Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
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In this original jurisdiction proceeding, the Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition sought by Petitioners, out-of-state Blue Cross Blue Shield Plans, to prevent the enforcement of the circuit court's order concluding that it had jurisdiction over Petitioners in this action, holding that jurisdiction over Petitioners was clearly not appropriate in this case.Respondent alleged that the circuit court had jurisdiction over Petitioners for several reasons. Petitioners filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, asserting that they had no relevant jurisdictional contacts with West Virginia. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that Petitioners purposefully availed themselves of the privilege of conducting business in West Virginia. Petitioners then filed the instant writ, arguing that any attempt to exercise specific jurisdiction over them violated due process because there was no allegation or evidence showing that they developed or maintained a substantial relationship with West Virginia or purposefully engaged in forum-related conduct that gave rise to Respondent's claims. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding that Petitioners were entitled to the writ of prohibition. View "State ex rel. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Kansas, Inc. v. Honorable Shawn D. Nines" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioner's motion to dismiss Respondent's civil lawsuit or, in the alternative, to compel arbitration, holding that the arbitration provision was clear and unambiguous and was therefore an enforceable agreement to arbitrate.Respondent purchased real estate improved with several structures. After Petitioner inspected the structures Respondent signed the contract. After Respondent allegedly discovered issues with his property he filed a complaint against Petitioner alleging breach of contract, negligence and fraud. Petitioner filed a motion to dismiss, or alternatively, a motion to stay further proceedings and compel arbitration on the grounds that the parties' contract contained an enforceable arbitration provision. The circuit court concluded that the arbitration provision was ambiguous. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings, holding that the arbitration provision was clear and unambiguous. View "Home Inspections of VA & WV, LLC v. Hardin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court awarding Central Environmental Services, LLC (CES) damages, holding that a court may not award damages based on both unjust enrichment and breach of contract where such theories of recovery arise from the same set of facts.Gulfport Energy corporation entered into a contract with CES whereby CES agreed to provide services at Gulfport's wells. Some of CES's invoices remained unpaid when the business relationship ended. CES sued Gulfport alleging that Gulfport breached the contract and was unjustly enriched by CES's performance. The circuit court awarded CES $144,038. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that where the circuit court awarded judgment based, at least in part, on unjust enrichment where the litigants were parties to an express contract, the circuit court's order must be reversed. View "Gulfport Energy Corp. v. Harbert Private Equity Partners, LP" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying the motion filed by Plaintiff, an oil and gas drilling company, for summary judgment and denying Plaintiff a favorable declaratory judgment, holding that the circuit court did not err in refusing to imply into an existing oil and gas lease a covenant to pool and unitize the lease with nearby mineral estates.Plaintiff brought this action seeking a declaration that the oil and gas lease at issue contained an implied covenant to pool or unitize the lease with other mineral interests. The circuit court rejected Plaintiff's request for a declaratory judgment, holding that the circuit court correctly concluded that there can be no implied covenant to pool or unitize in the absence of language in the lease showing the parties contemplated that a lessor has a right to pool and unitize the lease with other estates. View "Ascent Resources - Marcellus, LLC v. Huffman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment to Ruth Ann Pinson and dismissing Denise Johnson's claim that Ruth's husband, Mark Pinson, violated West Virginia's Uniform Fraudulent Transfers Act's (UFTA), W. Va. Code 40-1A-1 to -15, prohibition against fraudulent transfers, holding that Plaintiff did not present evidence demonstrating the existence of a material fact regarding Mark's status as her debtor within the meaning of the UFTA.Johnson asserted that Mark conveyed real property to Ruth with the intent to hinder, delay, or defraud Johnson's attempt to collect on a judgment assigned to her by a third party. The circuit court found that Ruth was entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not misinterpret the UFTA or err in denying Johnson's motion to amend the complaint to add Mark as a defendant. View "Johnson v. Pinson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's grant of partial summary judgment finding that Gary Dobbs retained his right to purchase pasture land under a 1976 option agreement and that Terry and Catherine Dobbs triggered that right to purchase when they signed a 2007 option agreement, holding that the circuit court did not err.After Lyle Hobbs died, the land he owned passed to his wife and two sons, Terry and Gary. The trio conveyed a small parcel to the sons for a slaughterhouse. The remaining land, including a pasture, was conveyed to Terry and his wife, Catherine. Gary reserved the right to buy back the pasture land if Terry died or if Terry and Catherine decided to sell or assign the pasture land. Gary subsequently purchased the slaughterhouse property at auction. Decades later, Terry and Catherine entered into an option agreement with McElroy Coal Company to either sell the pasture land or provide McElroy Coal a waiver of liability for the company's mining operations. McElroy Coal chose a waiver and paid Terry and Catherine. Thereafter, Gary sued McElroy Coal and Terry and Catherine, alleging that they breached the 1976 option agreement. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Gary. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err. View "McElroy Coal Co. v. Dobbs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order granting Antero Resources Corporation partial summary judgment on its claim for declaratory judgment, holding that the court did not err in concluding that the Antero top lease took priority over the EQT Production Company base lease covering the same property.Larry and Linda Lemasters, who owned the oil and gas underlying a tract of land, entered into an oil and gas lease (the base lease) with an LLC that later assigned the lease to EQT. The Lemasters subsequently entered into an oil and gas lease with Antero (the top lease). The lease was made effective immediately upon expiration of the primary term of the base lease. The Lemasters and EQT (together, Defendants) subsequently entered into a base lease amendment agreeing to extend the primary term of the base lease. Antero filed a complaint against Defendants asserting claims for, inter alia, breach of contract and declaratory judgment. The circuit court awarded summary judgment for Antero on its declaratory judgment claim, determining that the base lease and its amendment were subject to the Antero top lease. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court did not err in declaring that the top lease was the valid and existing oil and gas lease covering the subject property. View "EQT Production Co. v. Antero Resources Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's dismissal of West Virginia Counties Group Self-Insurance Risk Pool, Inc.'s (WVCoRP) claims against Great Cacapon Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. (VFD), holding that the circuit court did not err.When a fire destroyed the building where VFD was housed, the owner of the building, the Morgan County Commission, was reimbursed for the loss by WVCoRP. Seeking to recover the funds it expended, WVCoRP sued the VFD and other parties for negligence. In the process, WVCoRP invoked a contractual right to subrogation. The circuit court determined that the claims against VFD were barred by W. Va. Code 29-12A-13(c), which prohibits claims against political subdivisions made under a right of subrogation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) WVCoRP's claims spring from its coverage contract with the Commission and fall within any plain meaning of subrogation; and (2) section 29-12A-13(c) is not an insurance law of the State from which WVCoRP is exempt. View "West Virginia Counties Group v. Great Cacapon Volunteer Fire Department, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition prohibiting the circuit court from enforcing its sua sponte order dismissing count three of Respondents' complaint and finding that West Virginia law applied to all of Respondents' bad faith claims but declined to extend the writ to find that Georgia law applies to the entire dispute, holding that a writ of prohibition was not the proper avenue for such relief.After Petitioners denied insurance coverage for certain damages Petitioners filed a declaratory judgment action in the State of Delaware to determine their rights and responsibilities under the relevant insurance policies. Respondents subsequently filed the underlying complaint asserting five separate counts, including breach of contract and bad faith under Georgia law (count three). Petitioners sought to dismiss the West Virginia proceeding. The circuit court denied the motion but, sua sponte, dismissed count three. Petitioners then filed the instant petition. The Supreme Court granted the writ as moulded, holding (1) the circuit court exceeded its lawful authority when it sua sponte dismissed count three of the complaint and held that West Virginia law applied to Respondents' bad faith claims; and (2) this Court declines Petitioners' invitation to find that the Georgia choice-of-law provisions in the policies govern this action. View "State ex rel. National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania v. Hummel" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court granting a preliminary injunction, holding that the court did not err when it found Plaintiff had a likelihood of succeeding on the merits of its claims and was likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of action by the court.Pachira Energy LLC entered into an agreement with Northeast Natural Energy LLC establishing the Blacksville Area of Mutual Interest (Blacksville AMI) and setting forth guidelines for exploiting oil and gas leases and other mineral interests. Pachira later filed a complaint against Northeast Natural Energy LLC alleging that Northeast was breaching various agreements and was abusing its power to benefit itself, to the detriment of Pachira. Among other requests for relief, Pachira sought a permanent injunction stop Northeast's use of a jointly-owned water system within the Blacksville AMI to support Northeast's drilling operations outside the Blacksville AMI and to sell water to third parties outside the Blacksville AMI. The circuit court granted Pachira's motion for a preliminary injunction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that it was fair for the circuit court to preserve the status quo until the parties' resolve the merits of their dispute and that there was no error in the preliminary injunction order. View "Northeast Natural Energy LLC v. Pachira Energy LLC" on Justia Law