Blake v. Charleston Area Medical Center, No. 24132.

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtDAVIS, Justice
Citation201 W.Va. 469,498 S.E.2d 41
Decision Date25 November 1997
Docket NumberNo. 24132.
PartiesCharles K. BLAKE, Sr., and Adelia A. Blake, Plaintiffs Below, Appellants, v. CHARLESTON AREA MEDICAL CENTER, INC., a Corporation, Defendant Below, Appellee.

498 S.E.2d 41
201 W.Va.
469

Charles K. BLAKE, Sr., and Adelia A. Blake, Plaintiffs Below, Appellants,
v.
CHARLESTON AREA MEDICAL CENTER, INC., a Corporation, Defendant Below, Appellee

No. 24132.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

Submitted October 8, 1997.

Decided November 25, 1997.


498 S.E.2d 44
W. Dale Greene, Charleston, for Appellants

Kevin A. Nelson, Jonathon Nicol, Crystal S. Stump, Kay, Casto, Chaney, Love & Wise, Charleston, for Appellee.

498 S.E.2d 42

498 S.E.2d 43
DAVIS, Justice

The plaintiffs below and appellants herein, Charles K. Blake, Sr., and Adelia A. Blake, appeal from an order entered June 17, 1996, by the Circuit Court of Kanawha County. Ruling in favor of the defendant below and appellee herein, Charleston Area Medical Center, Inc., the circuit court dismissed the plaintiffs' claims of fraud and misrepresentation against the defendant, finding that an earlier lawsuit between the parties barred the plaintiffs' present suit on res judicata grounds. Upon a review of the parties' arguments, the record before us, and the relevant authorities, we disagree with the rationale of the circuit court and find that dismissal of the plaintiffs' claims was improper. Accordingly, we reverse the lower court's judgment and remand this case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On, or about, April 26, 1991, Adelia A. Blake underwent extensive heart bypass surgery at Charleston Area Medical Center [hereinafter CAMC]. At the time of her hospitalization, Mrs. Blake had medical insurance coverage through Mountain State Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Inc. [hereinafter Blue Cross]. Upon the completion of her medical treatment, Mrs. Blake had incurred hospital expenses of approximately $35,000. It appears from the record that while Blue Cross reimbursed CAMC for a substantial portion of these expenses, Mrs. Blake's account at CAMC nevertheless reflected an amount due and owing of $3,092.10. When Mrs. Blake and her husband, Charles K. Blake, Sr. [hereinafter collectively referred to as the Blakes], failed to satisfy this bill, CAMC, on August 29, 1992, filed an action against them in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County [hereinafter "Suit 1"].

Believing that they owed the sum sought by CAMC, the Blakes did not challenge CAMC's actions in filing "Suit 1" or otherwise appear to defend that action.1 In due course, CAMC, acknowledging the Blakes' failure to answer or otherwise appear, sought a default judgment. By order entered January 13, 1993, the Circuit Court of Kanawha County granted the requested relief and, in the default judgment order, adjudged that the Blakes owed to CAMC $3,585.99, the amount of the original shortage in payment plus pre-judgment interest, as determined by

498 S.E.2d 45
the court, from May 27, 1991, to December 30, 1992.2 The Blakes indicate that CAMC then executed the default judgment and attempted to complete its recovery by garnishing and otherwise attaching Mr. Blake's wages, beginning in, or around, February, 1993.

Subsequently, the Blakes began to question whether they, in fact, owed the monies claimed by CAMC. In September, 1993, Mrs. Blake learned from Blue Cross that there was an agreement between Blue Cross and CAMC whereby CAMC would accept, as payment in full, amounts paid by Blue Cross on behalf of its insureds. In November, 1993, the Blakes received a copy of this agreement from Blue Cross.3

Thereafter, on January 23, 1995, the Blakes filed a civil action against CAMC in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County [hereinafter "Suit 2"]. The complaint alleged that CAMC acted "falsely and fraudulently" in failing to disclose its agreement with Blue Cross and in attempting to recover, from the Blakes, the remainder of Mrs. Blake's hospital expenses. CAMC responded and asserted that the Blakes were precluded from bringing their lawsuit because "Suit 2" was barred, on res judicata grounds, by the prior resolution of "Suit 1". Accordingly, CAMC moved to dismiss, on the pleadings, "Suit 2". Following a hearing on this matter, the circuit court, by letter to the parties dated May 17, 1996, found:

[t]he defendant in the instant case argues that the plaintiffs' lawsuit is precluded by the doctrine of res judicata. After a careful review of the relevant case law, this Court finds that the Blakes were (without dispute) given notice of the earlier lawsuit, and failed to answer. As a result, default judgment was entered. This resulted in a judgment on the merits. Both lawsuits involve the same parties, and thus, there is identity of the parties. Lastly, the initial lawsuit was for an unpaid medical bill, and the instant lawsuit is for damages as a result of "overcharge" for the same unpaid medical bill. This Court finds there is identity of the cause of action since these issues of "overcharge" could have been adjudicated in the earlier lawsuit. The status of the earlier lawsuit was such that the "overcharge" issues "might have been disposed of on the merits."
Therefore, although harsh in its results under the circumstances of this case, the Court finds this suit is barred by the applicability of the doctrine of res judicata, and therefore, grants the motion to dismiss[.]

By order entered June 17, 1996, the circuit court formally rendered the above-described decision granting CAMC's motion to dismiss. In the circuit court's final "Order Granting Defendant's Motion to Dismiss," the court noted that CAMC had moved to dismiss "Suit 2" pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure4 and acknowledged its consideration of the doctrine of res judicata. It is from this final order of the circuit court that the Blakes appeal to this Court.

II.

DISCUSSION

On appeal to this Court, the Blakes assert that the circuit court improperly disposed of their lawsuit by way of a dismissal on the pleadings when, given the court's consideration of matters outside of the pleadings,

498 S.E.2d 46
disposition through summary judgment would have been more appropriate. The Blakes contend further that the circuit court improperly dismissed their claims of fraud and misrepresentation against CAMC on the basis of res judicata. First, we will discuss the proper standard of review. Then, we will address the merits of the parties' contentions.

A. Standard of Review

Generally, when determining the propriety of a circuit court's ruling, we employ a multifaceted standard of review. "`This Court reviews the circuit court's final order and ultimate disposition under an abuse of discretion standard. We review challenges to findings of fact under a clearly erroneous standard; conclusions of law are reviewed de novo.' Syl. pt. 4, Burgess v. Porterfield, 196 W.Va. 178, 469 S.E.2d 114 (1996)." Syl. pt. 1, State ex rel. Hechler v. Christian Action Network, 201 W.Va. 71, 491 S.E.2d 618 (1997). See also Clark v. Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A., 200 W.Va. 763, 766, 490 S.E.2d 852, 855 (1997) (same); Syl. pt. 2, Walker v. West Virginia Ethics Comm'n, 201 W.Va. 108, 492 S.E.2d 167 (1997) (same).

With respect to the instant appeal, the procedural posture of the case indicates that it has been appealed to this Court following a judgment on the pleadings. Both CAMC and the circuit court adopt this characterization of the case's prior disposition. Rule 12(c) of the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure allows, in part, "[a]fter the pleadings are closed but within such time as not to delay the trial, any party may move for judgment on the pleadings." Tailoring our general standard of review to the specific review of a judgment on the pleadings, we have held that "[a]ppellate review of a circuit court's order granting a motion for judgment on the pleadings is de novo." Syl. pt. 1, Copley v. Mingo County Bd. of Educ., 195 W.Va. 480, 466 S.E.2d 139 (1995). Explaining the reasoning for this standard, we stated that "[a] motion for judgment on the pleadings presents a challenge to the legal effect of given facts rather than on proof of the facts themselves." Syl. pt. 2, in part, Copley, id. For this reason,

[a] circuit court, viewing all the facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party, may grant a motion for judgment on the pleadings only if it appears beyond doubt that the nonmoving party can prove no set of facts in support of his or her claim or defense.

Syl. pt. 3, Copley, id.

Despite the facial appearance of the lower court's disposition of this case as a judgment on the pleadings, the Blakes contend that, because the circuit court referred to and relied upon matters outside of the pleadings in rendering its decision, the motion for judgment on the pleadings was, in fact, converted to one for summary judgment. In this manner, the Blakes point to the circuit court's acknowledgment in its letter of decision that it had "reviewed the Motion to Dismiss, the Response, the memoranda, as well as the submissions made after the hearing in this matter." Accordingly, the Blakes urge that we review this case as we would an appeal arising from a summary judgment disposition.

Rule 12(c) of the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure specifically provides for this particular scenario:

If, on a motion for judgment on the pleadings, matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56, and all parties shall be given reasonable opportunity to present all material made pertinent to such a motion by Rule 56.

Thus, a court's consideration of material extraneous to the pleadings could, in fact, result in the conversion of a motion for judgment on the pleadings into a motion for summary judgment. See, e.g., Kopelman & Assoc., L.C. v. Collins, 196 W.Va. 489, 495, 473 S.E.2d 910, 916 (1996) ("Due to the fact the circuit court considered matters outside the pleadings, we must review the record de novo under summary judgment standards."); Gunn...

To continue reading

Request your trial
109 practice notes
  • Rowe v. Grapevine Corp., No. 26353.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 15, 1999
    ...pursuant to the three-pronged standard that we articulated in syllabus point four15 of Blake v. Charleston Area Medical Center, Inc., 201 W.Va. 469, 498 S.E.2d 41 Before the prosecution of a lawsuit may be barred on the basis of res judicata, three elements must be satisfied. First, there m......
  • Estate of Jones v. City of Martinsburg (In re Estate of Jones), No. 18-0927
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • October 30, 2020
    ...such that it could have been resolved, had it been presented, in the prior action.Syl. pt. 4, Blake v. Charleston Area Med. Ctr., Inc., 201 W. Va. 469, 498 S.E.2d 41 (1997). Applying the res judicata elements to the instant action, we find that all three have been met. First, for purposes o......
  • Peters v. Rivers Edge Min., Inc., No. 34272.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 4, 2009
    ...144 W.Va. 583, 109 S.E.2d 153 (1959) (discussing doctrine of res judicata). 16. Syl. pt. 4, Blake v. Charleston Area Med. Ctr., Inc., 201 W.Va. 469, 498 S.E.2d 41 (1997) (describing elements of res 17. Courts in other jurisdictions who have considered whether issues resolved in arbitration ......
  • Peters v. Rivers Edge Mining, Inc., No. 34272 (W.Va. 3/27/2009), No. 34272
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • March 27, 2009
    ...144 W. Va. 583, 109 S.E.2d 153 (1959) (discussing doctrine of res judicata). 17. Syl. pt. 4, Blake v. Charleston Area Med. Ctr., Inc., 201 W. Va. 469, 498 S.E.2d 41 (1997) (describing elements of res 18. Courts in other jurisdictions who have considered whether issues resolved in arbitratio......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
107 cases
  • Rowe v. Grapevine Corp., No. 26353.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 15, 1999
    ...pursuant to the three-pronged standard that we articulated in syllabus point four15 of Blake v. Charleston Area Medical Center, Inc., 201 W.Va. 469, 498 S.E.2d 41 Before the prosecution of a lawsuit may be barred on the basis of res judicata, three elements must be satisfied. First, there m......
  • Estate of Jones v. City of Martinsburg (In re Estate of Jones), No. 18-0927
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • October 30, 2020
    ...such that it could have been resolved, had it been presented, in the prior action.Syl. pt. 4, Blake v. Charleston Area Med. Ctr., Inc., 201 W. Va. 469, 498 S.E.2d 41 (1997). Applying the res judicata elements to the instant action, we find that all three have been met. First, for purposes o......
  • Peters v. Rivers Edge Min., Inc., No. 34272.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 4, 2009
    ...144 W.Va. 583, 109 S.E.2d 153 (1959) (discussing doctrine of res judicata). 16. Syl. pt. 4, Blake v. Charleston Area Med. Ctr., Inc., 201 W.Va. 469, 498 S.E.2d 41 (1997) (describing elements of res 17. Courts in other jurisdictions who have considered whether issues resolved in arbitration ......
  • Peters v. Rivers Edge Mining, Inc., No. 34272 (W.Va. 3/27/2009), No. 34272
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • March 27, 2009
    ...144 W. Va. 583, 109 S.E.2d 153 (1959) (discussing doctrine of res judicata). 17. Syl. pt. 4, Blake v. Charleston Area Med. Ctr., Inc., 201 W. Va. 469, 498 S.E.2d 41 (1997) (describing elements of res 18. Courts in other jurisdictions who have considered whether issues resolved in arbitratio......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT