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A hospital’s compliance with the Medical Records Act (Act), W. Va. Code 57-5-4a to -4j, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) when responding to a subpoena for a patient’s records does not preclude an action based on the wrongful disclosure of confidential information in violation of W. Va. Code 27-3-1. The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint against Defendant-hospital alleging that the hospital wrongfully disclosed her confidential mental health treatment records in a federal court proceeding. The circuit court concluded that Plaintiff could not rely on the protections of section 27-3-1 in bringing this action because Defendant properly complied with the Act and HIPAA regulations in responding to a subpoena for Plaintiff’s medical records and Plaintiff never objected to the subpoena. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that hospitals responding to subpoenas pursuant to the Act must comply with section 27-3-1, and “confidential information” as defined by section 27-3-1(a) is not subject to disclosure under the Act unless an exception applies. View "Barber v. Camden Clark Memorial Hospital Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law

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The Supreme Court granted the writ of prohibition sought by Petitioners, the foster and designated preadoptive parents of the minor child T.C., to prevent the enforcement of an order of the circuit court granting visitation with T.C. to Respondents, who were the child’s paternal grandmother and paternal aunt. In this ongoing abuse and neglect proceeding, the circuit court ordered that Respondents would receive supervised visitation with T.C. The court recognized Petitioners as persons entitled to notice but refused to stop Respondents’ visitation. Petitioners then filed the instant petition for a writ of prohibition. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding that because Petitioners were not afforded the requisite notice and meaningful opportunity to be heard prior to the circuit court granting visitation to Respondents, the circuit court exceeded its legitimate powers and committed clear error as a matter of law. View "State ex rel. H.S. v. Honorable J.D. Beane" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court upheld the Workers’ Compensation Board of Review’s finding that, based on the preponderance of the evidence, Jimmie Lemon’s injury was work related. Jimmie Lemon filed a workers’ compensation claim claiming that his low back injury occurred in the course of and resulting from his employment with Arch Coal, Inc. The Office of Judges found the claim compensable and designated Lemon’s compensable condition as a herniated disc. The Board of Review affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case with directions that the claim be rejected, concluding that Lemon’s injury was not work-related. Upon reconsideration, the Supreme Court upheld the prior administrative finding that Lemon’s injury was work-related. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Review and remanded with directions to reinstate the decisions of the Office of judges and the Board of Review that Lemon’s claim was compensable. View "Arch Coal, Inc. v. Lemon" on Justia Law

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A durable power of attorney (DPOA) provided an adult daughter with the authority to enter into an arbitration agreement with a nursing home on her mother’s behalf. Lena Nelson executed a DPOA that named her son as her attorney-in-fact. The DPOA stated that if her son could not serve as such, Nelson’s daughter, Kimberly Shanklin, should be Nelson’s attorney-in-fact. Nelson was later transferred to Hillcrest Nursing Home. Shanklin signed all of the admission documents, including an arbitration agreement. Approximately one month after leaving the nursing home, Nelson died. Shanklin, on behalf of her mother’s estate, filed this suit against Hillcrest. Hillcrest, in response, filed a motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. Shanklin argued that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable because she did not have the actual authority to enter into the agreement on Nelson’s behalf because she was the “alternate” DPOA. The circuit court agreed and denied the motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Shanklin had the authority to enter into the arbitration agreement with Hillcrest; and (2) under the plain language of W.Va. Code 39B-1-119(c), Hillcrest was permitted to rely on Shanklin’s authority as Nelson’s DPOA when Shanklin signed the arbitration agreement on Nelson’s behalf. View "AMFM, LLC v. Shanklin" on Justia Law

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A durable power of attorney (DPOA) provided an adult daughter with the authority to enter into an arbitration agreement with a nursing home on her mother’s behalf. Lena Nelson executed a DPOA that named her son as her attorney-in-fact. The DPOA stated that if her son could not serve as such, Nelson’s daughter, Kimberly Shanklin, should be Nelson’s attorney-in-fact. Nelson was later transferred to Hillcrest Nursing Home. Shanklin signed all of the admission documents, including an arbitration agreement. Approximately one month after leaving the nursing home, Nelson died. Shanklin, on behalf of her mother’s estate, filed this suit against Hillcrest. Hillcrest, in response, filed a motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. Shanklin argued that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable because she did not have the actual authority to enter into the agreement on Nelson’s behalf because she was the “alternate” DPOA. The circuit court agreed and denied the motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Shanklin had the authority to enter into the arbitration agreement with Hillcrest; and (2) under the plain language of W.Va. Code 39B-1-119(c), Hillcrest was permitted to rely on Shanklin’s authority as Nelson’s DPOA when Shanklin signed the arbitration agreement on Nelson’s behalf. View "AMFM, LLC v. Shanklin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the circuit court denying Petitioners’ motion for leave to file a second amended complaint and dismissing their pending amended complaint, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding that, under controlling Delaware law, Petitioners lacked standing to pursue a derivative shareholder suit. Petitioners filed a derivative lawsuit alleging claims of breach of fiduciary duties against Massey Energy Company’s Board of Directors and corporate officers. Subsequently, faced with a potential merger between Massey and Alpha Natural Resources, Inc., Petitioners filed a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint seeking to add individual and class action claims on behalf of the shareholders themselves. After the merger, Respondents moved oi dismiss Petitioners’ amended complaint and motion for leave to file the proposed second amended complaint, arguing that, after the merger, Petitioners were no longer Massey shareholders and lacked standing to assert derivative claims, and that amending their complaint a second time would be futile. The circuit court dismissed the amended complaint and denied the motion for leave to file the second amended complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error in the circuit court’s order because Petitioners were no longer Massey shareholders. View "California State Teachers' Retirement System v. Blankenship" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment to Mike Ross, Inc. (MRI) on the grounds that Petitioners’ claims were barred by the three-year statute of limitation set forth in W. Va. Code 11A-4-4. Through its omnibus order, the circuit court declared MRI to be the owner of eighty percent of the oil and gas interests in two adjacent tracts of land pursuant to a tax deed issued to MRI after it purchased the property at a delinquent tax sale. Petitioners appealed, contending that the circuit court erred by not finding that they collectively own, respectively, a 16.44 percent and twenty percent undivided interest in the oil and gas in the properties. The circuit court granted summary judgment to MRI, concluding that Petitioners’ claims were time-barred. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the mineral interests were never delinquent, and therefore, the sale of the subject mineral interests for delinquent taxes was void as a matter of law; and (2) Petitioners’ claims were not barred by section 11A-4-4. View "L&D Investments, Inc. v. Mike Ross, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the writ of prohibition sought by Scott Smith, Prosecuting Attorney for Ohio County, against the Honorable David J. Sims, Judge of the Circuit Court of Ohio County, seeking to prevent the trial court from enforcing its order vacating Dallas Michael Acoff’s convictions for second-degree murder and malicious wounding and granting a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. Petitioner argued as grounds for the writ that the trial court erred in finding that Acoff was diligent in his efforts to secure the trial attendance of Banks, the eyewitness to the homicide who did not testify at trial, and that Banks’ subsequently offered testimony exonerating Defendant would have produced a different outcome at trial. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that the decision to grant a new trial based on newly discovered evidence was within the sound discretion of the trial court. View "State ex rel. Smith v. Honorable David J. Sims" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The circuit court erred in admitting evidence seized as the result of an unlawful, warrantless search, a search that failed to satisfy any of the exceptions to the warrant requirement. Petitioner was convicted and sentenced for possession of a controlled substance, cocaine, with intent to deliver. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the circuit court erred by admitting evidence seized from his person because the evidence was obtained without a search warrant and that none of the exceptions to the warrant requirement were satisfied. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed Petitioner’s conviction, holding that the evidence was seized unlawfully and that the admission of the evidence was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court remanded the case for a new trial. View "State v. Barefield" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Mass Litigation Panel through which summary judgment was granted in favor of Defendants, Pfizer, Inc., Roerig, a division of Pfizer, Inc., and Greenstone, LLC (collectively, Pfizer) on Plaintiffs’ claims that Pfizer negligently failed adequately to warn them of the risk of birth defects through the ingestion of Zoloft, a prescription medication, during pregnancy. The Court held (1) this was a case where expert testimony was necessary, and therefore, the Panel did not erroneously based its decision on the absence of expert testimony to support Plaintiffs’ claims that Pfizer failed adequately to warn women of childbearing age of the risks of Zoloft; (2) Petitioners could not sustain their evidentiary burden with Pfizer’s witnesses; and (3) there was no unfairness in requiring Plaintiffs to meet their burden of proof with expert testimony under the circumstances of this case. View "J.C. v. Pfizer, Inc." on Justia Law