Justia West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals
State ex rel. Ash v. Circuit Court
Lisa Martin filed a domestic violence petition against Chubby Hoston, who was incarcerated. Attorney Colin Cline was appointed to act as Hoston's guardian ad litem. Based on a statement made by Hoston that Cline delivered at the family court hearing, Hoston was charged with intimidation of and retaliation against a witness. The prosecuting attorney in the criminal matter, Scott Ash, issued a subpoena to Cline seeking his testimony on the statement Hoston directed him to deliver at the family court hearing. The circuit court granted Hoston's motion to prohibit the testimony of Cline in the criminal proceeding, concluding that the communication between Hoston and his guardian was protected by the attorney-client privilege. Ash filed a writ of prohibition to prohibit the circuit court from suppressing the testimony of Cline. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding (1) an attorney-client relationship is formed when a lawyer acts as an incarcerated person's guardian ad litem in a family court proceeding; but (2) when an incarcerated person directs his guardian ad litem to convey a statement to a third party, that statement is not protected by the attorney-client privilege. View "State ex rel. Ash v. Circuit Court" on Justia Law
New v. GameStop, Inc.
In 2009, GameStop, Inc., which operated retail stores that sold video games and video gaming software, hired Petitioner as an assistant manager. When she began her employment, Petitioner received a store associate handbook. In a document included with the handbook was an arbitration agreement. Petitioner signed and dated an acknowledgment of the handbook and rules including arbitration. In 2011, Petitioner sued GameStop and some of its managers (collectively, GameStop) for wrongful discharge, sexual harassment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other causes of action. The circuit court dismissed the complaint pending Petitioner's submission of her claims to final and binding arbitration. Petitioner appealed, arguing that she did not enter into a valid arbitration with GameStop or, in the alternative, the arbitration agreement was unconscionable and unenforceable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Petitioner and GameStop entered into a valid agreement to arbitrate Petitioner's claims; and (2) the arbitration agreement was neither procedurally nor substantively unconscionable. View "New v. GameStop, Inc." on Justia Law
Master Mech. Insulation, Inc. v. Simmons
Respondent was employed periodically by Petitioner. While engaged in certain activities at an apartment complex that was being demolished by Petitioner, Respondent was injured. Respondent filed a workers' compensation claim for his injuries, but the claim was denied. The Supreme Court found that Respondent's injuries were compensable under the West Virginia Workers' Compensation Act. Respondent subsequently amended his previously-filed negligence action and asserted a deliberate intent claim against Petitioner. The circuit court certified three questions to the Supreme Court, which answered by holding (1) Respondent's claim against Petitioner was governed by the 2005 amendment to the deliberate intent statute; (2) an employer in a deliberate intent action may introduce evidence that is relevant to the issues of whether an employee's conduct created a specific unsafe working condition, whether the employer had knowledge of the unsafe working condition, and whether the employee's injuries were the proximate result of that unsafe working condition; and (3) Petitioner was not precluded from arguing that Respondent was at the site of his own volition and voluntarily agreed to remove a decontamination unit, which caused him to fall and suffer injuries. View "Master Mech. Insulation, Inc. v. Simmons" on Justia Law
Kubican v. The Tavern, LLC
After an altercation that took place at Bubba's Bar and Grill (Bubba's), Petitioner filed a complaint against Bubba's, asserting three negligence claims. Petitioner subsequently learned that Bubba's was a fictitious name used for business purposes by The Tavern, LLC and that James Paugh and Lawson Mangum were the only members of The Tavern. Petitioner sought leave to amend his complaint to utilize the proper company name, add Paugh and Mangum as defendants, and assert a veil piercing count against Paugh and Mangum. The Tavern argued in response that the sole purpose for adding Paugh and Mangum as defendants was to pierce the veil of their West Virginia limited liability company, which The Tavern claimed was against West Virginia law. Instead of ruling on Petitioner's motion, the circuit court certified a question to the Supreme Court regarding West Virginia's version of the Uniform Limited Liability Company Act (the Act). The Court answered the certified question in the negative, holding that the Act permits the equitable remedy of piercing the veil to be asserted against a West Virginia limited liability company. View "Kubican v. The Tavern, LLC" on Justia Law
Hudson v. Bowling
Petitioner filed to receive food stamp benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as a separated spouse in a one-person household. The Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) determined that Petitioner and her husband (Husband) were living together for seventeen months after Petitioner filed to receive food stamps and sent Petitioner a notice of overpayment. Petitioner requested a hearing, and a hearing examiner affirmed the DHHR's overpayment claim. The circuit court affirmed, finding that Petitioner had not submitted sufficient evidence to support her claim that she and Husband had separate residences. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court and remanded for entry of an order granting Petitioner's petition for a writ of certiorari and dismissing the DHHR's overpayment claim, holding that the DHHR failed to prove that Petitioner and Husband lived together during the seventeen month time period of the overpayment claim, and the claim should have been dismissed at the conclusion of DHHR's evidence. View "Hudson v. Bowling" on Justia Law
Amanda A. v. Kevin T.
After Mother and Father separated, the family court filed an order granting Mother permission to change her residence to the state of Georgia and to have primary physical custody of the parties' child. Two years later, Father filed a motion for modification of the parenting plan. After a hearing, the family court ordered a change in the primary residential physical custody of the child, awarding such custody to Father. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the family court did not abuse its discretion in awarding primary residential custody to Father in this case. View "Amanda A. v. Kevin T." on Justia Law
Sorongon v. W. Va. Bd. of Physical Therapy
Petitioner was a licensed physical therapist and the owner of a therapy center that operated two facilities. The West Virginia Board of Physical Therapy revoked Petitioner's license for failure to properly supervise physical therapist assistants and physical therapy aides employed by him. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court properly found that Petitioner failed to directly supervise a physical therapy aide who was performing patient treatment; but (2) the circuit court erred in finding that Petitioner failed appropriately to supervise a physical therapist assistant who was performing patient treatment. Remanded. View "Sorongon v. W. Va. Bd. of Physical Therapy" on Justia Law
Lemasters v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co.
Plaintiff sought underinsured motorists (UIM) coverage from Respondent, Plaintiff's insurance carrier, after he was involved in an accident. Plaintiff and his wife eventually filed suit against Respondent seeking to recover the benefits. Plaintiff and Respondent settled the claim. Plaintiffs then amended their complaint against Respondent to allege a bad faith claim for violation of the Unfair Trade Practices Act, alleging that Respondent acted in bad faith by not paying their first-party claim for UIM. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs then moved for attorney fees and costs for substantially prevailing in the underlying bad faith award. The circuit court denied the costs and fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that there was no factual basis upon which to award fees on the bad faith claim. View "Lemasters v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Gerlach v. Ballard
Petitioner was convicted of second degree murder and death of a child by a parent, guardian, or custodian. Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, claiming that he had been punished twice for the same offense and, thus, his double jeopardy protections were violated. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court, holding that the two offenses of which Petitioner was charged and convicted were separate and distinct pursuant to the test set forth under Blockburger v. United States because (1) intent to kill is an element of second degree murder but is not an element of the offense of death of a child by a parent, guardian, or custodian; and (2) the offense of death of a child by a parent, guardian, or custodian by child abuse contains elements of proof not required to establish second degree murder. View "Gerlach v. Ballard" on Justia Law
State v. Lambert
After a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian or custodian, and distribution and display of obscene matter to a minor. The victim, who was four years old at the time of the offenses, was found to be incompetent to testify. During trial, the trial court admitted certain of the victim's out-of-court statements. The Supreme Court affirmed the convictions, holding (1) even if the admission of the victim's out-of-court statements was error under Crawford v. Washington and State v. Mechling, any error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) any error in the State's closing argument did not result in manifest injustice that would require the reversal of Petitioner's conviction. View "State v. Lambert" on Justia Law