Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Virginia Supreme Court
Ilg v. United Parcel Serv.
Employee suffered an injury during the course of his employment. Employer agreed to voluntarily pay workers' compensation benefits, and the Workers Compensation Commission issued an award order approving the agreements between Employee and Employer. Employer then filed an application with the Commission seeking to suspend Employee's benefits under the order for unjustifiably refusing to participate in vocational rehabilitation. The Commission denied the application. The court of appeals reversed. At issue on appeal was whether Employee should be permitted to offer evidence that his refusal to accept vocational rehabilitation services was justified because of a disabling injury that arose out of the same industrial accident for which he was awarded benefits, but which was not expressly designated in the award as a compensable injury. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in determining that Employee was precluded from asserting that his refusal of vocational rehabilitation was justified. Remanded for an evidentiary proceeding so Employee could show his refusal was justified in light of his disabling injury.
Giordano v. McBar Indus., Inc.
Scott and Martha Giordano were married and later separated. Scott was subsequently killed while working as an insulator in a building. Martha filed a claim for benefits with the Workers' Compensation Commission. The deputy commissioner determined that Martha was not a dependent of Scott and, therefore, was not entitled to workers' compensation benefits. Subsequently, Martha, as personal representative Scott's estate, filed a wrongful death claim against Defendants, Scott's employer, the employer's subcontractors, and a supplier of a product used in the construction process (Builder's Supply). The circuit court sustained Defendants' pleas in bar, concluding that the exclusivity provision of the Workers' Compensation Act barred Martha's action. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in holding that the exclusivity provision barred a non-dependent individual who was not eligible to collect benefits under the Act from bringing an action in tort; but (2) the court erred in holding that this provision of the Act barred an action in tort against Builder's Supply, as mere delivery of product was not within the trade, business or occupation of Scott's employer.
Thorpe v. Ted Bowling Constr.
Matthew Thorpe was the owner of a self-storage facility and operated a side business that installed residential porch railings. While installing metal sheets on the roof of a customer's building, Thorpe fell through a skylight to his death. His widow, Alissa Thorpe, filed with the Workers' Compensation Commission a claim for worker's compensation benefits. The deputy commissioner (1) found Alissa was entitled to benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act, and (2) awarded $48 payable weekly for 500 weeks. The Commission agreed with the deputy commissioner, and the court of appeals affirmed. Alissa appealed, arguing that the court of appeals erred in holding that $48 was Thorpe's average weekly wage applicable to the claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the deputy commissioner did not err in determining Thorpe's average weekly wage.
Prof’l Bldg. Maint. Corp. v. School Bd.
Professional Building Maintenance Corporation (PBM), which provides janitorial and industrial cleaning services, filed an amended complaint against the School Board of the County of Spotsylvania asserting causes of action arising under the Virginia Public Procurement Act. PBM asserted that the School Board violated the Act because it did not award a custodial services contract to PBM, who was the lowest responsive and responsible bidder, and that the School Board's failure to select PMB as the successful bidder was arbitrary and capricious. The circuit court sustained the School Board's demurrer. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in sustaining the School Board's demurrer, as the amended complaint (1) adequately alleged that the School Board failed to properly follow the requirements of the Act, and (2) alleged sufficient facts of arbitrary or capricious conduct.
Cuccinelli v. Rector & Visitors of Univ. of Va.
This case arose from two civil investigative demands (CIDs) issued to the University of Virginia and the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia (collectively, UVA) by the attorney general, pursuant to the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act (FATA). The CIDs sought information relating to the research of a climate scientist that had taught at UVA, received a series of grants to fund his research, and, with other climate scientists, had allegedly falsified data to indicate an upturn in the earth's surface temperatures due to the use of fossil fuels. UVA petitioned the circuit court to set aside the CIDs, arguing that the attorney general had no statutory authority to serve CIDs upon agencies of the Commonwealth and that the CIDs were defective because they failed to state the nature of the conduct alleged. The circuit court granted the petition and set aside the CIDs, without prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court, but, unlike the circuit court, set aside the CIDs with prejudice, holding that the University of Virginia, as an agency of the Commonwealth, did not constitute a "person" under the FATA and therefore could not be the proper subject of a CID.
City of Richmond v. SunTrust Bank
SunTrust Bank and Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RRHA) owned two properties in the City of Richmond as tenants in common. The RRHA was exempt from taxation but SunTrust was not. In 2009, the City determined that SunTrust was liable not only for the taxes on its ownership interests, but also for the taxes on the RRHA's interests. The City accordingly corrected the assessments against SunTrust for 2006 through 2009 to reflect that it was liable for taxes on both its ownership interests and the RRHA's. SunTrust challenged the City's actions, and the circuit court ruled that the City had no authority to tax SunTrust for the RRHA's ownership interests in the properties. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the City had no authority pursuant to the parties' operating agreements, the state Constitution, or state law to tax SunTrust for the RRHA's ownership interests in the properties.
Sinclair v. New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC
Albemarle County enacted a zoning ordinance governing construction on slopes within the county. Under the waiver provision of the county code, the planning commission was authorized to grant a waiver from the restrictions otherwise imposed by the ordinance. Kent Sinclair, who owned property in the county, filed a complaint seeking, inter alia, a declaratory judgment that the county exceeded the power delegated to it by the General Assembly in violation of the Dillon Rule because its procedure for considering waiver applications was not authorized by state law. The circuit court granted summary judgment against Sinclair. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's judgment that the decision to grant or deny waiver applications may be delegated to the planning commission, as the delegation was legislative in nature and not authorized by state law. Accordingly, in enacting the waiver provision, the county exceeded its authority from the General Assembly in violation of the Dillon Rule and the waiver provision was void. Remanded.
Redifer v. Chester
Employee was injured while working for Employer's sheep and wool business, Cestari. Employer failed to maintain workers' compensation insurance for Cestari. Employee filed a workers' compensation claim against Employer and Cestari, as well as a complaint against Employer and Cestari, seeking damages for negligence. The workers' compensation commissioner determined that Employee was entitled to workers' compensation benefits. Finding that Employee had pursued his workers' compensation claim to a final order and that he had a remedy for collection of his workers' compensation award against Cestari and/or the Uninsured Employers' Fund, the circuit court dismissed Employee's civil complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Employee had received the recovery he sought under the Workers' Compensation Act, and thus, the circuit court did not err in ruling that Employee could not pursue an action at law against Employer after obtaining a final collectible award of workers' compensation benefits.
Eberhardt v. Fairfax County Employees’ Ret. Sys. Bd. of Trs.
Linda Eberhardt, an employee of the Fairfax County School Board and a member of the Fairfax County Employees' Retirement Systems (FCERS), was injured during the course of her employment. Eberhardt applied for service-connected disability retirement benefits. The FCERS Board of Trustees denied Eberhardt's application for service-connected disability retirement benefits but awarded ordinary disability retirement benefits. Eberhardt appealed under Va. Code Ann. 51.1-823. The Board filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the circuit court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to hear the appeal because section 51.1-823 applied only to police officers' retirement systems in counties with the urban executive form of government. The court granted the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court correctly ruled that section 51.1-823 did not confer jurisdiction upon it to hear Eberhardt's appeal because the word "board" as used in section 51.1-823 did not encompass the board of any retirement system created by a county having an urban executive form of government.
Campbell County v. Royal
In this action, the trial court granted summary judgment against a locality, holding it liable to landowners under the State Water Control Law, Va. Code Ann. 62.1-44.2 through -44.34:28, in particular Code 62.1-44.34:18(C) of the Oil Discharge Law, for the contamination of groundwater by leachate and landfill gas. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court's judgment, holding that the trial court erred in awarding summary judgment to the landowners and finding the locality liable under the Oil Discharge Law, as the Oil Discharge Law does not apply to the passive, gradual seepage of leachate and landfill gas into groundwater.