Articles Posted in Virginia Supreme Court

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Plaintiffs were former employees by Verizon Virginia, Inc. Plaintiffs sued Verizon and the Communication Workers of America, AFL-CIO District 2 after Plaintiffs accepted an “Enhanced Income Security Plan” based on the assurances that they would not be terminated but were nonetheless terminated. Defendants filed notices of removal to the federal district court, arguing that Plaintiffs’ state-law claims were completely preempted by section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA). The district court concluded that Plaintiffs’ state-law claims were not completely preempted and there was no federal jurisdiction. On remand, the circuit court agreed with Defendants on the complete preemption issue and dismissed the case. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred by dismissing Plaintiffs’ claims for lack of jurisdiction, even if they were completely preempted; and (2) Plaintiffs’ claims were not completely preempted. View "Anthony v. Verizon Va., Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff worked for the City of Alexandria from 2008 until 2011, when the City terminated his employment. Plaintiff sued the City, alleging that the City unlawfully retaliated and discriminated against him by terminating his employment in response to complaints he made about a director of the department in which Plaintiff worked. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff and awarded damages of $104,096 in back pay. The circuit court subsequently granted Plaintiff’s motion to include liquidated damages to the back pay award, which doubled the award. Plaintiff then filed a motion for additional relief, including reinstatement or, in the alternative, an award of front-pay, and an award for his loss of pension benefits. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s denial of an award of reinstatement, front pay, or pension compensation, holding that the court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Plaintiff was made whole through his other awards against the City and that Plaintiff’s claim for pension compensation was “subject to too much speculation.” View "Lewis v. City of Alexandria" on Justia Law

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Ubaldo Rodriguez was an employee the general contractor hired by Leesburg Business Park, LLC (LBP) to construct warehouse buildings on a parcel of undeveloped land owned by LBP. Ubaldo suffered fatal injuries in the course of employment. Cecilia Rodriguez, Ubaldo’s widow and the administrator of his estate, filed a wrongful death action against LBP. LBP filed a plea in bar, which the circuit court granted on the grounds that Cecilia’s claim was barred because Ubaldo was the statutory co-employee of LBP. The Supreme Court reversed. On remand, LBP moved to reconsider its plea in bar, arguing that it was Ubaldo’s statutory employer and that Cecilia’s recovery was limited to Workers’ Compensation benefits only. The circuit court sustained the plea in bar and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Ubaldo’s work at the time of the accident was not part of LBP’s “trade, business, or occupation,” and therefore, LBP was not Ubaldo’s statutory employer at the time of the accident under Va. Code Ann. 65.2-302(A). Remanded. View "Rodriguez v. Leesburg Bus. Park, LLC " on Justia Law

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Malyevac and ADI entered into an agreement under which Malyevac sold ADI's computer products and services to its customers. The agreement contained noncompete, non-solicitation, non-disclosure, and return of confidential information provisions. A few months after entering into the agreement, Malyevac resigned. ADI filed a complaint, alleging that Malyevac was violating the agreement by performing work and services and selling products in direct competition with ADI, by engaging in other prohibited activities, and by failing to return confidential information. Malyevac claimed that the provisions were overbroad and unenforceable. The trial court sustained a demurrer without granting ADI leave to amend its complaint. The Virginia Supreme Court reversed, holding that the merits of the claim cannot be determined on a motion for dismissal. View "Assurance Data, Inc. v. Malyevac" on Justia Law

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In 2007, Schuiling hired Harris as his full-time, live-in housecleaner. Harris signed an arbitration agreement, a one-page, pre-printed form prepared for Schuling’s auto business, stating that disputes “shall be resolved exclusively by arbitration administered by the National Arbitration Forum under its code of procedure then in effect.” In 2011, Harris sued Schuiling, alleging multiple torts, statutory violations, and breach of contract. Schuiling moved to enforce arbitration under Code § 8.01-581.02(A), stating that the National Arbitration Forum was no longer available and requesting the court to appoint a substitute arbitrator under Code § 8.01-581.03. Harris argued that unavailability of the named arbitrator, coupled with the agreement’s failure to provide for a substitute arbitrator, rendered the agreement unenforceable. The circuit court agreed with Harris and denied the motion to compel arbitration. The Virginia Supreme Court reversed. Relying on the intention of the parties as expressed in the language of the agreement, the court concluded that NAF’s designation as arbitrator was not integral and was severable in order to give effect to the arbitration requirement, the sole purpose of the agreement. View "Schuiling v. Harris" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was hired by New Dimensions, Inc. (NDI) as a design and sales consultant. Plaintiff was paid a commission of 2.12 percent of her total sales, but other design and sales consultants, both male and female, previously hired by NDI were paid commissions of 2.25 percent. Plaintiff was subsequently terminated by NDI and was not paid commissions for certain sales she had secured. Plaintiff filed this amended complaint against NDI alleging breach of contract, quantum meruit, and violation of the federal Equal Pay Act (EPA). In its answer, NDI did not affirmatively plead the four defenses articulated in the statute. The circuit court determined that NDI was prohibited from presenting evidence in defense of the EPA claim and precluded the introduction of evidence related to those defenses. The circuit court ruled in favor of Plaintiff on the EPA claim. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the defenses set forth in the EPA are affirmative but were not waived under the facts presented in this case; and (2) therefore, the circuit court erred in preventing NDI from presenting evidence of its gender-neutral compensation system at trial. Remanded. View "New Dimensions, Inc. v. Tarquini" on Justia Law

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The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors disallowed payment on a portion of retirement benefits promised to several retired Albemarle County employees (collectively, Retirees). The benefits promised under the County's Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Program (VERIP) were partially disallowed due to a miscalculation by a County employee prior to the retirements. The Retirees appealed. The County and Board (hereafter, the County) demurred, arguing that the Retirees failed to comply with Va. Code 15.2-1246 by not serving written notice of their appeal on the clerk of the Board. The circuit court overruled the demurrer and found in favor of Plaintiffs, awarding each of the Retirees the amount of the withheld VERIP stipend that the County claimed would amount to an overpayment if properly calculated under the program. The Supreme Court reversed and entered final judgment in favor of the County, holding that the statutorily required written notice of appeal was insufficient, and accordingly, the circuit court erred in failing to sustain the County's demurrer. View "County of Albemarle v. Camirand" on Justia Law

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Employee filed a complaint against Corporation seeking damages for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and wrongful termination. Previous to the suit, Corporation offered Employee a severance package that Employee rejected because it would have taken away any rights to a claim for a change in control. A jury found for Employee on all counts except for wrongful termination. The trial court awarded damages and attorney's fees to Employee. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded, holding the circuit court did not err when it (1) refused to hold, as a matter of law, that Employee failed to present sufficient evidence to demonstrate that a change in control occurred; (2) instructed the jury to construe any ambiguities in the contracts against the drafter; (3) submitted Employee's alternative theory of mandatory severance benefits to the jury; (4) submitted Employee's claim for unjust enrichment to the jury; (5) admitted the testimony of Employee's damages expert; and (6) awarded Employee attorneys' fees and expenses for breach of the severance agreement. However, the trial court erred in determining that the severance agreement entitled Employee to recover his legal fees for claims that were not related to breach of the severance agreement. View "Online Res. Corp. v. Lawlor" on Justia Law

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Rubert Minton suffered injuries as a result of developing mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos while working on Exxon Mobile Corporation (Exxon) ships during his employment at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company (Shipyard). Minton filed suit against Exxon under the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) for failure to warn Minton of, and protect him from, the dangers associated with asbestos. The jury found in favor of Minton and awarded him compensatory damages, medical expenses, and punitive damages. Exxon appealed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding (1) the circuit court erred in refusing to admit relevant evidence regarding the Shipyard's knowledge of the danger of asbestos exposure and its ability to remedy the danger; and (2) the award of $12,500,000 in punitive damages was inappropriately granted because punitive damages are a remedy prohibited by the terms of LHWCA. View "Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Minton" on Justia Law

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Nurse was fired by Doctor, her supervisor, after she refused his sexual advances. Nurse sued Doctor and her Employer, asserting claims for gender discrimination against Employer and wrongful discharge against Doctor and Employer. Defendants moved to dismiss. The U.S. district court granted the motion as to Doctor, concluding that wrongful discharge claims by an employee are cognizable only against the employer and not against supervisors or co-employees in their individual capacity. On appeal, the U.S. court of appeals certified to the Virginia Supreme Court the question of whether Nurse's wrongful discharge claim was cognizable against Doctor. The Supreme Court concluded that Virginia recognizes a common law tort claim of wrongful discharge in violation of established public policy against an individual who was not the plaintiff's actual employer but who was the actor in violation of public policy, as a supervisor or manager, and who participated in the wrongful firing of the plaintiff. View "VanBuren v. Grubb" on Justia Law