CHARLESTON  – The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals recently affirmed a motion for summary judgment in a case involving a mining truck driver’s deliberate intention cause of action complaint.  

In a memorandum decision, the state court of appeals affirmed the ruling of Wayne Circuit Court that dismissed Thomas Adkins' deliberate intention suit and granted the motion for summary judgment to the respondent Kiah Creek Transportation LLC.   

Adkins was employed by Kiah Creek Transportation and drove a mining coal truck in Wayne County. In May 2013, Adkins was involved in an accident in which he alleged the truck shut off while driving up a hill and began rolling back down the hill. Adkins claimed he tried to brake but the truck continued rolling down the hill and hit a rock wall. Akins stated he was knocked unconscious and received injuries to his head and back as well as one of his elbows and shoulders.    

Adkins filed a complaint in 2015 alleging a deliberate intention cause of action. In his complaint, Adkins claimed that the truck he was driving had a history of mechanical issues, including fuel shutting off and brake problems, which he alleged he reported to supervisors. The truck underwent maintenance and records showed that it was regularly serviced, including brake adjustment. Adkins also inspected the truck himself the day of the accident and checked the brakes which seemed to be in working order. The court noted that no other drivers reported any safety concerns with this truck and also that no evidence showed any safety issues following Adkins’ accident.  

The circuit court held a hearing in April 2016 after Kiah Creek Transportation filed a motion for summary judgment. The court held that Adkins failed to present prima facie proof of each of the five elements of a deliberate intention cause of action and granted the summary judgment.    

Adkins appealed the circuit court’s granting of summary judgment and denial of additional discovery time.    

Of the five elements required in a deliberate intentional cause of action, the lower court ruled that Adkins failed to prove the following three aspects: “(1) a specific unsafe working condition; (2) respondent’s actual knowledge of a specific unsafe working condition; and (3) petitioner’s intentional exposure to a specific unsafe working condition.”    

The court of appeals held that though repair records showed brake adjustments, it did not prove unsafe working conditions. The court of appeals agreed noted the circuit court’s finding that other employees drove the truck with no issues and Adkins also inspected the truck the day of the accident.     

In regards to Adkins’ appeal of the additional discovery, the court of appeals ruled that Adkins failed to provide an “affidavit in support of his assertion that additional time for discovery was necessary. In fact, petitioner did not move the circuit court for any extension of the discovery deadline.”    

As a result, the state Supreme Court of Appeals found no evidence that the circuit court erred in its decision and affirmed the motion for summary judgment.

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