Articles Posted in West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

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This case arose out of a verbal agreement entered into by Contractor and Landowner to construct a subdivision on a parcel of land. Disagreements arose between the parties, and the subdivision was never completed. Landowner filed this action against Contractor asserting Contractor had failed to make payments on an endloader that had been purchased for the project. Contractor counterclaimed for unjust enrichment based on excavation services he performed on the property. The jury found in favor of Landowner with regard to the endloader and in favor of Contractor with regard to his counterclaim. The trial court found Contractor was entitled to a prejudgment interest on his award of damages on his unjust enrichment claim. Contractor filed a motion to amend the judgment order, contending that the court erred in determining the date on which prejudgment interest began to accrue and had utilized an incorrect prejudgment interest date. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed the denial of Contractor's motion to amend the judgment order, holding that the trial court erred by awarding Contractor prejudgment interest instead of allowing the jury to determine whether an award of prejudgment interest was warranted. Remanded. View "Ringer v. John" on Justia Law

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An employee of Pullman Power was killed and two of his coworkers were injured as a result of a fire that occurred inside a flue gas desulphurization stack then under construction at the Mitchell Power Plant. The stack was being constructed by Respondents for Petitioners. Plaintiffs, the deceased worker's estate and the two injured workers, brought an action against numerous entities, including Petitioners and Respondents. Petitioners cross-claimed against Respondents, alleging that it was Respondents' negligence in the performance of the contract work being done on the stack that caused the fire. As a sanction for Petitioners' violation of the discovery deadline set by the circuit court in its scheduling order, the circuit court dismissed Petitioners' cross-claims. The Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal where (1) Petitioners directly and willfully defied the circuit court's scheduling order, and (2) Petitioners did not indicate any opposition to the circuit court's failure to conduct an evidentiary hearing. View "Ohio Power Co. v. Pullman Power, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff (HOA) was a condominium owners' association that brought suit on its own behalf and on behalf of its members against various individuals and corporations seeking damages arising from the alleged defective development, negligent construction, and misleading marketing of a condominium complex. The complex consisted of dozens of units owned by members of the HOA. The circuit court granted Respondents' motion to join all unit owners, denied the HOA's motion for a protective order, and certified six questions to the Supreme Court. The Court answered only one of the questions, finding it unnecessary to address the remaining questions, holding (1) a unit owners' association is an adequate representative when a lawsuit is instituted by a unit owners' association on behalf of two or more unit owners pursuant to the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act and the damages sought include unit specific damages affecting only individual units; and (2) this case should proceed in accordance with W. Va. Trial Court R. 26. View "Univ. Commons Riverside Home Owners Ass'n v. Univ. Commons Morgantown, LLC" on Justia Law

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This case involved the appeal of Petitioner of her sentence of life without mercy imposed in the circuit court by order, as recommended by the jury which found Petitioner guilty of first degree murder. Petitioner assigned four errors committed by the trial court, including the admission of the decedent's statements, failure to give a Harden instruction, failure to give a good character instruction, and the failure to suppress one of Petitioner's statements to the police. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court and remanded the case for a new trial, holding (1) the court did not err in admitting the statements of the decedent; (2) the court's decision to admit the statement was not an abuse of discretion; but (3) under the limited circumstances of this case, the court erred in failing to give a proper good character instruction. View "State v. Surbaugh" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, The Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation (ACT), filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that a public highway construction contract awarded to Respondent, Nicewonder Contracting, Inc., by Respondent, West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways (DOH), violated state competitive bidding and prevailing wage laws. The circuit court dismissed ACT's action, finding it lacked standing to challenge the highway construction contract. The Supreme Court reversed, finding that ACT had representative standing to seek the declarations. On remand, the circuit court determined that the Court's opinion in ACT I did not completely decide the issue of ACT's standing and ordered that ACT join the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) as a defendant in the action. The Supreme Court subsequently granted ACT's requested writ of prohibition because the circuit court did not give effect to the mandate of the Court in ACT I, holding (1) ACT, as a matter of law, had standing to prosecute its lawsuit; and (2) FHWA was not an indispensable party to the lawsuit. View "State ex rel. Affiliated Constr. Trades v. Circuit Court (Stucky)" on Justia Law

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At issue in this construction lawsuit was whether the circuit court erred in refusing to compel a plaintiff corporation to arbitrate its claims against three defendant corporations. The circuit court had previously entered two orders in which it found the arbitration clauses in Defendants' contracts with Plaintiff were unconscionable. Further, the circuit court found it would be inequitable to fracture Plaintiff's lawsuit into multiple "piecemeal" arbitrations and lawsuits against Defendants. Defendants petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of prohibition to halt enforcement of the circuit court's orders and to compel Plaintiff to arbitrate its claims. The Court granted the requested writ of prohibition as moulded, holding (1) the arbitration agreements were not unconscionable, and therefore, the circuit court erred in refusing to enforce the agreements; (2) the FAA requires that if a lawsuit presents multiple claims, some subject to an arbitration agreement and some not, the former claims must be sent to arbitration even if this leads to piecemeal litigation; and (3) the circuit court's refusal to enforce the arbitration clauses ran afoul of the FAA. View "State ex rel. Johnson Controls, Inc. v. Circuit Court (Tucker) " on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a constructor, was sued by several people living in new homes built by Petitioner (Residents). Residents claimed they were injured by radon gas leaking into their homes because of improper construction by Petitioner. Petitioner argued that the agreement to purchase the new homes required Residents to arbitrate their claims, whether they signed the agreement or not. The circuit court found the arbitration provision ambiguous and unconscionable and refused to compel Residents into arbitration. Petitioner subsequently sought a writ of prohibition to compel Residents to arbitrate their claims. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that the circuit court was within its authority to refuse to enforce the arbitration clause against Residents because the arbitration provision was ambiguous, unconscionable, and unenforceable. View "State ex rel. Richmond Am. Homes v. Jefferson County Circuit Court (Sanders)" on Justia Law

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This case involved a dispute regarding developed property. Developer filed a complaint alleging that the project's general contractor (Contractor) and an engineering firm (Firm) had negligently provided recommendations with respect to site preparation. The circuit court granted partial summary judgment in favor Firm on Contractor's cross-claims against Firm that sought recovery of remediation costs incurred by Contractor, concluding (1) some of Contractor's cross-claims were time-barred by the applicable statute of limitations, and (2) W. Va. Code 55-2-21 did not apply to toll any limitations periods because Contractor's claims were independent causes of action as opposed to cross-claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court prematurely found that section 55-2-21 did not apply because it failed to analyze whether the claims arose from the same transaction or occurrence and, thus, constituted cross-claims or independent causes of action; and (2) genuine issues of material fact existed so as to preclude summary judgment if Contractor's claim was an independent cause of action. Remanded. View "J. A. Street & Assocs. v. Thundering Herd Dev." on Justia Law

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In 2003, the Division of Highways (DOH) let out a public highway construction contract to Nicewonder Contracting. The Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation (ACT) filed a declaratory judgment action against the DOH and Nicewonder, alleging that the construction contract violated state and federal law because the DOH did not seek public bids for the project and there was no prevailing wage clause in the contract. Upon remand from the district court, the circuit court granted Nicewonder's motion for summary judgment, finding ACT lacked standing. The Supreme court reversed, holding that the appropriate standard to determine if an organization has representative standing to sue on behalf of its members is when the organization proves that (1) at least one of its members would have standing to sue in their own right; (2) the interests it seeks to protect are germane to the organization's purpose; and (3) neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires the participation of individual members in the lawsuit. The Court found that ACT met all three prongs and thus had representative standing to seek the declarations contained in its petition.