Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

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The Supreme Court affirmed the final order of the circuit court granting summary judgment to the sheriff and treasurer of Barbour County and the assessor of Barbour County (collectively, Respondents) and finding that Petitioners were liable for payment of certain property taxes for the years 2011 and 2012. Petitioners had purchased a tax lien on certain mineral interests from the Deputy Commission of Delinquent and Nonentered Lands of Barbour County on September 19, 2011 and secured a deed to the property on January 23, 2012. On appeal, Petitioners argued that they were not liable for the 2011 and 2012 property taxes because they were not owners in possession of the property during those years. Respondents argued that Petitioners were liable for the taxes at issue because their deed specified that they acquired title in 2004. The Supreme Court held that because W. Va. Code 11A-3-62 relates the tax lien purchaser’s title back to the year of the assessment for the property taxes that became delinquent, the circuit court did not err in determining that Petitioners were liable for the 2011 and 2012 property taxes. View "Ancient Energy, Ltd. v. Ferguson" on Justia Law

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Sue Walters filed a lawsuit against Quicken Loans, Inc., alleging that Quicken Loans violated the “illegal loan” provision of the West Virginia Residential Mortgage Lender, Broker and Servicer Act, W. Va. Code 31-17-8(m)(8), in originating a primary mortgage loan for her. A jury found in favor of Walters and awarded her damages in the amount of $27,000. Walters sued additional defendants - an appraiser and the entity that serviced the loan - with whom she settled. In total, the court offset $59,500 of the $98,000 paid by the settling defendants against the total damages, costs and fees awarded against Quicken Loans. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded, holding that the circuit court (1) did not err in allowing the illegal loan claim to go to the jury, as section 31-17-8(m)(8) applies to a single primary mortgage loan; (2) did not err in ruling that Walters was a prevailing party and thus entitled to an award of fees and costs; (3) erred in offsetting only a portion of the settlement monies received from the settling defendants against the total compensatory damages received by Walters. View "Quicken Loans, Inc. v. Walters" on Justia Law

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Where a lessee designates tracts of land for pooling regarding horizontal drilling and production of oil and gas from the Marcellus Shale Formation, which includes nonparticipating royalty interests (NPRI), consent or ratification by the holders of the nonparticipating royalty interests is not required where the holders of the NPRIs have conveyed the oil and gas in place and the executive leasing rights thereto to the lessor. At issue was a voluntary pooling and unionization lease provision regarding horizontal drilling and production of oil and gas from the Marcellus Shale Formation. PPG Industries, Inc., the lessor, and Gastar Exploration USA, Inc., the lessee, signed a lease under which 700 acres were designated by Gastar as the Wayne/Lily Unit for purposes of pooling the oil and gas interests held by various individuals and entities. PPG and Gastar challenged the circuit court’s entry of partial summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs, who collectively held a nonparticipating royalty interest in the oil and gas underlying a parcel included within the Wayne/Lily Unit. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in ruling that the validity of the pooling provision in the PPG-Gastar lease and the designated Wayne/Lily Unit were void until such time as pooling was consented to and ratified by Plaintiffs. View "Gastar Exploration Inc. v. Contraguerro" on Justia Law

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Leslie Meadows filed a complaint against William Erps claiming that Erps owed he money from several real estate projects that she shared with him. For purposes of appeal, Meadows’s claims involved two of those transactions with Erps: (1) claims related to the purchase of, improvements to, and sale of the Sutphin property; and (2) claims related to the financing for the Twiford apartments. The circuit court awarded judgment to Meadows in the amount of $18,675 with respect to the Sutphin property and $67,000 for the Twiford apartments, for a total sum of $85,675. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court’s award of judgment of $18,675 to Meadows as an abuse of discretion; and (2) the circuit court’s award of $67,000 was an abuse of discretion, and the circuit court’s award of judgment on the Twiford apartments is hereby reduced to $30,000. Remanded with directions to vacate the judgment for Meadows on the Sutphin property and to enter judgment for Meadows on the Twiford apartments in the amount of $30,000. View "Erps v. Meadows" on Justia Law

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Respondent filed a petition for a writ of mandamus seeking to force the West Virginia Department of Highways, Division of Highways (DOH) to institute a condemnation proceeding for limestone it excavated from a certain parcel of land during its construction of a portion of the Corridor H highway. The mandamus proceeding was resolved through an agreed order whereby the DOH was required to institute a condemnation proceeding against Respondent’s mineral interest in the property. After a jury trial, the circuit court awarded Respondent $941,304.53 as just compensation for the removal of the limestone from the property. The circuit court subsequently determined that Respondent was entitled to attorney’s fees and expenses for both the mandamus proceeding and condemnation proceeding. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) an award of attorney’s fees and expenses was warranted in this case; but (2) the final order was devoid of factual findings regarding the reasonableness of the amount of the attorneys fees and expenses awarded. Remanded for an additional hearing on that issue. View "West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways v. Newton" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the proposed expansion of municipal geographic boundaries by minor boundary adjustment by the City of Summersville, West Virginia, as approved by the Nicholas County Commission. Petitioners brought this action against the County Nicholas Commission and its members (collectively, Respondents), alleging that certain statutory requirements governing annexation were not met during the approval process, the annexation was not in the best interests of Nicholas County, the annexation amounted to a public nuisance, and that the annexation resulted in an unconstitutional taking of property without compensation. The circuit court granted the County Commission’s motion for summary judgment in part and denied Petitioners’ motion for summary judgment in part, concluding that the County Commission complied with the statutory requirements in entering the order on boundary adjustment, which authorized the City’s annexation of the property. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in affirming the County Commission’s determination to approve the City’s petition for an annexation by minor boundary adjustment. View "Coffman v. Nicholas County Commission" on Justia Law

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All of the parties to this case were co-owners of several tracts of land. Deborah Wyckoff filed this lawsuit against David Bowyer seeking to partition the surface in kind or by sale. Bowyer filed a counterclaim and third-party complaint seeking to partition the surface and/or oil, coal and gas below the surface through partition by allotment or partition by sale. The circuit court granted summary judgment to Wyckoff, finding that Bowyer had not established the statutory elements for a partition by allotment or by sale. The court also denied Bowyer’s request to further amend his third-party complaint. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court properly found that Bowyer failed to establish his entitlement to partition by allotment or by sale; and (2) the circuit court did not err by denying Bowyer’s request to amend his complaint. View "Bowyer v. Wyckoff" on Justia Law

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DWG Oil & Gas Acquisitions, LLC (DWG) contended that it was the current owner of the oil and gas underlying a parcel of land in Marshall County. The circuit court determined that the oil and gas underlying the parcel was conveyed by a 1913 deed to A.B. Campbell, a predecessor in title of Southern County Farms, Inc., Harlan and Barbara Kittle, and Lori Carpenter (collectively, Defendants). Consequently, title to the oil and gas was vested in Defendants rather than DWG. DWG appealed, arguing that it was the current owner of the oil and gas at issue by virtue of a competing chain of title arising from a 1908 deed executed by P. P. Campbell, Sr. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court correctly applied the law and properly found that title to the oil and gas underlying the parcel of land is currently vested in Defendants. View "DWG Oil & Gas Acquistions, LLC v. Southern Country Farms" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sued EQT Production Company and five related entities alleging that Plaintiffs were underpaid royalties with respect to their ownership of oil and gas interests that EQT was contracted to exploit. A federal district court granted summary judgment to the related entities and partial summary judgment EQT. The court reserved its ruling on the remaining aspects of Plaintiff’s claims against EQT pending the disposition of questions certified to the Supreme Court relevant to the claims’ resolution. The Supreme Court declined to answer the second certified question and answered the first certified question as follows: When the lessee-owner of a working interest in an oil or gas well must tender to the lessor-owner of the oil or gas a royalty not less than one-eighth of the total amount paid to or received by or allowed to the lessee, W. Va. Code 22-6-8(e) requires in addition that the lessee not deduct from that amount any expenses that have been incurred in gathering, transporting, or treating the oil or gas after it has been initially extracted any sums attributable to a loss or beneficial use of volume beyond that initially measured or any other costs that may be characterized as post-production. View "Leggett v. EQT Production Co." on Justia Law

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Bryan and Doris McCurdy filed an action against Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC (MVP) seeking a declaration that MVP had no right to enter their property to survey the area as a potential location for a natural gas transmission pipeline MVP planned to construct. The McCurdys further sought both a preliminary and a permanent injunction prohibiting MVP from entering their property. The circuit court granted declaratory judgment to the McCurdys and also granted the McCurdys a preliminary and a permanent injunction prohibiting MVP from entering their property. The circuit court based its decision on its finding that MVP’s pipeline is not being constructed for a public use in West Virginia. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding (1) MVP could enter the MCurdys’ land to survey the land only if the MVP pipeline was for a public use, and (2) the MVP pipeline was not being constructed for a public use in West Virginia. View "Mountain Valley Pipeline v. McCurdy" on Justia Law