Articles Posted in West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

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Respondent began employment with the Raleigh County Emergency Services Authority in 2002. In 2010, the West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board notified Respondent that he was ineligible to participate in the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) because he had not worked the statutorily-required 1,040 hours per year necessary for participation in PERS. The Retirement Board upheld the denial. The circuit court reversed, concluding that the Board was equitably estopped from denying to Respondent participation in PERS. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Board was not prevented from denying to Respondent the right to participate in PERS where (1) Respondent’s employer erroneously informed him that he was eligible to participate in PERS; and (2) Respondent did not rely on the Board’s representations about his PERS eligibility in accepting the position with the Authority. View "W. Va. Consol. Pub. Ret. Bd. v. Jones" on Justia Law

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Respondents were five employees of the State covered by the Public Employees Retirement System who actively served in the United States military during several recognized periods of armed conflict and were honorably discharged from the military. Respondents sought military service credit available through W. Va. Code 5-10-15 based on their military service. The West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board denied Respondents’ requests for military service credit for service occurring periods of armed conflict other than limited exceptions. On appeal, the circuit court ruled in favor of Respondents and granted each of their military service credit requests in full. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in holding that Respondents were entitled to the military service credit they sought. View "W. Va. Consolidated Pub. Ret. Bd. v. Wood" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was a police officer, and later police chief, employed by the City of Montgomery. In 2011, Petitioner’s employment was terminated. Petitioner filed a complaint against the City and the Mayor (collectively, Respondents), asserting that he was discharged without a pre-termination hearing in violation of W. Va. Code 8-14A-1 and in contravention of public policy because he refused to place a GPS tracking device in another officer’s police car. The circuit court granted Respondents’ motion to dismiss, concluding (1) Petitioner was not entitled to a pre-termination hearing; and (2) Respondents were entitled to qualified immunity because Respondents’ alleged conduct did not violate clearly established laws of which a reasonable official would have known. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding (1) the circuit court properly ruled that Petitioner was not entitled to a pre-termination hearing; but (2) Petitioner’s complaint alleged sufficient facts to support a claim for wrongful discharge in violation of a substantial public policy, and therefore, Respondents were not entitled to qualified immunity from Petitioner’s cause of action for wrongful discharge. View "Brown v. City of Montgomery" on Justia Law

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Petitioners in these combined cases were former public employees who filed actions in the circuit court alleging violations of the West Virginia Human Rights Act (WVHRA). The circuit courts dismissed the complaints for Petitioners' failures to exhaust their administrative remedies, concluding that the exhaustion of administrative remedies available pursuant to the West Virginia Public Employees Grievance Procedure was a necessary precondition to the filing of a circuit court action. The Supreme Court reversed the rulings of the circuit courts, holding (1) a public employee, whose employment confers grievance rights before the West Virginia Public Employees Grievance Board, is not required to exhaust the administrative Grievance Procedure before initiating a complaint in the circuit court alleging violations of the WVHRA; and (2) the commencement of the Grievance Procedure does not preclude the institution of a circuit court action prior to exhaustion of the Grievance Procedure. Remanded. View "Weimer v. Sanders" 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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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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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

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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

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Plaintiff filed a deliberate intent action alleging he was injured while constructing a mine portal canopy at defendant Frontier Coal Company's camp. On the final day of trial, a conversation took place between a trial representative of Frontier and a juror. The circuit court granted Plaintiff's motion to disqualify the juror and seated an alternate juror on the jury. The jury subsequently conducted deliberations and entered a verdict in favor of Defendants. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a motion to set aside the jury's verdict and order a new trial based on the alleged improper juror contact. The circuit court granted the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the conversation between the juror and Frontier's representative raised a presumption of prejudice, but the potential prejudice was remedied when the trial court removed the juror and replaced him with an alternate juror before jury deliberations began; and (2) the circuit court abused its discretion when it granted Plaintiff's motion to set aside the jury's verdict and order a new trial because the speculative prejudice the trial court relied upon did not meet the standard set forth in State v. Johnson to set aside a jury's verdict. Remanded. View "Bluestone Indus., Inc. v. Keneda" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was employed as a welder by Defendant when he sustained severe burns from an arc blast emanating from a 480-volt electrical box as he attempted to turn on the power at his work station. Plaintiff sued Defendant, offering as evidence that Defendant was required, under applicable safety standards within the industry, to routinely inspect its 480-volt electrical boxes. Defendant was unable to show that the 480-volt box that caused the accident had been inspected since the 1950s or early 1960s. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in finding (1) the safety standards relied on by Plaintiff were not specifically applicable to his work and working conditions; and (2) no question of material fact existed concerning whether Defendant intentionally exposed Plaintiff to the unsafe 480-volt box. Remanded. View "McComas v. ACF Indus., LLC" on Justia Law