Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

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In this matter arising from a condemnation proceeding initiated by the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways, the Supreme Court accepted questions certified by the circuit court and answered, among other things, that when the DOT initiates a condemnation proceeding that involves a partial taking of land in connection with a highway construction project and when, as a result of the project, a residue tract not needed by the State for public road purposes has been rendered landlocked, a court cannot require the Division of Highways to acquire the landlocked residue by condemnation. The federally-funded highway construction project in this case resulted in residue property being rendered landlocked. The Supreme Court answered questions certified to it by the circuit court and answered, under the circumstances of this case, that (1) the question of whether the residue has become an "uneconomic remnant" is not a question of fact to be determined by a jury; (2) the Division of Highways, over the objection of the landowner, may mitigate the damage to the residue by restoring reasonable public road access thereto; and (3) the trial court cannot require the Division to acquire the landlocked residue by condemnation. View "West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways v. Echols" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment against Petitioners in their action against Respondents based upon a coal lease agreement between the parties and granting summary judgment against Respondents’ counterclaim, holding that there was no error to the dismissal of the parties’ respective claims. In granting summary judgment against Petitioners, the circuit court concluded that Respondents had no obligation to diligently mine coal and did not have to make royalty payments based upon comparable sales by other mining companies. The circuit court also granted summary judgment against Respondents’ counterclaim seeking damages for Petitioners’ refusal to consent to an assignment or sublease of the coal lease and for alleged tortious interference with an asset agreement Respondents had with another company. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error in the circuit court’s judgment. View "Bruce McDonald Holding Co. v. Addington Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the order of the circuit court granting declaratory relief in favor Berkeley County on the County’s suit against the City of Martinsburg seeking a ruling that real property owned by the County but located within the City limits was not subject to the City’s zoning ordinances, holding that the circuit court’s order was advisory in that it lacked a justiciable controversy sufficient to confer jurisdiction under the Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act. In vacating the circuit court’s order, the Supreme Court noted that the complaint revealed no actual, justiciable controversy because there was no specific project, building, or property identified by the County. Rather, the underlying suit claimed to apply generally to all real property owned by the County that may be involved in future, unspecified projects. The Court held that, under these circumstances, the circuit court engaged in an academic exercise, and its order amounted to an advisory opinion and, therefore, must be vacated. View "City of Martinsburg v. Berkeley County Council" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court certifying as final the prior orders that granted summary judgment to Respondents in this civil action arising out of the modification of covenants pertaining to a residential subdivision developed by RJM Holdings, LLC, holding that the genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment. On appeal, Petitioners argued that the circuit court erred by granting summary judgment because genuine issues of material fact existed regarding whether Respondents were engaged in a joint venture with RJM to develop the subdivision and whether the corporate veils of the respondent businesses should be pierced to hold certain individuals personally liable. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed, holding that genuine issues of material fact existed with respect to the conduct of Respondents and the use of the various business entities to develop the subdivision. View "Dailey v. RJM Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the circuit court’s order granting summary judgment to Respondents in this nuisance action against a shooting range, holding that because Petitioners’ plea for money damages accrued prior to the 2017 amendment of Va. Code 61-6-23, the Legislature could not retroactively bar Petitioners from pursuing their nuisance claim. Petitioners, who owned land in Frederick County, Virginia, sued Respondents for nuisance in 2015, claiming that noise from Respondents’ shooting ranges substantially and unreasonably interfered with their use and enjoyment of their rural property. In 2017, the legislature amended section 61-6-23 to bar nuisance claims against a shooting range if the range is in compliance with local noise ordinances. The legislature specified that the amendment applied retroactively. The circuit court dismissed Petitioners’ suit, concluding that the nuisance claim was retroactively barred. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court correctly applied the amendment to dismiss, retroactively, Petitioner’s nuisance claim seeking injunctive relief; but (2) because Petitioners’ plea for money damages accrued prior to the amendment, Petitioners’ right to pursue those damages was vested. The Supreme Court remanded the matter to the circuit court to resume proceedings in Petitioners’ nuisance claim for monetary damages. View "Goldstein v. Peacemaker Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this condemnation proceeding, the Supreme Court granted the writ of prohibition sought by the West Virginia Department of Transportation, Division of Highways (DOH), holding that the circuit court exceeded its legitimate authority and committed clear error by hindering the DOH’s exercise of its legislatively-granted discretion with respect to planning and engineering a road expansion project. The DOH filed petitions to condemn private property for use in expansion of a highly-trafficked road and moved for immediate right of entry and transfer of defeasible title. The circuit court held the motion in abeyance in lieu of denial and directed the DOH to return to its engineers for additional consideration of traffic safety issues and alternative plans to minimize the impact on local businesses. The Supreme Court granted the DOH’s petition for a writ of prohibition, holding that because the project was indisputably for a public use, the circuit court exceeded its legitimate authority by effectively denying for failing to rule on the only issue properly before it - that is, whether the project was for a public use. View "State ex rel. W.Va. Department of Transportation, Division of Highways v. Honorable Susan B. Tucker" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over the property division in a will, the Supreme Court granted the writ of prohibition sought by Petitioner seeking relief from the circuit court’s grant of Respondents’ motion to sell certain property, holding that the implication of possible sale relating to a separate piece of real property is insufficient evidence of an intent to sell all other real property such that it bypasses the findings required by W. Va. Code 44-8-1 and 37-4-3 to sell a specific devise subject to a partition suit. The Testator’s will devised a family farm and other property to her three children, Petitioner and Respondents. Petitioner sought to have the family farm partitioned in kind and argued that it was a specific devise. Co-executors of the estate sought a court order to sell the family farm. The circuit court ruled in favor of the co-executors, concluding that the Testator showed approval of the sale of the family farm even though it had been separately and specifically devised. The Supreme Court granted this writ of prohibition, holding that the circuit court erred in permitting sale of the family farm without first determining whether the property was amenable to partition in kind consistent with the directives of sections 44-8-1 and 37-4-3. View "Presnell v. Presnell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court in this dispute between the Assessor of Monongalia County, Mark Musick, and University Park at Evansdale, LLC (UPE) regarding an assessment valuing UPE’s leasehold interest in a student housing facility, holding that Musick contravened the requirements of both West Virginia Code of State Rules 110-1P-3 and applicable case law in assessing UPE’s leasehold interest. In 2013, West Virginia University (WVU) leased property to UPE for the development of University Park, the student housing facility. UPE subleased the student housing back to WVU for purposes of offering git to students for housing. This disagreement related to a 2015 assessment valuing UPE’s leasehold interest in University Park at more than $9 million. The circuit court decided that, based on the evidence presented at the Board of Equalization and Review (BER), the assessment of UPE’s leasehold interest for tax year 2015 was $0. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order correcting the assessment, holding that UPE showed by clear and convincing evidence that the 2015 valuation of the leasehold interest should be corrected to $0. View "Musick v. University Park at Evansdale, LLC" on Justia Law

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In this property dispute, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court setting aside the jury’s verdict in favor of Defendants for insufficient evidence and granting Plaintiff a new trial, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in this case. Plaintiff proved at trial that she had a written easement to cross Defendants’ land. Defendants, however, introduced evidence that Plaintiff had abandoned the written easement through decades of nonuse. During trial, Plaintiff never objected or filed a motion that challenged the sufficiency of Defendants’ evidence. After the jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants and on appeal, Plaintiff filed a motion seeking a new trial, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support Defendants’ abandonment theory. The circuit court granted the motion and set aside the jury’s verdict for insufficient evidence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Plaintiff did not file a motion challenging the sufficiency of evidence at trial, before the jury returned a verdict, and because the jury’s verdict had support in the record, the circuit court abused its discretion in setting aside the jury’s verdict and in granting a new trial. View "McInarnay v. Hall" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment to Mike Ross, Inc. (MRI) on the grounds that Petitioners’ claims were barred by the three-year statute of limitation set forth in W. Va. Code 11A-4-4. Through its omnibus order, the circuit court declared MRI to be the owner of eighty percent of the oil and gas interests in two adjacent tracts of land pursuant to a tax deed issued to MRI after it purchased the property at a delinquent tax sale. Petitioners appealed, contending that the circuit court erred by not finding that they collectively own, respectively, a 16.44 percent and twenty percent undivided interest in the oil and gas in the properties. The circuit court granted summary judgment to MRI, concluding that Petitioners’ claims were time-barred. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the mineral interests were never delinquent, and therefore, the sale of the subject mineral interests for delinquent taxes was void as a matter of law; and (2) Petitioners’ claims were not barred by section 11A-4-4. View "L&D Investments, Inc. v. Mike Ross, Inc." on Justia Law