petition for a writ of prohibition seeking to prohibit the Kanawha County Circuit Court from accepting jurisdiction of Doonan's administrative appeal. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding that because the Wood County Circuit Court never acquired subject matter jurisdiction over Doonan's appeal of the Commissioner's revocation order, it lacked the authority to transfer the matter to the Kanawha County Circuit Court. View "State ex rel. Dale v. Circuit Court" on Justia Law

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Petitioner's decedent, Freda Bradley, purchased a named perils homeowners insurance policy from Farmers and Mechanics Mutual Insurance Company of West Virginia (Farmers). Bradley filed a claim under the policy for damage to her kitchen and bathroom floor. Farmers denied the claim citing a policy exclusion for water damage below the surface of the ground, fungi, wet or dry rot, or bacteria. Bradley filed a complaint against Farmers alleging several causes of action stemming from Farmers' denial of coverage under an insurance policy Bradley had purchased from Farmers. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Farmers, concluding (1) damage done to Bradley's kitchen floor did not constitute a "collapse" as required by the policy; and (2) the alleged collapse was not caused by "hidden decay." Petitioner appealed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred in finding that the term "collapse" in the insurance policy was not ambiguous and that Bradley's kitchen floor did not collapse; and (2) whether Bradley should have known that decay was causing her kitchen floor to sink was a genuine issue of material fact to be decided by a jury. Remanded. View "Chafin v. Farmers & Mechanics Mut. Ins. Co. of W. Va." on Justia Law

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Richard Young was killed while working for Apogee Coal Company (Apogee) after being allegedly instructed by his supervisor, James Browning, to remove a counterweight on an end loader that fell on top of him and killed him. Petitioner, administratrix of Young's estate, sued Apogee, Browning, and Apogee's alleged parent company (collectively, Respondents), alleging, inter alia, a deliberate intent cause of action against Browning and Apogee on the basis that Young had not been property trained on removal of the counterweight. Respondents removed the case to the U.S. district court, which certified a question of law to the West Virginia Supreme Court. The Court answered by holding that a non-employer "person," such as a supervisor or co-employee, may not be made a defendant in a deliberate intent cause of action pursuant to W. Va. Code 23-4-2(d)(2)(ii). View "Young v. Apogee Coal Co., LLC " on Justia Law

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Petitioners and Respondents owned adjoining parcels of property. After the parties purchased their properties, they learned they would be entitled to free gas from a well drilled on a property adjoining Respondents' property. In order to access this gas, Petitioners obtained permission from Respondents to install a gas line across Respondents' property. Several years later, Respondents demanded that Petitioners remove the gas line from their property. Petitioners refused to remove the gas line and filed a civil action seeking injunctive relief. The circuit court ordered Petitioners to remove the gas line, finding that Respondents properly withdrew their permission to cross their property and that Petitioners had no easement or continuing right to cross Respondents' property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in finding (1) Respondents revoked their permission to place a gas line across their property; (2) Petitioners were not entitled to any easement across Respondents' property; and (3) removal of the gas line from Respondents' property was required. View "Wilson v. Staats" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction and sentence, holding (1) Defendant's recorded confession was not obtained in violation of his right to be promptly presented before a magistrate following his arrest, and therefore, the trial court did not err by not suppressing the confession; (2) the trial court did not deny Defendant a theory of defense by refusing to give an insanity instruction; (3) W. Va. Code 62-3-15 is not unconstitutional; and (4) the trial court did not commit reversible error in instructing the jury on the use of notes and note taking. View "State v. Flournoy" on Justia Law