Articles Posted in West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

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This case had its origins in a property damage action brought by Jason and Gina Corrick against B&B Transit, Inc. B&B Transit filed a notice and coverage claim with its insurer, Montpelier US Insurance Company. Montpelier eventually settled the case against B&B Transit. While the Corricks’ complaint was still pending, Respondents, including B&B Transit, filed a first-party bad faith claim against Petitioners, including Montpelier and its national coverage counsel, Charlston, Revich & Wollitz (“CRW”). Respondents subsequently served discovery requests on Petitioners. After CRW opposed disclosure of certain requested documents, Respondents filed a motion to compel disclosure of the documents. The circuit court entered an order requiring CRW to disclose certain documents. Petitioners sought a writ of prohibition to prevent enforcement of the circuit court’s discovery order. The Supreme Court granted the writ of prohibition as moulded, concluding that part of the circuit court’s order permitting discovery of documents sought by Respondents was prohibited from enforcement because the documents were protected under the attorney-client privilege. View "State ex rel. Montpelier US Ins. Co. v. Hon. Bloom" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed tort claims against Mine Safety Appliances Company (“MSA”). Plaintiffs settled with MSA under settlement agreements that assigned to Plaintiffs the right to recover the remainder of the settlement amount under an insurance policy that North River Insurance Company sold to MSA. MSA then amended their complaints to add claims against North River, and MSA filed cross-claims against North River. In the meantime, earlier-filed litigation between North River and MSA was pending in Pennsylvania and Delaware. North River filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion for a stay of the proceedings, arguing that West Virginia was an inconvenient forum and the proceedings should be dismissed pending resolution of the out-of-state litigation. The circuit court denied the motions. The Supreme Court denied the writ of prohibition subsequently sought by North River, holding that the circuit court did not err in (1) denying North River’s motion to dismiss where strong deference was according to Plaintiffs’ choice of forum and considerations relevant to a forum non conveniens analysis suggest no basis for dismissal of the action; and (2) denying the motion to stay the proceedings, as it would be unfair and prejudicial to Plaintiffs to delay the trials unnecessarily. View "State ex rel. N. River Ins. Co. v. Circuit Court" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was W. Va. Code 33-6-36, which, in certain circumstances, requires insurance companies to continue motor vehicle liability coverage for a spouse after the death of, or separation or divorce from, the named insured. Francis McComas separated from and then divorced a United Service Automobile Association (USAA) named insured. USAA removed McComas from the named insured’s policy. Seven days after the divorce, McComas lost control of his vehicle and collided with Kimberly Lucas’s vehicle. McComas died in the collision. Lucas, who was seriously injured, filed a lawsuit against McComas’s estate. Plaintiff included a declaratory judgment count against USAA, contending that the USAA motor vehicle policy with McComas’s former spouse provided liability coverage for McComas’s negligence. The circuit court granted judgment for Plaintiff, determining that USAA was required by section 33-6-36 to notify McComas of his right to buy a separate liability insurance policy upon canceling McComas’s liability coverage, and because that notice was not given to McComas, USAA was required to provide liability coverage to McComas’s estate. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances, 33-6-36 required USAA to notify McComas of the termination of his coverage and his right to request a separate policy. View "United Servs. Auto. Ass'n v. Lucas" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was a guest passenger in a vehicle insured by Progressive Classic Insurance Company when the vehicle was rear-ended by a truck. Petitioner received medical payments coverage under the Progressive policy for some of the medical expenses she incurred for the treatment of her injuries. Petitioner later successfully sued the truck owner and driver and received damages. Progressive subsequently asserted a subrogation lien on the recovery for the amount it paid under the medical payments coverage. Petitioner filed this complaint against Progressive, alleging common law and statutory bad faith claims. The circuit court dismissed the action, determining that because Petitioner was not a named insured under the Progressive policy and paid no premiums for the policy, Petitioner was a third-party insured and was, therefore, precluded from pursuing her bad faith claims against Progressive. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Petitioner was a first-party insured under the Progressive policy because the policy included within the definition of an insured person "any other person while occupying a covered vehicle"; and (2) therefore, Petitioner may pursue an action against Progressive for common law and statutory bad faith. View "Dorsey v. Progressive Classic Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Petitioner's decedent, Freda Bradley, purchased a named perils homeowners insurance policy from Farmers and Mechanics Mutual Insurance Company of West Virginia (Farmers). Bradley filed a claim under the policy for damage to her kitchen and bathroom floor. Farmers denied the claim citing a policy exclusion for water damage below the surface of the ground, fungi, wet or dry rot, or bacteria. Bradley filed a complaint against Farmers alleging several causes of action stemming from Farmers' denial of coverage under an insurance policy Bradley had purchased from Farmers. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Farmers, concluding (1) damage done to Bradley's kitchen floor did not constitute a "collapse" as required by the policy; and (2) the alleged collapse was not caused by "hidden decay." Petitioner appealed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred in finding that the term "collapse" in the insurance policy was not ambiguous and that Bradley's kitchen floor did not collapse; and (2) whether Bradley should have known that decay was causing her kitchen floor to sink was a genuine issue of material fact to be decided by a jury. Remanded. View "Chafin v. Farmers & Mechanics Mut. Ins. Co. of W. Va." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sought underinsured motorists (UIM) coverage from Respondent, Plaintiff's insurance carrier, after he was involved in an accident. Plaintiff and his wife eventually filed suit against Respondent seeking to recover the benefits. Plaintiff and Respondent settled the claim. Plaintiffs then amended their complaint against Respondent to allege a bad faith claim for violation of the Unfair Trade Practices Act, alleging that Respondent acted in bad faith by not paying their first-party claim for UIM. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs then moved for attorney fees and costs for substantially prevailing in the underlying bad faith award. The circuit court denied the costs and fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that there was no factual basis upon which to award fees on the bad faith claim. View "Lemasters v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Hess Oil Company asserted an unfair trade practices claim against two insurance companies. The jury returned a verdict against the insurance companies and awarded punitive damages. The circuit court, however, reduced the amount of the award by means of remittitur. The insurance companies appealed, contending that the trial court erred by giving conflicting jury instructions, introducing improper evidence of future remediation costs, and awarding punitive damages. Hess also appealed, challenging the court's reduction of its punitive damages award. The Supreme Court set aside the jury verdict and remanded for a new trial, holding that the trial court committed multiple errors, and the errors affected the jury's verdict in a manner prejudicial to the insurance companies. View "AIG Domestic Claims, Inc. v. Hess Oil Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitioners, who had a liability policy with State Farm, were involved in a motor vehicle accident. Petitioners filed an underinsured motorist claim with State Farm. Based on the absence of underinsurance coverage in Petitioners' policy, State Farm denied coverage. Petitioners filed a complaint against State Farm, asserting that a "knowing and intelligent" waiver of underinsurance coverage had not occurred. The circuit court granted Petitioners' motion for partial summary judgment, concluding (1) State Farm's underinsured motorist selection/rejection form did not precisely comply with the state Insurance Commissioner's prescribed form; and (2) State Farm's failure to use the Commissioner's prescribed forms resulted in underinsured motorists coverage being added to the policy as a matter of law. The Supreme Court answered the circuit court's certified question by holding that an insurance company's failure to use the Commissioner's prescribed forms pursuant to W. Va. Code 33-6-31(d) results in the loss of the statutory presumption that the insured provided a reasonable offer which was knowingly rejected and a reversion to the lower standards set forth in Bias v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. View "Thomas v. McDermitt" on Justia Law

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Fluker filed a lawsuit against Cava Toyota World on April 3, 2009, alleging that he was wrongfully terminated from his employment. The defendants reported the lawsuit to their insurance carrier, National Union, four days later, but National Union did not respond until November 11, 2009, when it sent a denial of coverage letter. The defendants defended the lawsuit without the assistance of their insurance carrier and sought to file a third-party complaint against National Union, asserting common law “bad faith” and violations of the West Virginia Unfair Trade Practices Act , arising from the denial of coverage. The third-party complaint did not seek a finding that there was coverage under the National Union policy or request that the court find coverage and order National Union to defend the lawsuit. The trial court entered summary judgment for National Union, finding that the claims contained in the third-party complaint were not derivative of the claims asserted in the underlying lawsuit. The West Virginia Supreme Court affirmed. View "Cava, v. Nat'l Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh" on Justia Law

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Lisbeth Cherrington entered into a contract with the Pinnacle Group for the construction of a home. Anthony Mamone worked with Cherrington during the contract and construction process. After the construction was completed, Cherrington filed this action against Pinnacle and Mamone, alleging, inter alia, negligence, misrepresentation, and breach of fiduciary duty. Pinnacle and Mamone requested Erie Insurance Property and Casualty Company, with whom they had insurance policies, to provide coverage and a defense. Because Erie denied both coverage and a duty to defend, Pinnacle and Mamone filed a third-party complaint against Erie seeking a declaration of the coverage provided by their policies. The circuit court granted Erie's motion for summary judgment, finding that the three policies issued to Pinnacle and Mamone did not provide coverage for the injuries and property damage allegedly sustained by Cherrington. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the circuit court's finding that neither Mamone's homeowners policy nor his umbrella policy provided coverage under the facts of this case; but (2) reversed the circuit court's ruling finding no coverage to exist under Pinnacle's commercial general liability policy. Remanded. View "Cherrington v. Erie Ins. Prop. & Cas. Co." on Justia Law