Articles Posted in West Virginia

There is a new case out in West Virginia that is worth talking about to underscore the differences between West Virginia law and Maryland law. I think the intuition of most victims – and some lawyers – would be that West Virginia law makes more sense and is likely “the way it is.” But the Maryland law is very different.

The plaintiffs were in a car accident. At-fault driver had a $25,000 policy. One plaintiff, the wife, had almost $30,000 in medical bills. Nationwide Insurance offered up the $25,000 policy on behalf of the at-fault driver to that plaintiff.

Thankfully, the plaintiff also had a $250,000 uninsured/underinsured motorist policy with State Farm. When negotiating the underinsurance claim, State Farm argued they should get a credit for the $5,000 that they paid the plaintiff in PIP. Besides the fact that State Farm likes being difficult, they had another basis: West Virginia law. Apparently, West Virginia has a “non-duplication” provision in an insurer’s underinsured motorist (UIM).

A West Virginia jury popped two Pennsylvania asbestos lawyers with a $429,240 verdict for conspiring with a West Virginia radiologist to manufacturer asbestos lawsuits against a railroad operator. This amount will likely be tripled because of the RICO violations.

This is a blog for personal injury lawyers and victims. I’m not in the habit of speaking well of the asbestos defendants because, you know, most would shoot their next-door neighbors in the back of the head if it meant making a few extra bucks… at least that is how they acted back in the day when they could have done something about this stuff.

But, apparently, the lawyers ran morally amok and got a doctor to essentially lie about 11 patients’ finding of asbestos. The claims never went anywhere but the company spent a lot of time defending these manufactured lawsuits. So bravo to the railroad company for fighting back.

The West Virginia Supreme Court last week dealt with a common problem in car accident cases: the defendant has no coverage. The Plaintiff, who suffered serious injuries, tried to bring a claim against Nationwide Insurance after it disclaimed coverage because the defendant’s insurance policy had been canceled. Defendant claimed he did not know the policy was canceled. (They somehow never seem to know.)
Plaintiff in this case was blameless. He was driving a van and struck a sport utility vehicle head-on. He suffered real injuries: a broken femur, concussion, low grade coma, broken nose, broken ribs, bruised shoulder, injured hips, and multiple bruises, cuts and scrapes. Plaintiff files suit and gets a default judgment of over $6 million. Of course, that and a quarter will buy you a turn at the arcade.

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A personal injury lawsuit has been filed against a bar in Charleston by a man who was shot in stomach in 2008. Plaintiff’s lawsuit claims that the bar was negligent in allowing entry to the guy with the gun. The gist of the argument appears to be the employees who saw the gun but did nothing about it.

I really hate these types of cases. The bar’s duty to make take affirmative action really should always depend on the context. Does he have a license to carry a gun? Was he acting in such a way as to lead a reasonable person to believe he was a danger to himself or others?

The Baltimore Injury Lawyer Blog has a post on a Maryland Daily Record article looking at how President-Elect Barack Obama might change the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals which includes Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

I’ve spent far more time thinking about how President Obama will change the country than his impact on lawyers or even my own clients. But President Obama will nominate judges that I will stand before and argue. While I think President Bush has nominated a lot of good judges, this fact makes me a little happier to be a lawyer today. I’m not saying every plaintiffs’ lawyer will have a better shot at success in front of judges nominated by Obama. I just think they are likely to be fair and reasonable judges.

Steve Cohen writes a column in the West Virginia Record on lawsuit abuse today in West Virginia. Like the editorial I discussed last week, it is just silly. No effort to obtain the real facts is made. The lawyer complaints that the problem is with West Virginia personal injury lawyers. Yet, none of the cases he cites are personal injury cases. Is the insanity of this lost on everyone at the West Virginia Record?
The latest case of which he complains is a Kanawha County jury verdict that awarded a Charleston surgeon $5 million in compensatory and $20 million in punitive damages, deciding that hospital executives smeared Hamrick’s reputation and wrongfully revoked his privileges in a dispute over the doctor’s malpractice insurance. Setting aside the fact that this is not a personal injury case in any way, shape, or form, how Mr. Cohen – who knows so little about the case he thinks it is a personal injury case – feels comfortable calling the very lawsuit absurd is a slap in the face to the Kanawha County jury that listened to the evidence and rendered a verdict.

The West Virginia Record has an editorial about how the three of the top verdicts in the country came from West Virginia and derided plaintiffs’ lawyers as “tort barons” destroying industry in West Virginia and through the country.

Okay, the problem is West Virginia personal injury lawyers (tort lawyers). Just for fun, let’s look at the fact and see about all these tort claims. The big verdict was a $404 million award in Roane County v. Columbia Natural Resources. In that case, 10,000 other royalty owners who questioned the price they were being paid for natural gas produced from their property. This is not a tort claim. This is a company stealing from people. Exactly how should such a claim be handled? Should the plaintiffs have allowed this to go on without question for the “good of industry?” How many folks on the Editorial Board of the West Virginia Record would have refused payment if they were in the class? It is just plain silly.

The second case cited, a $251 million verdict against Du Pont in Clarksburg was not a personal injury case but a lawsuit over Du Pont’s handling of the environmental cleanup created by a West Virginia zinc-smelting facility. This did not involve a single insured person. This involved many people who had been hurt by a very large company in a case where the jury found they did not give due consideration to the environment or the surrounding property owners. Approximately 7000 people suffered harm to their property, and we subjected to significant health risks. What would the Editorial Board of the West Virginia Record do if they sat on the jury in this case?

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