CHARLESTON – Two appeals filed by Cunningham Energy in two separate employment matters have been dismissed.
By orders entered on Sept. 20 and Sept. 22 the Griffith Law Center obtained the dismissal of two appeals filed by Cunningham Energy, doing business as Cunningham Oilfield Services, in two employment matters originally filed by the law firm.
Plaintiffs Derrick Shaffer and Joshua Huffman filed lawsuits against Cunningham for wrongful termination.
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, in two unanimous decisions, denied Cunningham Energy’s requests for extensions of time to file their appeal while simultaneously granting motions to dismiss filed in each case by Travis A. Griffith.
Shaffer was terminated on April 8, 2014, subsequent to his damage of a sign which hindered his ability to utilize the safety devices in his work area roughly 30 feet off the ground.
Thereafter, he was informed that his hourly pay structure would be switched to salary pay, making him ineligible for overtime pay despite working 12-hours per day, seven days per week in violation of West Virginia Code.
After a five-day trial, a jury of his peers deliberated for six and one-half hours and returned a verdict in his favor for $142,704.46 for back pay and $29,000 for embarrassment and humiliation.
Huffman was terminated on April 8, 2014, subsequent to his assistance and acquiesces of damage of a sign which hindered Shaffer’s ability to utilize the safety devices in his work area.
Thereafter, Huffman was also informed that his hourly pay structure would be switched to salary pay, making him ineligible for overtime pay despite also working 12 hours per day, seven days per week in violation of West Virginia Code.
A jury returned a verdict in his favor for $105, 175.61 for back pay and $22,000 for embarrassment and humiliation.
Griffith brought the cases on behalf of the plaintiffs and served as lead trial counsel before the Kanawha Circuit Judge James Stucky. The matters were consolidated for trial purposes and the jury verdicts for each plaintiff were returned on Feb. 7.
Subsequent to the verdicts, Cunningham Energy noticed its intent to appeal the verdicts with the West Virginia Supreme Court on March 28.
Cunningham was to file its appellate briefs in each case and the appendix record for both cases on July 10. However, on July 10, counsel for Cunningham filed a motion for extension of time to file these documents claiming that the company had inadvertently failed to request a portion of the appellate record.
In response, the Griffith Law Center argued that Cunningham had originally requested the entire record; but, later amended its request to exclude portions that the record requested by Shaffer and Huffman.
Additionally, Griffith filed a motion to dismiss the appeal for failure to follow the Supreme Court’s scheduling order.
On Aug. 15, Cunningham additionally filed a motion to remand both cases back to the circuit court based on the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Martinez v. Asplundh Tree Expert, which made West Virginia Code §55-7E-3 and limited the damages available to plaintiffs in employment matters.
On Aug. 25, the Griffith Law Center responded to that motion explaining that the damages effected by Martinez were not awarded in the Shaffer and Huffman cases and, regardless, Cunningham had failed to argue for any mitigation of the jury award during trial.
The Supreme Court deemed Cunningham’s motion to remand as moot given the dismissal of the appeals.
As a result of its appeal, Cunningham was required to pay into court an appellate bond in the amount of $360,000, which represented the amount of the two verdicts coupled with pre-judgment interest and court costs.
Those funds were to be held by Kanawha Circuit Court pending the outcome of the appeals.
With the dismissal of the appeals, those funds will now be released by the circuit clerk to the Griffith Law Center for disbursement to Shaffer and Huffman.