Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Virginia

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission not to award Appellant benefits after he was injured while renovating a historic school building, holding that Appellant did not meet his burden of proving his statutory-employer claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Appellant sought benefits against a church and its historical society, alleging that these entities were his statutory employers. The Commission denied benefits, holding that none of the defendants were Appellant’s direct employer and that the church and the historical society were not Appellant’s statutory employers. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission applied the correct legal standard and acted within its fact-finding discretion in concluding that Appellant had failed to prove that the church or the historical society were his statutory employers. View "Jeffreys v. Uninsured Employer's Fund" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of the Tax Department on the Corporate Executive Board Company’s (CEB) complaint alleging that its income tax assessments violated the “dormant” Commerce Clause and the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution and that the assessments were “inequitable” under the Tax Department’s regulations, holding that the circuit court did not err in declining to grant relief. CEB sought relief from the assessments for the years 2011, 2012, and 2013 and requested a redetermination of its income tax. The circuit court found in favor of the Tax Department. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Tax Department’s apportionment of CEB’s income tax was in accord with constitutional requirements; and (2) the regulation allowing relief did not apply under its plain language. View "The Corporate Executive Board Co. v. Department of Taxation" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court finding that George Mason University’s (GMU) decision to deny Maheen Malik’s tuition reclassification was arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law, holding that there was no support for Malik’s assertion that GMU’s decision to classify her as an out-of-state student was arbitrary, capricious, or otherwise contrary to law. Malik filed a petition in the circuit court for review of GMU’s final administrative decision to deny her in-state tuition. After two hearings, the circuit court found GMU’s decision to be contrary to Virginia law and arbitrary and capricious. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court exceeded the scope of its review by reweighing the evidence and substituting its judgment for that of GMU; and (2) ample evidence supported GMU’s conclusion that Malik failed to carry her burden of proving that she was an in-state student for purposes of tuition. View "George Mason University v. Malik" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the State Corporation Commission (SCC) that approved a new surcharge for Virginia-American Water Company (VAWC), holding that the SCC had statutory authority to approve the new surcharge and that the evidence was sufficient to justify the SCC’s approval. On appeal, Appellants argued that the SCC had no statutory authority to approve the new surcharge and, in the alternative, that the evidence was factually insufficient to justify the approval of the surcharge. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that not only did the SCC have the statutory authority to approve the surcharge but that sufficient evidence in the record supported the SCC’s finding that the rate was “just and reasonable” under Va. Code 56-235.2. View "City of Alexandria v. State Corporation Commission" on Justia Law

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The circuit court erred by dismissing a petition to enforce the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Va. Code 2.2-3700, et seq., on the basis that the petition failed to comply with Va. Code 2.2-3713(A) because it was not properly supported by an affidavit showing good cause. Marian Bragg filed an amended petition against the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors and its individual members (collectively, the Board), alleging that the Board violated the open meeting requirements of FOIA. The circuit court dismissed the petition. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the petition satisfied the requirements of section 2.2-3713(A) because the allegations in the petition, which incorporated an acknowledgement of a Board member acknowledging that the Board improperly discussed certain public business matters during closed meetings, were supported by an affidavit showing good cause. View "Bragg v. Board of Supervisors of Rappahannock County" on Justia Law

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Neal submitted a FOIA request to the Fairfax County Police Department seeking its automated license plate readers (ALPR) records regarding his vehicle. The Department responded that Neal’s tag had been read twice and enclosed pictures of his vehicle with the time, date, and GPS location from which at least one photograph was taken. Neal sued under the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act, Code 2.2-3800-3809, alleging that the “passive use” of ALPRs violated a requirement that information not be collected “unless the need for it has been clearly established in advance.” The circuit court granted the Department summary judgment, reasoning “that a license plate number is not personal information.” The Supreme Court of Virginia reversed. The pictures and associated data stored in the ALPR database meet the statutory definition of “personal information” but it is not clear whether the retention and “passive use” of that information may be classified as an “information system” under the Act. The circuit court must determine whether the ALPR record-keeping process provides a means through which a link between a license plate and the vehicle’s owner may be readily made. If a means exists, then the “passive use” of ALPRs is not covered by the law enforcement exception because the Department collected and retained personal information without any suspicion of criminal activity. View "Neal v. Fairfax County Police Department" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the State Corporation Commission concluding that certain large customers may purchase electricity from any licensed supplier of energy in the Commonwealth under Va. Code 56-577(A)(5) without being subject to the notice requirement set forth in section 56-577(A)(3). Specifically, the Court held (1) customers who satisfy the size requirements of section (A)(3) can purchase electricity from a competitive service provider under section (A)(5), provided that they satisfy the separate conditions of section (A)(5); (2) sections (A)(3) and (A)(5) are not in conflict; and (3) the notice requirement in section (A)(3) does not apply to purchases made under section (A)(5). View "Virginia Electric & Power Co. v. State Corp. Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the State Corporation Commission concluding that certain large customers may purchase electricity from any licensed supplier of energy in the Commonwealth under Va. Code 56-577(A)(5) without being subject to the notice requirement set forth in section 56-577(A)(3). Specifically, the Court held (1) customers who satisfy the size requirements of section (A)(3) can purchase electricity from a competitive service provider under section (A)(5), provided that they satisfy the separate conditions of section (A)(5); (2) sections (A)(3) and (A)(5) are not in conflict; and (3) the notice requirement in section (A)(3) does not apply to purchases made under section (A)(5). View "Virginia Electric & Power Co. v. State Corp. Commission" on Justia Law

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In this appeal from a state employee grievance proceeding, a hearing officer’s decision upholding the termination of Nathan Osborn, a special agent with the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), was not contrary to law. ABC terminated Osburn’s employment after receiving a complaint that Osburn rummaged, without permission, through the business records of a business owner who had applied for a retail alcohol license. A hearing officer upheld Osburn’s termination, concluding that the warrantless search was not permissible, resulting in a violation of the applicant’s constitutional rights. The circuit court upheld the hearing officer’s determination. The court of appeals affirmed the circuit court’s determination that Osborn violated the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Osburn’s warrantless inspection of the office of the applicant’s business was not permissible under the highly regulated industry exception to the warrant requirement and that the business owner did not consent to Osburn’s warrantless search of the office. View "Osburn v. Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) denial of claims filed by a group of Kentucky hospitals requesting reimbursement for legal fees and costs from Reciprocal of America (ROA), an insolvent insurer. On appeal, the Hospitals argued that certain agreements constituting an assumption reinsurance transaction provided a contractual basis for the claims requiring ROA to indemnify them for legal fees and costs incurred in certain litigation and that the SCC erred in concluding otherwise. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the SCC did not err in concluding that the governing contractual provisions did not obligate ROA to reimburse the Hospitals for legal fees an costs that they incurred in the legal proceedings. View "Appalachian Regional Healthcare v. Cunningham" on Justia Law