CHARLESTON – A West Virginia appeals court recently dismissed a lower court’s order that denied a national coal operations company’s motion to stay class discovery in an employee wage dispute case.
On April 6, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia vacated the order by the Ohio Circuit Court, which denied GMS Mine Repair and Maintenance Inc.’s motion to stay class discovery in its case against former employee, Jeffrey S. Miklos.
The appeals court said the circuit court abused its discretion in its March 2016 ruling, refusing to stay class discovery pending a ruling on the legal issue of statutory construction. This legal issue bears on the probability of Miklos’ individual claim, according to court records.
GMS appealed this ruling, saying it was seeking the stay to achieve a “just, speedy, and inexpensive resolution” to the class action, according to court documents.
Though GMS asked the court to extend the collateral order doctrine to interlocutory discovery orders that implicate case management, this court chose to consider the matter as a petition for writ of prohibition.
Miklos argued that the circuit court correctly denied the petitioner's motion for a stay, noting any objections to class discovery had been waived by GMS’ “untimely assertion” of such challenges, according to court records.
The appeals court concluded that the circuit court’s ruling that GMS had no excuse for not responding to discovery in a timely manner was “exceptionally harsh.” This court noted that Miklos didn’t compel discovery until GMS requested a stay. Miklos compelled discovery about two months after the company filed its motion.
“This action is remanded for the entry of an order staying class discovery until such time as the circuit court rules upon the petitioner's motion for summary judgment and for additional proceedings consistent with this opinion,” according to the appeals court decision.
On June 9, 2015, Miklos filed a putative class action against GMS, claiming the company violated the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act. According to court documents, Miklos claimed GMS failed to pay him and similar situated employees their final wages within four business days of his termination as required under the act.