Articles Posted in West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

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Respondents graduated from College's legal assisting program with associate degrees. Respondents filed a complaint against College, alleging that College induced Respondents to enroll in College's legal assisting program by verbally guaranteeing legal assistant jobs to Respondents after graduation. The jury found College engaged in both unconscionable and fraudulent inducement. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in granting relief to Respondents and denying College's motion for judgment as a matter of law, where (1) the circuit court erred in finding College violated the state Consumer Credit and Protection Act, and accordingly, Respondents did not have cognizable causes of action for unconscionability and inducement by unconscionable conduct pursuant to W. Va. Code 46A-2-121; (2) the circuit court erred in ruling that the agreement between the parties was unconscionable under the common law of contracts based on a lack of consideration; and (3) because the circuit court granted judgment as a matter of law on Respondents' fraudulent inducement claim on the basis that it was time-barred, Respondents did not have an equitable claim for fraudulent inducement, and therefore, the circuit court erred to the extent that it granted equitable relief to Respondents on the basis of fraudulent inducement. View "Mountain State Coll. v. Holsinger" on Justia Law

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In 1996, Terri Cole and her husband financed the purchase of a home through a loan secured by a deed of trust on the home and the underlying property. In 2005, Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, Inc. became the servicer of the loan. Code defaulted on her loan in 2010. Vanderbilt foreclosed and purchased the home and real property at a trustee's sale. Thereafter, Cole refused to vacate the home. Vanderbilt filed an unlawful detainer action. Cole counterclaimed, alleging that Vanderbilt had violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act (WVCCPA). Regarding the unlawful detainer claim, the circuit court found in favor of Vanderbilt. As to the remaining issues, the jury found Vanderbilt engaged in several violations of the WVCCPA. The circuit court subsequently awarded civil penalties to Cole totaling $32,125, and, some weeks later, granted Cole's motion for attorney fees and costs. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's civil penalties order and award of attorney fees, holding that the circuit court did not commit error with regard to either the civil penalties order or the attorney fees order. View "Vanderbilt Mortgage & Fin., Inc. v. Cole" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a car owner and the purchaser of that car, filed suit against Advance Stores, which supplied a car battery to the original owner. The battery died shortly after the second owner purchased the car, and Advance Stores refused to provide a free replacement under the limited warranty. After the Supreme Court answered a certified question and remanded the case, the trial court allowed Plaintiffs to amend the complaint to add an additional cause of action for violation of the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act (Act). Advance Stores moved to dismiss the third amended complaint. The trial court denied the motion in part and allowed the third amended complaint to go forward on new theories. Thereafter, Advance Stores filed this petition for a writ of prohibition, asserting that the circuit court ignored the mandate of the Supreme Court in McMahon I. The Supreme Court granted the writ and directed the circuit court to grant in full Advance Stores' motion to dismiss the third amended complaint, holding that in failing to present a claim under the Act in McMahon I, Plaintiffs were precluded from amending their complaint to assert the claim under the limited remand. View "State ex rel. Advance Stores Co. v. Circuit Court" on Justia Law

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Quicken Loans, Inc., a Michigan corporation and a large national mortgage lender doing business in West Virginia, appealed an order of the circuit court denying post-trial motions for amendment of the circuit court's findings of fact and/or conclusions of law and for offset following a verdict which found it liable for common law fraud and various claims under the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act in connection with a subprime loan made to Plaintiff. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the circuit court, holding (1) the elements of fraud were not met with regard to Quicken's misrepresentation of loan discount points, but the other acts of fraud were proven by clear and convincing evidence; (2) the circuit court correctly found that, given the particular facts of this case, the terms of the loan and the loan product were unconscionable; (3) the circuit court incorrectly cancelled Plaintiff's obligation to repay the loan principal; and (4) because the circuit court's order in punitive damages lacked the necessary analysis and findings, the Court was unable to conduct an adequate review of the punitive damages award. Remanded. View "Quicken Loans, Inc. v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Darrell McGraw, state attorney general, sought a writ of prohibition directed to Respondent Charles King, judge of the circuit court, to enjoin enforcement of an order dismissing Petitioner's action seeking enforcement of certain investigative subpoenas issued against Respondents, Fast Auto Loans, Inc. (FAL), Community Loans of America, Inc. (CLA), and the president and CEO of both corporations. Petitioner began the investigation of Respondents after receiving complaints by West Virginia residents regarding the collection of title loans provided by FAL and CLA. The circuit court ruled that the investigative subpoena was procedurally defective and therefore invalid, and denied Petitioner's request for enforcement of the subpoena. The Supreme Court denied the requested writ of prohibition because Petitioner had another adequate remedy, that being an appeal of the circuit court's order. View "State ex rel. McGraw v. Circuit Court (King)" on Justia Law

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The Davises failed to pay the real estate tax for their property, resulting in a statutory tax. The Davises then filed a petition for bankruptcy, which was granted. Subsequently, the sheriff sold the tax lien. After the statutory time period that the Davises could redeem the property had passed and the property remained unredeemed, the tax lien purchaser received a tax deed conveying the Davises' property. The trial court set aside the tax deed, concluding that the tax lien sale should not have been held because the Davises had been in bankruptcy and because the sheriff did not give sufficient notice to the Davises of the tax delinquency, lien, and sale. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred (1) in considering issues relating to the sufficiency of the sheriff's service of the notices; (2) in considering the sheriff's pre-sale notices to the Davises, as only the post-sale notice to redeem is relevant in a lawsuit to set aside a tax deed; and (3) by granting judgment without making sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law as to the effect the Davises' bankruptcy had on the tax lien. Remanded. View "Rebuild America, Inc. v. Davis" on Justia Law

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This case was before the Supreme Court on a writ of prohibition brought by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) seeking to prohibit the circuit court from enforcing two orders requiring the president and CEO of MassMutual to submit to depositions. MassMutual argued (1) the orders requiring its president to submit to depositions were properly the subject of a writ of prohibition, and (2) the orders compelling the depositions of this high-ranking corporate executive, despite his lack of any personal or unique knowledge about the cases, were clearly erroneous and constituted an abuse of the circuit court's discretion. The Supreme Court issued the writ after adopting the apex deposition rule, a framework for assessing whether the deposition of a high-ranking corporate official is proper, holding that because the circuit court, in this case, did not make findings of fact or conclusions of law, there was an insufficient basis to sustain the circuit court's orders. View "State ex rel. Mass. Mut. Life Ins. Co. v. Jefferson County Circuit Court (Sanders)" on Justia Law

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First National Keystone Bank retained an independent accounting firm to audit its records at a time that members of the bank's management were fraudulently concealing the bank's financial condition. The accounting firm issued a clean audit concerning the bank. It was later discovered that the bank had overstated its assets by over $500 million. Upon investigation, the FDIC concluded that the law firm that represented the bank had engaged in legal malpractice. The FDIC settled its claims against the law firm. The accounting firm was later found liable to the FDIC in federal district court for a negligent bank audit. The accounting firm subsequently sued the law firm, alleging fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and tortious interference with the accounting firm's contract to perform the audit. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the law firm. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the claims of the accounting firm against the law firm were, in reality, contribution claims rather than direct or independent claims and were, therefore, barred by the settlement agreement between the law firm and the FDIC.

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Plaintiff Diana Mey filed a class action complaint alleging that Defendants, several companies, violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by leaving an automated voicemail message at her residence in response to a classified advertisement that Plaintiff's son placed on an internet website. The circuit court ruled that the automated call placed in response to the advertisement did not violate the TCPA and granted Defendants' motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) applied the correct standard of review when assessing a W.V. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss; (2) properly ruled that the automated call was not a telephone solicitation and did not contain an unsolicited advertisement under the TCPA; (3) did not abuse its discretion by denying Plaintiff's motion for relief pursuant to W.V. R. Civ. P. 59(e) and 60(b) after being informed that the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) issued a citation against Defendants; and (4) did not err in concluding that Defendants were not required to obtain Plaintiff's prior express consent before responding to the classified advertisement.

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Elgene Phillips was driving his truck when the truck hydroplaned, ran off the road, and rolled over. Phillips died as a result of the accident. As administratrix of the decedent's estate, petitioner Shelia Haynes filed a wrongful death action, alleging that the seatbelt in the decedent's trunk was defective. Chrysler, the manufacturer of the decedent's truck, and Autoliv, the manufacturer of the seatbelt, were named as defendants. The parties settled for $150,000, but the agreement did not contain an apportionment between the two defendants regarding who was responsible for that amount. After Chrysler declared bankruptcy, petitioner filed a motion to sever claims against Chrysler and a motion to compel Autoliv to pay the entire amount of the settlement. The circuit court denied petitioner's motions, and as a result petitioner received only $65,000 in settlement proceeds. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that (1) the terms of the contract were unambiguous, and Autolive was bound by the underlying agreement; and (2) by cashing Autolive's check for $65,000, the petitioner and Autolive did not reach an accord and satisfaction under the facts of the case.