Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the circuit court denying a motion to compel arbitration, holding that the court's order did not contain sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law for the Supreme Court to conduct a proper review. Plaintiff sued Defendant for invasion of privacy and alleging that they violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act, W.Va. Code 46A-1-101 to -8-102. Defendants moved to compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion to compel arbitration, apparently determining that no arbitration agreement was formed and, simultaneously, that the arbitration agreement was unconscionable and should not be enforced. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's order, holding that the case must be remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings, including the determination of whether any arbitration agreement existed between the parties and, if so, whether that agreement was unconscionable. View "Certegy Check Services v. Fuller" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court finding a delegation clause in an arbitration agreement unconscionable and refusing to enforce the arbitration agreement, holding that the delegation clause was neither unconscionable nor unenforceable. Respondent, who was terminated from her employment, filed workers' compensation discrimination claims against Petitioners. Petitioner moved to compel arbitration based on the arbitration agreement that Respondent signed at the time she was hired. The circuit court refused to enforce the arbitration agreement on the grounds that the agreement's delegation clause was ambiguous, unconscionable and in violation of W. Va. Code 23-2-7. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the delegation clause clearly and unmistakably showed the parties' intent to send gateway questions of arbitration to an arbitrator; (2) the delegation clause was valid; and (3) the circuit court should have referred the parties' arguments about the enforceability of the arbitration agreement to the arbitrator. View "Rent-A-Center Inc. v. Ellis" on Justia Law

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In this long-running contractual dispute between Petitioners, the West Virginia Investment Management Board (IMB) and the West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board (CPRB) and Respondent, The Variable Annuity Life Insurance Company (VALIC), the Supreme Court affirmed the order dismissing this matter from the Business Court Division’s docket in reliance on conclusions reached in an arbitration panel’s final decision. The first time the parties were before the Supreme Court, the Court reversed a summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. The Court further directed that the matter be referred to the Business Court Division. Due to the complexity of the case, the parties agreed to submit the dispute to binding arbitration before a panel of three business court judges. The panel unanimously found in favor of Respondent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no cause to void the parties’ agreement to submit the matter to binding arbitration; and (2) Petitioners’ arguments that the panel failed to apply the law of the case and neglected to decide all issues before it were unavailing. View "W. Va. Investment Management Board v. Variable Annuity Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In this long-running contractual dispute between Petitioners, the West Virginia Investment Management Board (IMB) and the West Virginia Consolidated Public Retirement Board (CPRB) and Respondent, The Variable Annuity Life Insurance Company (VALIC), the Supreme Court affirmed the order dismissing this matter from the Business Court Division’s docket in reliance on conclusions reached in an arbitration panel’s final decision. The first time the parties were before the Supreme Court, the Court reversed a summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. The Court further directed that the matter be referred to the Business Court Division. Due to the complexity of the case, the parties agreed to submit the dispute to binding arbitration before a panel of three business court judges. The panel unanimously found in favor of Respondent. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no cause to void the parties’ agreement to submit the matter to binding arbitration; and (2) Petitioners’ arguments that the panel failed to apply the law of the case and neglected to decide all issues before it were unavailing. View "W. Va. Investment Management Board v. Variable Annuity Life Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court upheld the Workers’ Compensation Board of Review’s finding that, based on the preponderance of the evidence, Jimmie Lemon’s injury was work related. Jimmie Lemon filed a workers’ compensation claim claiming that his low back injury occurred in the course of and resulting from his employment with Arch Coal, Inc. The Office of Judges found the claim compensable and designated Lemon’s compensable condition as a herniated disc. The Board of Review affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case with directions that the claim be rejected, concluding that Lemon’s injury was not work-related. Upon reconsideration, the Supreme Court upheld the prior administrative finding that Lemon’s injury was work-related. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Review and remanded with directions to reinstate the decisions of the Office of judges and the Board of Review that Lemon’s claim was compensable. View "Arch Coal, Inc. v. Lemon" on Justia Law

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A durable power of attorney (DPOA) provided an adult daughter with the authority to enter into an arbitration agreement with a nursing home on her mother’s behalf. Lena Nelson executed a DPOA that named her son as her attorney-in-fact. The DPOA stated that if her son could not serve as such, Nelson’s daughter, Kimberly Shanklin, should be Nelson’s attorney-in-fact. Nelson was later transferred to Hillcrest Nursing Home. Shanklin signed all of the admission documents, including an arbitration agreement. Approximately one month after leaving the nursing home, Nelson died. Shanklin, on behalf of her mother’s estate, filed this suit against Hillcrest. Hillcrest, in response, filed a motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. Shanklin argued that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable because she did not have the actual authority to enter into the agreement on Nelson’s behalf because she was the “alternate” DPOA. The circuit court agreed and denied the motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Shanklin had the authority to enter into the arbitration agreement with Hillcrest; and (2) under the plain language of W.Va. Code 39B-1-119(c), Hillcrest was permitted to rely on Shanklin’s authority as Nelson’s DPOA when Shanklin signed the arbitration agreement on Nelson’s behalf. View "AMFM, LLC v. Shanklin" on Justia Law

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In this action brought by Plaintiff alleging a deliberate intent claim and violations of the West Virginia Human Rights Act (Act) the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s rulings and remanded the case for entry of an order dismissing the action and compelling arbitration. Plaintiff instituted this civil action against Hampden Coal, LLC, his employer, and his supervisor alleging a deliberate intent claim related to his workplace injury and two violations of the Act arising from his demotion. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to compel arbitration pursuant to an arbitration agreement Appellant signed as a condition of his employment. The circuit court denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss and refused to compel arbitration, concluding, among other things, that the arbitration agreement was invalid because it lacked consideration and was both substantively and procedurally unconscionable. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) more stringent or different standards do not apply to consideration of arbitration agreements in the employment context; (2) the parties’ agreement to arbitrate their disputes served as consideration for the agreement; (3) the agreement was neither substantively or procedurally unconscionable; (4) Plaintiff’s claims did not fall outside the scope of the agreement; and (5) the circuit court erred in finding that the agreement was an employment contract. View "Hampden Coal, LLC v. Varney" on Justia Law

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In this action brought by Plaintiff alleging a deliberate intent claim and violations of the West Virginia Human Rights Act (Act) the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s rulings and remanded the case for entry of an order dismissing the action and compelling arbitration. Plaintiff instituted this civil action against Hampden Coal, LLC, his employer, and his supervisor alleging a deliberate intent claim related to his workplace injury and two violations of the Act arising from his demotion. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to compel arbitration pursuant to an arbitration agreement Appellant signed as a condition of his employment. The circuit court denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss and refused to compel arbitration, concluding, among other things, that the arbitration agreement was invalid because it lacked consideration and was both substantively and procedurally unconscionable. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) more stringent or different standards do not apply to consideration of arbitration agreements in the employment context; (2) the parties’ agreement to arbitrate their disputes served as consideration for the agreement; (3) the agreement was neither substantively or procedurally unconscionable; (4) Plaintiff’s claims did not fall outside the scope of the agreement; and (5) the circuit court erred in finding that the agreement was an employment contract. View "Hampden Coal, LLC v. Varney" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order invaliding the arbitration provision at issue in this case involving an oil and gas lease and remanded with directions that the case be dismissed and referred to arbitration. Petitioner and Respondents were parties to an oil and gas lease that included an arbitration provision. Respondents sued Petitioner, seeking to recover payments to which they claimed to be entitled under the lease and various other damages. Petitioner filed a motion to compel arbitration, relying on the arbitration provision in the lease. The circuit court denied Petitioner’s motion to compel arbitration, finding ambiguity in the lease’s arbitration provision. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred in going outside of the provisions in the arbitration clause to find language to create an ambiguity; and (2) the arbitration provision was not ambiguous and therefore should be enforced. View "SWN Production Co. v. Long" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s order denying Bluestem Brands, Inc.’s motion to compel arbitration brought by Respondent. Bluestem, a retailer of consumer goods, partnered with various bands to offer credit to its customers. The circuit court concluded that the arbitration agreement entered into by the parties was not binding on Respondent. Specifically, the circuit court found that Respondent did not assent to arbitration because she did not receive a copy of the most recent credit card agreement containing arbitration language and that Bluestem’s credit partners, and not Bluestem itself, were party to any potentially applicable credit agreement requiring arbitration. In reversing, the Supreme Court held (1) although the most recent amendments to the credit agreement lacked mutual assent, a prior version of the credit agreement contained a properly formed arbitration agreement and encompassed Respondent’s claims; and (2) Bluestem, as a non-signatory to the agreement, may utilize the theory of equitable estoppel to compel arbitration under the agreement. View "Bluestem Brands, Inc. v. Shade" on Justia Law