Justia Business Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals
Grant Thornton, LLP v. Kutak Rock, LLP
First National Keystone Bank retained an independent accounting firm to audit its records at a time that members of the bank's management were fraudulently concealing the bank's financial condition. The accounting firm issued a clean audit concerning the bank. It was later discovered that the bank had overstated its assets by over $500 million. Upon investigation, the FDIC concluded that the law firm that represented the bank had engaged in legal malpractice. The FDIC settled its claims against the law firm. The accounting firm was later found liable to the FDIC in federal district court for a negligent bank audit. The accounting firm subsequently sued the law firm, alleging fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and tortious interference with the accounting firm's contract to perform the audit. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the law firm. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the claims of the accounting firm against the law firm were, in reality, contribution claims rather than direct or independent claims and were, therefore, barred by the settlement agreement between the law firm and the FDIC.
Lehman v. United Bank, Inc.
This matter involved two actions consolidated by the circuit court for appeal purposes concerning the application of the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act (WPCA). Appellants, two employees whose positions were eliminated as a result of their employer's merger with United Bank, appealed circuit court orders granting summary judgment to Appellee, United Bank, and dismissing their claims for liquidated damages based on the provisions of the WPCA regarding late payment of compensation due at termination. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the lower court did not err in categorizing the termination of employment of either Appellant as a lay-off rather than discharge and in thus finding Appellants were fully compensated for all pay due within the prescribed statutory period.
Griffith v. Frontier West Virginia, Inc.
Craig Griffith, state tax commissioner, appealed from an order entered by a circuit court that reversed an earlier order of the Office of Tax Appeals and found that Frontier West Virginia was entitled to a refund of its telecommunications tax for the 2004 year in the amount of over nine million dollars. The Supreme Court reinstated the order of the Office of Tax Appeals and (1) affirmed the circuit court's ruling finding the subject statute, W. Va. Code 11.13B02(b)(5), was plain and unambiguous; (2) reversed the circuit court's ruling finding the governing rule, W. Va. C.S.R. 110-13B-2.6, invalid; and (3) reversed the circuit court's determination that the West Virginia Public Service Commission's (PSC) list of competitive services that were exempt from the telecommunications tax applied to define a taxpayer's gross income for the calendar year in which the PSC issued its list. Rather, the Court held that the PSC's list operated to define a taxpayer's gross income for the calendar year following the issuance of the list.
Cmty. Antenna Servs., Inc. v. Charter Commc’ns VI, Inc.
Appellant Charter Communications and appellee Community Antenna, a smaller company, were competing cable services providers. For over a decade the parties had been litigating the issue of whether Charter was offering discounted rates to some but not all of its customers in violation of the West Virginia Cable Television Systems Act (Act) that prohibits unduly discriminatory rates for over a decade. On the parties' third time before the Supreme Court, at issue was a counterclaim filed by Community Antenna in the underlying lawsuit alleging that Charter was engaged in rate discrimination calculated to harm Community Antenna's business. The trial court concluded that Charter's buy-back plans constituted unduly discriminatory rates in violation of state law and that Charter tortiously interfered with Community Antenna's business relationships with its customers. The jury awarded Community Antenna compensatory and punitive damages. Charter appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there is a private cause of action under the Act against cable operators that illegally offer unduly discriminatory cable rates, (2) there was sufficient evidence that Charter's conduct was the proximate cause of harm to Community Antenna, and (3) the jury's award of damages was supported by the evidence.