Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
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The Supreme Court denied the writ of prohibition sought by the West Virginia Regional Jail Authority (WVRJA) seeking to have the Court prohibit the circuit court from enforcing its order denying the WVRJA's motion to dismiss Bobbi Bryant's complaint against it as time barred, holding that WVRJA failed to demonstrate that the circuit court's order was clearly erroneous. The WVRJA moved to dismiss Bryant's complaint on the sole basis that the claims asserted against it were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The circuit court found that because the statute of limitations was appropriately tolled as to the co-defendant and because Bryant alleged a civil conspiracy cause of action the statute of limitation as to the co-defendant was imputed to the WVRJA. The WVRJA then filed a petition for writ of prohibition with the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court denied the petition, holding that the circuit court did not commit clear legal error in denying WVRJA's motion to dismiss the complaint as time barred, based on the applicable statute of limitations, such that a writ of prohibition is warranted. View "State ex rel. Regional Jail Authority v. Honorable Carrie Webster" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered a question certified by the federal district court by concluding that the term "person" as used in the wrongful death statute, W. Va. Code 55-7-5 and 55-7-6, does not include an ectopic embryo or an ectopic fetus. Three years after Defendant performed a bilateral tubal litigation on Plaintiff for permanent sterilization purposes doctors discovered a live ectopic pregnancy located in Plaintiff's left fallopian tube. Because the ectopic pregnancy had no chance of resulting in a live birth and would result in Plaintiff's death if allowed to continue, the ectopic embryo was removed. Plaintiff, on behalf of herself and as the administratrix of the estate of her ectopic embryo, and her husband filed suit against Defendant, asserting wrongful death. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The federal district court then certified two questions to the Supreme Court for resolution. The Supreme Court answered the second question, rendering the first question moot, holding that the term "person" as used in the wrongful death statute does not include an ectopic embryo or an ectopic fetus. View "Saleh v. Damron" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted the writ of prohibition sought by PrimeCare Medical of West Virginia, Inc. (PrimeCare) to dismiss the Estate of Cody Lawrence Grove's (the Estate) claims against PrimeCare for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that the circuit court erred by failing to dismiss the claims against PrimeCare brought under the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act (MPLA). The Estate sued a correctional officer, a regional jail authority, and Prime Care, which provided monitoring of inmates, arguing that Cody Grove was able to commit suicide while he was an inmate because the correctional officer failed to conduct one or more safety checks on Grove. PrimeCare filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the Estate failed to serve the notice of claim and the screening certificate of merit required by the MPLA. See W. Va. Code 55-7B-6. The circuit court denied the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court vacated the circuit court's order, holding that to the extent the MPLA's pre-suit notice requirements were not complied with, the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to proceed. View "State ex rel., Primecare Medical of West Virginia, Inc. v. Honorable Laura V. Faircloth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court affirming a decision by the West Virginia Board of Medicine that imposed professional discipline upon Dr. Omar Hasan, including a one-year suspension of his medical license with the requirement that he petition for reinstatement, holding that there was no error in the circuit court's order affirming the final order of the Board. On appeal, Hasan argued that the Board erred by failing to adopt recommended findings of fact by its hearing examiner, by misstating various facts in its final order, and by improperly considering the content of certain text messages. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board has the authority to amend findings of fact recommended by its hearing examiner so long as it provides a reasoned, articulate decision that explains the rationale for its changes, and the Board provided such a rationale in this case; (2) the Board did not err in considering the challenged text messages; and (3) the Board did not commit reversible error by misstating certain evidence. View "Hasan v. West Virginia Board of Medicine" on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice action the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment to Defendant and finding that Defendant did not have a duty to provide follow-up medical care after Plaintiff left Raleigh General Hospital against medical advice, holding that the circuit court properly granted summary judgment to Defendant. The day after Defendant performed surgery on Plaintiff, Plaintiff left the hospital against medical advice (AMA). Plaintiff was later diagnosed with an infection resulting from the fact that the temporary stents she received in her surgery had never been removed. Plaintiff sued. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Defendant, determining that the patient-doctor relationship between the parties ended the day that Plaintiff left the hospital against medical advice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff failed to establish that Defendant had a duty to provide medical care to her after she terminated their physician-patient relationship; and (2) in discontinuing the physician-patient relationship she had with Defendant when she left the hospital AMA, Plaintiff removed herself from the class of individuals sought to be protected by the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act, W. Va. Code 55-7B-1 to -12. View "Kruse v. Farid" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court dismissing Petitioners’ civil action as a sanction for alleged discovery violations, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion by imposing the sanction of dismissal. Petitioners bought this civil action against Respondent alleging unfair and deceptive acts, breach of express and implied warranties, breach of contract, and other causes of action. Respondent eventually filed a second motion to dismiss the civil action as a sanction for alleged discovery violations. The circuit court identified ten instances of alleged wrongful conduct by Petitioners and granted Respondent’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, even assuming that there was a discovery violation, the circuit court’s imposition of the extreme sanction of dismissal was an abuse of discretion. View "Smith v. Gebhardt" on Justia Law

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Petitioners, former shareholders of Kay Company and Kay Co., LLC, appealed orders entered by the circuit court in which summary judgment was granted to Respondent, Petitioners’ former legal counsel, in connection with claims Petitioners filed against Respondent. Petitioners challenged the circuit court’s (1) ruling that a settlement reached by all but one of Petitioners with the IRS prevented them from establishing causation and damages on any of their claims, (2) finding that there were no factual issues in need of resolution, and (3) ruling that the lack of settlement with the IRS precluded Jennie Graham, executrix of the estate of James Graham, prevented her from asserting claims against Respondent. The Supreme Court held that the circuit court (1) erred in reasoning that the settlement with the IRS prohibited Petitioners from going forward on all of their claims; (2) erred in ruling that the lack of a settlement with the IRS precluded Graham from asserting any claims against Respondent; and (3) did not err in its rulings with regard to detrimental reliance and joint venture. The Supreme Court remanded this matter to the circuit court to permit Petitioners to proceed on their claims of legal malpractice, negligent misrepresentation, and fraud. View "Kay v. McGuireWoods, LLP" on Justia Law

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Rubin Resources, Inc. filed a legal malpractice action against Garold Morris, alleging that Morris was negligent in performing a title examination and preparing a title opinion for Rubin regarding an oil and gas leasehold, resulting in $278,455 in damages. Morris did not dispute that he was negligent in performing the title examination and title opinion. The circuit court, however, granted summary judgment in favor of Morris, concluding that Morris’s negligence was not the proximate cause of Rubin’s damages. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the undisputed facts demonstrated that the damage Rubin asserted was the direct and proximate result of Morris’s professional negligence. View "Rubin Resources v. Morris" on Justia Law

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In 2001, the decedent presented to the Wetzel County Hospital Emergency Room in New Martinsville and came under the care of Dr. Murthy, a surgeon; she slipped into shock and died the next day. Her estate filed a medical negligence action, alleging that Murthy failed to perform exploratory surgery to identify, diagnose and correct the decedent’s “intraabdominal condition.” A jury awarded $4,000,000 in compensatory damages. After the trial, the circuit court allowed amendment of the complaint to add Murthy’s insurance carrier, Woodbrook, alleging that Woodbrook made all relevant decisions for Murthy’s defense and acted vexatiously and in bad faith. Following a remand, Murthy paid a reduced judgment, plus interest, in the total amount of $1,162,741.60 and filed motions in limine to preclude certain matters from consideration on the issue of attorney fees and costs, including an unrelated case that resulted in a $5,764,214.75 verdict against Dr. Murthy in March 2007. The court dismissed Woodbrook as a party-defendant and awarded the estate attorney fees and costs. The precise calculation was to be later determined. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia reversed, concluding that the lower court’s reliance on certain conduct by Murthy did not justify the award. View "Murthy v. Karpacs-Brown" on Justia Law