Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment to Plaintiff and vesting title to Defendant’s home to Plaintiff, holding that because there was no dispute that Plaintiff failed to have notice to redeem mailed to Defendant’s address, as required by W. Va. Code 11A-3-22(d), the circuit court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff. As a result of Defendant’s property taxes not having been paid, the county sheriff held an action to sell the tax lien on Defendant’s home. Plaintiff purchased the tax lien on the property at the auction. Plaintiff unsuccessfully attempted to have Defendant notified by mail and newspaper publications of her right to redeem the property. A deed to the property was subsequently conveyed to Plaintiff. Plaintiff then filed this proceeding to quiet title to the property. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Plaintiff. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the matter to the circuit court with instructions to grant summary judgment in favor of Defendant, set aside Defendant’s tax deed to her home, and determine the amount to be paid by defendant to redeem the property, holding that summary judgment was improperly granted. View "Archuleta v. US Liens, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment to Plaintiff and vesting title to Defendant’s home to Plaintiff, holding that because there was no dispute that Plaintiff failed to have notice to redeem mailed to Defendant’s address, as required by W. Va. Code 11A-3-22(d), the circuit court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff. As a result of Defendant’s property taxes not having been paid, the county sheriff held an action to sell the tax lien on Defendant’s home. Plaintiff purchased the tax lien on the property at the auction. Plaintiff unsuccessfully attempted to have Defendant notified by mail and newspaper publications of her right to redeem the property. A deed to the property was subsequently conveyed to Plaintiff. Plaintiff then filed this proceeding to quiet title to the property. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Plaintiff. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the matter to the circuit court with instructions to grant summary judgment in favor of Defendant, set aside Defendant’s tax deed to her home, and determine the amount to be paid by defendant to redeem the property, holding that summary judgment was improperly granted. View "Archuleta v. US Liens, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this action alleging claims under the West Virginia Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Act, W. Va. Code 22-31 to 22-3-38, the Supreme Court answered several questions of law certified to it by the federal court. The Court answered, inter alia, that (1) a 1902 deed provision transferring the right to mine coal “without leaving any support for the overlying strata and without liability for any injury which may result to the surface from the breaking of said strata” prohibits a surface owner from pursuing a common law claim for loss of support arising from subsidence caused by the extraction of the coal from below the surface; (2) assuming the surface lands and residence of a landowner have been materially damaged from subsidence that is a natural result of underground mining, the surface owner is limited to the remedies provided for in the West Virginia Code of State Rules 38-2-16.2.c to 38-2-16.2.c.2; and (3) if a surface owner proves that his or her person or property was injured through a coal operator’s violation of a rule, order, or permit, the surface owner can receive monetary compensation for such injury pursuant to W. Va. Code 22-3-25(f). View "McElroy Coal Co. v. Schoene" on Justia Law

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In this action alleging claims under the West Virginia Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Act, W. Va. Code 22-31 to 22-3-38, the Supreme Court answered several questions of law certified to it by the federal court. The Court answered, inter alia, that (1) a 1902 deed provision transferring the right to mine coal “without leaving any support for the overlying strata and without liability for any injury which may result to the surface from the breaking of said strata” prohibits a surface owner from pursuing a common law claim for loss of support arising from subsidence caused by the extraction of the coal from below the surface; (2) assuming the surface lands and residence of a landowner have been materially damaged from subsidence that is a natural result of underground mining, the surface owner is limited to the remedies provided for in the West Virginia Code of State Rules 38-2-16.2.c to 38-2-16.2.c.2; and (3) if a surface owner proves that his or her person or property was injured through a coal operator’s violation of a rule, order, or permit, the surface owner can receive monetary compensation for such injury pursuant to W. Va. Code 22-3-25(f). View "McElroy Coal Co. v. Schoene" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order granting summary judgment against Plaintiffs, lot owners in the Sleepy Creek Forest Subdivision, on their complaint against the Subdivision’s Association alleging that delinquent assessments represented increases in annual assessments that were never properly voted on by the Association. Specifically, Plaintiffs alleged that the increases were ultra vires with respect to the subdivision’s covenants and restrictions and that the Association’s attempts to collect the delinquent assessments violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court properly granted summary judgment for the Association because the assessment increases were valid; and (2) the circuit court correctly awarded attorney’s fees to the Association. View "Conkey v. Sleepy Creek Forest Owners Association" on Justia Law

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The first of these two consolidated cases involved a lawsuit filed by multiple individual plaintiffs against defendant coal companies alleging that Defendants’ mining activities had contaminated Plaintiffs’ well water with lead and arsenic. The jury returned verdicts for Defendants. During the course of the underlying litigation, Plaintiffs invoked the water replacement provisions of the West Virginia Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Act, W. Va. Code 22-3-1 et seq. The circuit court issued a preliminary injunction requiring Defendants to provide replacement water until liability for the well water contamination had been established. After the jury rendered its verdicts, Defendants requested that the circuit court dissolve the injunction. The circuit court refused to dissolve the injunction while the matter was pending on appeal. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the circuit court’s ruling refusing Plaintiffs’ motion to set aside the jury verdicts and for a new trial, holding that there was no error requiring reversal; and (2) reversed the circuit court’s ruling refusing to dissolve the preliminary injunction, holding that the injunction should have been dissolved. However, because during the pendency of the instant appeal Defendants failed to comply with the injunction, this case must be remanded for the parties to address that issue. View "Belcher v. Dynamic Energy, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the writ of prohibition sought by Southland Properties LLC against the circuit court for denying Southland’s alleged right to intervene in an action instituted under W. Va. Code 11A-3-60 (section 60 proceedings) by Kenneth Jones. Jones sought to compel the Deputy Commissioner of Delinquent and Nonentered Lands of Marion County to deliver deeds to two tracts of land Jones purchased at a tax sale. The Deputy Commissioner declined to issue the deeds to Jones because the statutory timeframe for issuance of the deeds following the tax sale had passed. Southland, which owned the properties at issue and failed to pay property taxes for several years, moved to intervene in the section 60 proceeding on the grounds that it was an indispensable party. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s denial of Southland’s motion to intervene, holding that Southland was not an indispensable party to the section 60 proceedings because Southland made no attempt to redeem and its ownership interest as a delinquent taxpayer was predicated on redemption. View "State ex rel. Southland Properties, LLC v. Honorable David R. Janes" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated appeals requiring the Supreme Court to interpret various provisions of the West Virginia Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Rule (WVSCMRR), W.Va. CSR 38-2-1, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the circuit court. The Supreme Court held that the circuit court (1) did not err in finding that the WVSCMRR does not require a coal company, in its application for modification of its mining permit, to demonstrate compliance with the Utility Protection Standard found at W.Va. 38-2-14.17; (2) did not err in ruling that the permit application sufficiently described how the coal operator would comply with the Utility Protection Standard; but (3) erred in finding that the WVSCMRR applied regardless of a coal operator’s common law property rights. View "Texas Eastern Transmission v. W. Va. Department of Environmental Protection" on Justia Law

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At issue was the admissibility of expert testimony valuing wetland property for the purpose of just compensation in a condemnation proceeding where the highest and best use of the wetlands was determined to be the development of a wetlands mitigation bank. The Supreme Court held (1) the highest and best use of the wetland property as a mitigation bank may be considered in a condemnation proceeding to the extent that such a factor would be weighed in negotiations between private persons participating in a voluntary sale and purchase of the land at the time it was taken; (2) however, the market price of mitigation credits that ultimately may be produced from the property cannot be the sole basis for measuring the land’s value in determining just compensation; and (3) because the expert testimony at issue in this case provided a value that was based solely upon the market price of mitigation credits that could be developed from the land, as opposed to the fair market value of the land itself in a voluntary transaction between a knowledgeable buyer and seller, the circuit court erred in admitting that testimony. The court remanded the case for a new trial. View "W. Va. Department of Transportation, Division of Highways v. CDS Family Trust, LLC" on Justia Law

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The 1977 deed at issue in this case was ambiguous and of such doubtful meaning that reasonable minds disagreed as to the deed’s intent, and therefore, the circuit court erred in finding the deed was clear and in finding that the grantors did not convey one-half interest in oil and gas beneath a tract of land in Marshall County to the grantee. In 2013, Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Defendants asserting that, in the 1977 deed, Plaintiffs retained ownership of the one-half undivided interest in the oil and gas and, therefore, Defendants trespassed on their oil and gas interest and engaged in conversion. Plaintiffs then amended the complaint to request a declaratory judgment interpreting the 1977 deed. The circuit court determined that the deed was clear and unambiguous and declared that Plaintiffs kept for themselves the one-half interest in the oil and gas. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in finding that the 1977 deed was unambiguous and in granting a declaratory judgment in favor of Plaintiffs. View "Gastar Exploration Inc. v. Rine" on Justia Law