West Virginia Record

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Supreme Court affirms lower court’s decision to dismiss Grayson Assisted Living suit

By Kyla Asbury | Jan 24, 2018

General court 09

CHARLESTON – The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has affirmed the decision to dismiss a lawsuit against Grayson Assisted Living by a former employee.

Cameron Brown appealed Wayne Circuit Court’s Jan. 23, 2017, order denying a motion for reconsideration of the circuit court’s dismissal of his complaint.

On appeal, Brown argued that the circuit court incorrectly interpreted the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act in granting Grayson’s motion to dismiss and failed to consider his entitlement to attorney’s fees in denying his “motion for reconsideration” of that dismissal.

In July 2016, Brown, a former employee of Grayson, filed suit against respondent asserting a claim under the WVWPCA.

Grayson filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim or for Judgment on the Pleadings, arguing that petitioner could not recover a judgment under any set of facts because he pled in his complaint that he had recovered all unpaid wages and liquidated damages due under the act.

Respondent further argued that attorney’s fees could not be awarded, and argued that because petitioner was fully paid, he could not be awarded a judgment, and attorney’s fees were therefore unavailable.

A hearing was held on respondent’s motion in September 2016. The circuit court found that, because Brown was paid the disputed amount plus liquidated damages prior to the filing of the lawsuit, “there was no justiciable issue left unresolved” when petitioner filed his complaint. By “Opinion Order” entered on Oct. 3, 2016, the circuit court granted respondent’s motion and dismissed petitioner’s complaint.

Over one month after the entry of the “Opinion Order,” petitioner filed a “Motion for Reconsideration” and sought reconsideration of the dismissal on the ground that the Act’s “fee shifting” provision would be “rendered meaningless by an employer’s proffer of wages [at any stage of the proceeding before a jury verdict is announced and an award is made].”

Grayson urged denial of the petitioner’s motion because petitioner failed to designate a rule pursuant to which he was moving the court and because he merely reargued the facts and theories upon which the circuit court already ruled.

Brown, therefore, filed an “Amended Response” wherein he set forth that West Virginia Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6) supplied the basis for his motion. He argued that a justiciable controversy remained because attorney’s fees were recoverable under the Act but were not paid.

The circuit court found that petitioner failed to satisfy any reason enumerated within Rule 60(b) of the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure to justify relief from the court’s order granting respondent’s motion to dismiss.

The circuit court further found that petitioner failed to produce new evidence or arguments that were not already considered during the briefing and argument on respondent’s motion to dismiss. These rulings were memorialized in the circuit court’s “Order Denying [Petitioner’s] Motion for Reconsideration” entered on Jan. 23, 2017. It is from this order that petitioner appeals.

“We have previously held that ‘[i]n reviewing an order denying a motion under Rule 60(b), W.Va. R.C.P., the function of the appellate court is limited to deciding whether the trial court abused its discretion in ruling that sufficient grounds for disturbing the finality of the judgment were not shown in a timely manner,’” the decision states.

On appeal, Brown advances two arguments. His first argument is that the circuit court erred in granting respondent’s motion to dismiss because it incorrectly interpreted the Act and failed to adopt the facts as pled in the complaint.

“Petitioner, however, failed to timely appeal the circuit court’s dismissal of his complaint,” the decision states. “Accordingly, we decline to address arguments relative to the dismissal of petitioner’s complaint.”

Indeed, the “Scheduling Order” entered in this matter makes clear that “[t]he only assignments of error considered on appeal will be those arising from the January 23, 2017, order.” Therefore, the only assignments of error that will be considered on appeal are those arising from the denial of petitioner’s Rule 60(b) motion.

“Petitioner’s second assignment of error concerns the denial of his Rule 60(b) motion,” the decision states. “Petitioner contends that his motion should have been granted due to the circuit court’s failure to consider petitioner’s entitlement to attorney’s fees.”

The circuit court’s Jan. 23, 2017, order denying petitioner’s Rule 60(b) motion was affirmed.

W.Va. Supreme Court of Appeals case number: 17-0176

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West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals