Articles Posted in West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

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Petitioners entered into a written agreement with Bastian Homes and Lion Enterprises, Inc. (collectively, “Bastian Homes”) for the construction of a new home. The agreement contained an arbitration clause. After a water leak allegedly substantially damaged major portions of the partially-constructed home, Petitioners sued Bastian Homes. Bastian Homes filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the arbitration clause in the construction contract required the matter to be submitted to arbitration. Petitioners opposed the motion to dismiss, contending that the arbitration clause in this case was not bargained for and was therefore invalid. The circuit court granted the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) because the construction contract was properly formed and supported by sufficient consideration, there was no requirement that the arbitration clause be independently “bargained for”; and (2) because the circuit court decided the arbitration clause not unconscionable without the issue being fairly argued by the parties and without any factual development, this issue needed to be remanded for further development of the record. View "Kirby v. Lion Enters., Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was a retention pond constructed in a subdivision for the purpose of catching water runoff. Patrick and Melinda Sterner, who owned property in the subdivision, contracted with WHR Group (WHR) to handle the sale of their home. Petitioners subsequently entered into a contract to purchase the property. Petitioners later filed an action against WHR, the Sterners, and Sahley Realty Company, the subdivision developer (collectively, Respondents), asserting claims for fraud, constructive fraud, negligence, and breach of implied contract, alleging that a “slip” occurred on the retention bond prior to their purchase of the lot, which allowed the pond to cross the common boundary line onto their property. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Respondents. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances of this action, the circuit court acted properly in granting Respondents’ motions for summary judgment. View "Dickens v. Sahley Realty Co." on Justia Law

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The parties in this case entered into an agreement with two writings drafted by U-Haul of West Virginia. The first writing was a rental contract signed by the three plaintiffs. The second writing was a rental contract addendum that was not signed. The addendum contained a provision requiring that any disputes between the parties be arbitrated and was not made available to U-Haul customers prior to their execution of the rental contract. Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against U-Haul for breach of contract and false advertising, among other claims. U-Haul sought to compel Plaintiffs to resolve their claims in arbitration, arguing that the addendum was incorporated by reference into the signed rental contracts, and thus, U-Haul was allowed to enforce the arbitration provision. The circuit court denied U-Haul's motion to compel arbitration. U-Haul then filed a petition with the Supreme Court seeking a writ of prohibition to set aside the circuit court order that refused to compel Plaintiffs to participate in arbitration. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in finding that the addendum was not incorporated by reference into the signed rental contracts. View "State ex rel. U-Haul Co. of W. Va. v. Zakaib" on Justia Law

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In 2006, Respondents obtained an adjustable rate mortgage loan from a mortgage company. Respondents executed a deed of trust on the real property being purchased and separately executed an arbitration rider. Respondents later defaulted on the loan, and Petitioner, which serviced the loan, assessed a number of fees. Respondents filed an action against Petitioner alleging violations of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act. Petitioner filed a motion to compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable under the Dodd-Frank Act and that it was procedurally and substantively unconscionable. The Supreme Court granted Petitioner's requested writ of prohibition to prevent enforcement of the circuit court's order, holding (1) the Dodd-Frank Act did not apply to the mortgage loan because the loan was executed prior to the Act's enactment; and (2) the arbitration agreement was neither procedurally nor substantively unconscionable. View "State ex rel. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC v. Circuit Court of Kanawha County" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was a guest passenger in a vehicle insured by Progressive Classic Insurance Company when the vehicle was rear-ended by a truck. Petitioner received medical payments coverage under the Progressive policy for some of the medical expenses she incurred for the treatment of her injuries. Petitioner later successfully sued the truck owner and driver and received damages. Progressive subsequently asserted a subrogation lien on the recovery for the amount it paid under the medical payments coverage. Petitioner filed this complaint against Progressive, alleging common law and statutory bad faith claims. The circuit court dismissed the action, determining that because Petitioner was not a named insured under the Progressive policy and paid no premiums for the policy, Petitioner was a third-party insured and was, therefore, precluded from pursuing her bad faith claims against Progressive. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Petitioner was a first-party insured under the Progressive policy because the policy included within the definition of an insured person "any other person while occupying a covered vehicle"; and (2) therefore, Petitioner may pursue an action against Progressive for common law and statutory bad faith. View "Dorsey v. Progressive Classic Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Petitioner's decedent, Freda Bradley, purchased a named perils homeowners insurance policy from Farmers and Mechanics Mutual Insurance Company of West Virginia (Farmers). Bradley filed a claim under the policy for damage to her kitchen and bathroom floor. Farmers denied the claim citing a policy exclusion for water damage below the surface of the ground, fungi, wet or dry rot, or bacteria. Bradley filed a complaint against Farmers alleging several causes of action stemming from Farmers' denial of coverage under an insurance policy Bradley had purchased from Farmers. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Farmers, concluding (1) damage done to Bradley's kitchen floor did not constitute a "collapse" as required by the policy; and (2) the alleged collapse was not caused by "hidden decay." Petitioner appealed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred in finding that the term "collapse" in the insurance policy was not ambiguous and that Bradley's kitchen floor did not collapse; and (2) whether Bradley should have known that decay was causing her kitchen floor to sink was a genuine issue of material fact to be decided by a jury. Remanded. View "Chafin v. Farmers & Mechanics Mut. Ins. Co. of W. Va." on Justia Law

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Petitioners and Respondents owned adjoining parcels of property. After the parties purchased their properties, they learned they would be entitled to free gas from a well drilled on a property adjoining Respondents' property. In order to access this gas, Petitioners obtained permission from Respondents to install a gas line across Respondents' property. Several years later, Respondents demanded that Petitioners remove the gas line from their property. Petitioners refused to remove the gas line and filed a civil action seeking injunctive relief. The circuit court ordered Petitioners to remove the gas line, finding that Respondents properly withdrew their permission to cross their property and that Petitioners had no easement or continuing right to cross Respondents' property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in finding (1) Respondents revoked their permission to place a gas line across their property; (2) Petitioners were not entitled to any easement across Respondents' property; and (3) removal of the gas line from Respondents' property was required. View "Wilson v. Staats" 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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Petitioners, who had a liability policy with State Farm, were involved in a motor vehicle accident. Petitioners filed an underinsured motorist claim with State Farm. Based on the absence of underinsurance coverage in Petitioners' policy, State Farm denied coverage. Petitioners filed a complaint against State Farm, asserting that a "knowing and intelligent" waiver of underinsurance coverage had not occurred. The circuit court granted Petitioners' motion for partial summary judgment, concluding (1) State Farm's underinsured motorist selection/rejection form did not precisely comply with the state Insurance Commissioner's prescribed form; and (2) State Farm's failure to use the Commissioner's prescribed forms resulted in underinsured motorists coverage being added to the policy as a matter of law. The Supreme Court answered the circuit court's certified question by holding that an insurance company's failure to use the Commissioner's prescribed forms pursuant to W. Va. Code 33-6-31(d) results in the loss of the statutory presumption that the insured provided a reasonable offer which was knowingly rejected and a reversion to the lower standards set forth in Bias v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. View "Thomas v. McDermitt" on Justia Law

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After Petitioners and Respondent, Town of Clay, entered into a construction contract, Petitioners filed a complaint for preliminary injunctive relief based on a dispute over the contract. Petitioners paid a $25,000 injunction bond to the circuit court. Later, the court dismissed Petitioners' complaint and ordered that Petitioners' bond be forfeited and paid over to the Town to compensate it for its attorney fees and costs. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the bond was subject to forfeiture in the absence of a finding that the underlying suit was filed in bad faith; (2) Petitioners were not given a fair opportunity to contest whether the attorney fees and costs were incurred by Respondent in attempting to secure a dissolution of the bond; and (3) the circuit court erred in not holding a hearing under the standards set forth in Aetna Casualty & Surety Co. v. Petrolo to determine whether the fees and costs were reasonable. Remanded. View "Multiplex Inc. v. Town of Clay" on Justia Law