Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
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The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition sought by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and others (collectively, DHHR) to prohibit the Honorable Louis Bloom, Judge of the Circuit Court of Kanawah County, from enforcing mandamus orders he issued against DHHR, holding that DHHR was entitled to a writ of prohibition.The circuit court established the underlying mandamus proceeding initiated by two Kanawha County Guardians ad Litem (the GALs) to compel the DHHR to address and remedy issues of employee staffing and training in the Kanawha County Child Protective Services Division Office. The circuit court subsequently granted the GALs' request to expand the scope of the initial writ of mandamus and added issues concerning statewide staff and child housing over the DHHR's objections. The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition, holding that the circuit court exceeded the scope of its agreed-upon order by impermissibly expanding the scope of the mandamus proceeding. View "State ex rel., W. Va. Dep't of Health & Human Resources v. Honorable Bloom" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Public Service Commission of West Virginia (PSC) ordering Equitrans, LC, a natural gas interstate pipeline company, to permit Hope Gas to connect a natural gas field tap on property owned by Ronald and Ashton Hall to Equitrans' "gathering line," holding that the PSC properly exercised jurisdiction in this matter.Seeking to divest itself of its gathering facilities Equitrans applied to the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC) to abandon and sell its gathering facilities. FERC approved the application. When Equitrans denied Hope Gas's request to reestablish a service connection to the Halls' residence the Halls filed their complaint with the PSC. The PSC found that it had jurisdiction over the gathering facilities. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the PSC properly exercised jurisdiction over the gathering facility at issue. View "Equitrans, L.P. v. Public Service Comm'n of W. Va." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court reversing the orders issued by Petitioner while sitting as the Berkeley County Board of Assessment Appeals arising from appeals of ad valorem assessments owned by Taxpayers, as determined by the Berkeley County Assessor for the 2019 tax year, holding that circuit court erred in reversing the Board.Although the two consolidated appeals dealt with different pieces of property owned by two different entities the Supreme Court concluded that resolution dependent on two overarching questions common to both appeals. The Court then held (1) Petitioner waived any objection to the Assessor not being named as a party to this action; and (2) the circuit court erred in determining the assessments as affirmed by the Board were not supported by substantial evidence or were otherwise in contravention of any regulation, statute, or constitutional provision. View "Berkeley County Council v. Government Properties Income Trust LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decisions of the lower tribunals resolving Claimant's permanent total disability (PTD) claim in his favor after denying his petition to reopen his occupational pneumoconiosis permanent partial disability (OP PPD) claim for further evaluation, holding that the lower tribunals erred in part.At issue in the instant consolidated appeals were Claimant's attempt to reopen his OP PPD claim for further evaluation and his claim for permanent total disability (PTD) due to his various impairments. While Claimant's PTD claim was still being litigated, he unsuccessfully filed two petition to reopen his OP PPD claim. The lower tribunals denied Claimant's reopening petitions but awarded him PTD. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) W. Va. Code 23-4-16(e) does not preclude reopening of a permanent disability claim because another permanent disability claim is pending; and (2) the lower tribunals were not clearly wrong in determining that Claimant was permanently and totally disabled. View "Delbert v. Murray American Energy, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying a motion for summary judgment filed by Adam Goodman and Paul Underwood (collectively, Petitioners) in this personal injury case arising from an accident in which Blake Auton was injured, holding that the allegations against Petitioners were those of pure negligence, which were barred by workers' compensation immunity.In its order denying summary judgment, the circuit court concluded that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Goodman was action within the scope of his employment while he was driving a garbage truck that backed over Auton and that additional discovery was required relating to Underwood's actions. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded with direction for the circuit court to grant summary judgment to Petitioners, holding (1) Petitioners were both clearly acting in furtherance of their employer's business when the accident occurred; and (2) therefore, workers' compensation immunity barred the cause of action and entitled Petitioners to summary judgment. View "Goodman v. Auton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition prohibiting enforcement of a preliminary injunction against the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (WVSSAC) in favor of Heather B. as legal guardian of A.B., holding that WVSSAC showed that it was entitled to the writ.In issuing the preliminary injunction the circuit court concluded that the WVSSAC applied its "waiver rule," W. Va. C.S.R. 127-2-2, in an arbitrary and capricious manner and that its "residence-transfer rule," W. Va. C.S.R. 127-2-7.2a, was facially unconstitutional. The Supreme Court granted a writ prohibiting enforcement of the injunction, holding (1) the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to review A.B.'s as-applied challenge to the WVSSAC's waiver rule; and (2) the circuit court clearly erred in finding the residence-transfer rule to be facially unconstitutional. View "State ex rel. W. Va. Secondary School Activities Comm'n v. Cuomo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the circuit court dismissing Jefferson County Foundation, Inc.'s suit seeking a declaration that a series of transactions were an unlawful "de facto tax abatement," holding that there was no error.After the West Virginia Economic Development Authority (WVEDA) adopted a resolution to undertake a series of transactions with Roxul USA, Inc. (Rockwool) to finance the construction of a manufacturing plant the Foundation filed a complaint seeking a declaration that the transactions were a de facto tax abatement for Rockwool that violates both statute and the West Virginia Constitution. The business court dismissed the suit with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) WVEDA was statutorily authorized to engaged in the transactions; (2) the transactions were not an exemption from tax; (3) the West Virginia Economic Development Act does not conflict with W. Va. Code 11-3-9; and (4) the transactions did not violate W. Va. Const. art. X, 1. View "Jefferson County Foundation, Inc. v. W. Va. Economic Development Authority" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Board of Review affirming the decision of the Office of Judges denying Appellant's request to add C5-6 spondylosis with C6 radiculopathy as a compensable condition, holding that Appellant was entitled to a permanent partial disability award.Appellant suffered a compensable injury to his shoulder, neck and back while working for Respondent. After the injury, Appellant developed cervical radiculopathy. At issue was whether cervical radiculopathy should be added as a compensable condition of Appellant's claim. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded this case with directions to add cervical radiculopathy as a compensable condition, holding that Appellant proved a causal connection between his compensable injury and his cervical radiculopathy. View "Moore v. ICG Tygart Valley, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the rulings of the Public Service Commission of West Virginia's (PSC) final order and its order denying the City of Wheeling's (Wheeling) petition for reconsideration and motion to stay, holding that the PSC had jurisdiction over the dispute when it issued its final order and that there was no error in the PSC's decision.After the City of Benwood brought an action challenging Wheeling's revised rate for sewer treatment services the PSC began an investigation. In its final order, the PSC recalculated the revised rate for Wheeling's sewer treatment services. Wheeling then filed a petition for reconsideration and a motion to stay, arguing that the PSC lacked subject matter jurisdiction when it issued the final order. The PSC denied Wheeling's petition and motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error in the proceedings below. View "City of Wheeling v. Public Service Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the final order of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Coal Mine Safety Board of Appeals reinstating Respondent's mining certifications following a random substance abuse drug and alcohol test in which Respondent tested positive for marijuana metabolites (THC), holding that the circuit court erred.Respondent appealed his suspension, arguing before the Board that his positive drug tested resulted from his use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil on the day prior to the test and that the test did not differentiate between CBD and THC. The Board granted the appeal and reinstated Respondent's mining certifications. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Respondent did not successfully challenge the testing process or result and had no valid prescription that would fulfill the valid and allowable defense, the statutory requirement that he be suspended was mandatory. View "West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety & Training v. Beavers" on Justia Law