Supreme Court hears arguments in 11 cases
CHARLESTON – There were 11 cases scheduled to be heard before the state Supreme Court the week of Jan. 14-18. On Jan. 15, the Court started with an appeal by State Farm Insurance in a Jefferson County automobile accident case in which two young men lost their lives. “William Lee Piper was killed on October 28, 2007, in a motor vehicle accident which occurred in Jefferson County, West Virginia. Also killed was his friend and neighbor, Kyle Hoffman, Jr.," the petitioner's brief says. “Thereafter, the Estate of Kyle Hoffman, Jr. filed suit against the Estate of William Lee Piper. The Hoffman Estate also filed a declaratory judgment action against State Farm attempting to obtain insurance proceeds under an umbrella policy State Farm issued in Virginia to Paul Massanopoli, William Piper's grandfather." At issue is the primary residence of Piper as it relates to whether his grandfather’s State Farm insurance policy is responsible for payment to the Estate of Hoffman, Jr. In the declaratory proceeding filed by the Estate of Hoffman against State Farm, the circuit court found that Piper’s primary residence was with his grandfather. State Farm asserts that Piper lived with his parents in Harpers Ferry, and it argues the trial court erred by improperly interpreting the Dead Man’s Statute, which caused the court to exclude “proper testimony and documentary evidence from the jury’s consideration.” State Farm is asking the Supreme Court to vacate the verdict and grant it a new trial. On Jan. 15, the court was also scheduled to hear: - An appeal by American States Insurance Company of the Greenbrier County Circuit Court's ruling that an “employee exclusion” in a standard commercial liability policy had not been sufficiently “brought to the attention of the insured” and therefore was invalid in a case that involved the accidental death of a man at a Park Center Sporting Goods and Video in Rainelle in June of 1997; - A property owner’s appeal of the assessment of its “79 income-producing condominium apartments” in South Charleston by a method which it alleges caused its property taxes to double from one year to the next. Petitioners argue that the manner of assessment used by the Kanawha County Property Assessor was not appropriate given that the condominiums are leased units and therefore income-producing as opposed to owned by individuals; - A criminal appeal by a man who was convicted of two counts of Robbery in the First Degree and other charges and who argues that the jury should have been given instructions on “a lesser included charge of battery to the felony offense of robbery in the first degree”; and - An appeal of the Circuit Court of Tyler County’s order affirming a family court’s order decreasing a father’s child support obligation where the father had voluntarily quit a job with much higher pay and benefits than the job he took in his fiancé’s family’s company. Cases scheduled for arguments on Jan. 16 include: - A dispute between the Board of Education of Kanawha County versus the state’s Board of Education, Superintendent of Schools and the Kanawha County Public Library over the requirement that the local board of education fund the local public library out of regular tax levy receipts as required under the Kanawha Special Act; - Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance's appeal of a trial court’s orders granting both attorney fees, costs and civil penalties to a woman whom Vanderbilt had initiated a suit against for “unlawful detainer” due to delinquency on her trailer payments; - A criminal appeal in which the defendant argues that the obtainment by law enforcement authorities of his medical records, which were used in the investigation of the charges brought against him, was a violation of the defendant’s right against unreasonable search and seizure as guaranteed by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments; - The appeal of a woman, who describes herself as a “psychological parent” of a nine-year old girl, against the court that had granted the child’s parent’s petition for a writ of prohibition against the woman. The writ precluded the family court from hearing the woman’s petition seeking to intervene in a paternity/custody case involving the child; - Berkley County land developer Larry Faircloth’s appeal of a Public Service Commission’s ruling concerning the assessment and collection of Capacity Improvement Fees in the county; and - An appeal by a prison warden of the Gilmer County Circuit Court's order setting aside convictions for nine of the 10 counts of “sexual abuse by a guardian” of an inmate while upholding one count. The order from the circuit court was in response to a Post-conviction Habeas Corpus Petition filed by the inmate.