Supreme Court says appeals against Shepherdstown lack merit

By Kyla Asbury | Apr 8, 2019

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that two appeals in a case against the city of Shepherdstown lacked merit.

The appeals by Jeremiah Goodwin were consolidated. They involved a motion to dismiss from Sept. 8, 2017, and a motion for judgment on the pleadings on Feb. 28, 2018.

"Upon review, this Court finds Goodwin’s appeals to be without merit," the March 15 majority opinion states. "Therefore, the orders entered by the Circuit Court on September 8, 2017, and February 28, 2018, are affirmed."

Justice Tim Armstead authored the majority opinion. Justice Margaret Workman dissented and filed her own opinion.

On April 12, 2017, Goodwin filed the lawsuit against Shepherdstown and Shepherd University alleging he was wrongfully arrested for an alleged assault that occurred on campus.

The victim, C.P., was sexually assaulted on Feb. 1, 2015, and called 911 and described the assailant as between 5'8" and 5'10" and wearing a black beanie and black winter jacket. The police issued a warning and received two calls in response to that warning, one being from a female student whom Goodwin had approached asking for a date, and a second regarding a different male individual.

Goodwin claims the police did not follow up on the second call, even though the individual more closely matched that which was given by C.P. and instead, investigated Goodwin, who is 6'3" and was wearing a black shirt with a hood, not a winter jacket or a beanie.

Goodwin was arrested on Feb. 3, 2015. He claims alibi witness information was suppressed and he was later charged with three felonies, including two counts of first-degree sexual abuse and one count of assault during the commission of a felony. in September 2016, the Jefferson Circuit Court dismissed all the charges without prejudice.

Shepherdstown filed a motion to dismiss the suit on June 23, 2017, and the university followed with its own motion in September 2017 for judgment on the pleadings. The circuit court granted those motions in September 2017 and February 2018.

The Supreme Court found that in dismissing Goodwin’s claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the circuit court concluded that Goodwin failed to sufficiently allege that the actions of Shepherdstown and the University caused him to suffer emotional harm. 

"This Court finds no reason to disturb the conclusion of the Circuit Court," the opinion states. "The complaint fails to set forth sufficient allegations under Travis v. Alcon Laboratories, Inc., to sustain a claim against Shepherdstown and the University for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Goodwin’s arguments to the contrary are notably unconvincing."

In her dissenting opinion, Workman wrote that she would reverse the orders and let the action proceed to discovery.

"In its haste to dismiss Mr. Goodwin’s allegations of serious police misconduct prematurely, the majority has created disturbing precedent. I therefore dissent," Workman wrote.

Goodwin alleged the respondents lied, falsified the victim’s report and withheld exculpatory evidence to secure his prosecution for a sexual assault charge of which he claims to be wholly innocent, according to the dissenting opinion.

"Not only was Mr. Goodwin allegedly wrongfully incarcerated for six months, Respondents forced him to spend over a year living under the stigma of this charge," Workman wrote. "While we do not know whether Mr. Goodwin can substantiate these accusations, we do know that such accusations must be carefully reviewed."

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Case numbers: 17-0907, 18-0291

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Jefferson Circuit Court Shepherd University West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

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