CHARLESTON – The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has ruled that a woman can get a new trial in a lawsuit under a personal injury claim, but not under a wrongful death claim.
Wanda Williams appealed the May 11, 2015, Nicholas Circuit Court order denying a motion for a new trial following a plaintiff’s verdict in a case involving allegations of negligent medical care and wrongful death instituted by CMO Management, according to the May 19 opinion.
As grounds for her appeal, Williams claimed the trial court erred by applying a two-year limitations period in manner that prevented her from introducing pertinent evidence of Robert Thompson’s injuries, which he allegedly sustained while residing in Nicholas County Nursing & Rehabilitation.
She alleged the trial court also failed to apply the discovery rule and the tolling provisions of the general disability savings statute and in making several evidentiary rulings.
“Upon our careful review…we conclude that the trial court committed error in its application of the statute of limitations for evidentiary purposes to the petitioner’s personal injury claim,” the opinion states. “Based on the petitioner’s concession during oral argument that a remand limited to the person injury claim is proper given the assignments of error, we find it unnecessary to review the denial of a new trial as to the wrongful death claim.”
The court also affirmed the decision not to grant a new trial as to the wrongful death claim; reverse the decision not to grant new trial as to the personal injury claim; and remand the matter for a new trial solely on the personal injury claim.
Justice Allen Loughry authored the majority opinion. Justice Robin Jean Davis did not participate in the decision and Judge Jack Alsop sat on special assignment.
Thompson suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and resided in Nicholas County Nursing & Rehabilitation from June 14, 2001, until June 27, 2011. Following his death on July 2, 2011, Williams filed suit against CMO, on June 19, 2013, alleging Thompson’s injuries and death resulted from the abuse and neglect he suffered during his residency.
While a jury returned a verdict in favor of Williams, she faulted the trial court for its refusal to apply the tolling provision found in the savings statute. Williams challenged the trial court’s decision to limit introduction of specific demonstrative evidence and to admit other irrelevant testimonial evidence and she appealed to the Supreme Court after the trial court denied her motion for a new trial.
The trial court erred in limiting the petitioner to introducing evidence for the two-year-period directly preceding the filing of Williams’ suit, according to the opinion.
“Accordingly, this matter is reversed and remanded solely on the issue of the personal injury claim and the trial court is directed to permit the introduction of admissible evidence for the two-year period that preceded Mr. Thompson’s death,” the opinion states.
Williams is represented by James B. McHugh, Michael J. Fuller Jr., D. Bryant Chaffin, Amy J. Quezon and A. Lance Reins of McHugh Fuller Law Group PLLC.
CMO is represented by Jeffrey M. Wakefield, Mark A. Robinson and Ryan A. Brown of Flaherty Sensabaugh Bonasso PLLC.
W.Va. Supreme Court of Appeals case number: 15-0533