C.W. Development, Inc. v. Structures, Inc. of West Virginia, No. 19764

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM
Citation408 S.E.2d 41,185 W.Va. 462
PartiesC.W. DEVELOPMENT, INC., Plaintiff Below, Appellee, v. STRUCTURES, INC. OF WEST VIRGINIA, Defendant Below, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 19764
Decision Date11 July 1991

Page 41

408 S.E.2d 41
185 W.Va. 462
C.W. DEVELOPMENT, INC., Plaintiff Below, Appellee,
v.
STRUCTURES, INC. OF WEST VIRGINIA, Defendant Below, Appellant.
No. 19764.
Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.
Submitted May 15, 1991.
Decided July 11, 1991.

Page 42

[185 W.Va. 463] Syllabus by the Court

1. "To establish prima facie proof of tortious interference, a plaintiff must show:

(1) existence of a contractual or business relationship or expectancy;

(2) an intentional act of interference by a party outside that relationship or expectancy;

(3) proof that the interference caused the harm sustained; and

(4) damages.

If a plaintiff makes a prima facie case, a defendant may prove justification or privilege, affirmative defenses. Defendants are not liable for interference that is negligent rather than intentional, or if they show defenses of legitimate competition between plaintiff and themselves, their financial interest in the induced party's business, their responsibility for another's welfare, their intention to influence another's business policies in which they have an interest, their giving of honest, truthful requested advice, or other factors that show the interference was proper." Syllabus Point 2, Torbett v. Wheeling Dollar Sav. & Trust Co., 173 W.Va. 210, 314 S.E.2d 166 (1983).

2. " 'Punitive or exemplary damages are such as, in a proper case, a jury may allow against the defendant by way of punishment for wilfulness, wantonness, malice, or other like aggravation of his wrong to the plaintiff, over and above full compensation for all injuries directly or indirectly resulting from such wrong.' Syllabus Point 1, O'Brien v. Snodgrass, 123 W.Va. 483, 16 S.E.2d 621 (1941)." Syllabus Point 4, Harless v. First National Bank in Fairmont, 169 W.Va. 673, 289 S.E.2d 692 (1982).

James W. St. Clair, St. Clair & Levine, Huntington, for appellee.

Edward M. Kowal, Jr., Frank H. Fitch, III, Campbell, Woods, Bagley, Emerson, McNeer & Herndon, Huntington, for appellant.

PER CURIAM:

Structures, Inc. of West Virginia and C.W. Development, Inc. entered into a contract whereby C.W. was to perform certain concrete and framing work on the Pine Woods Apartment project at Short Gap, Mineral County, West Virginia. While C.W. was performing the contract and without notice to C.W., Structures hired C.W.'s project superintendent, Harold Witt, to install utility lines. Thereafter, C.W. stopped work, fired Mr. Witt and sued Structures for both compensatory and punitive damages alleging an intentional interference with the employment relationship between C.W. and Mr. Witt. After the jury awarded C.W. $24,154.30 in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages, Structures appealed to this Court alleging that C.W. failed to show an intentional interference and that punitive damages should not have been awarded. Because the evidence in the record justifies the jury's determination that Structures intentionally interfered with the employment relationship between C.W. and its project superintendent, we affirm the decision of the Circuit Court of Cabell County.

On October 21, 1987, Structures and C.W. entered a contract whereby C.W. agreed to perform certain concrete work at the Pine Woods Apartment project in return for the payment of $66,484. The contract was signed for C.W. by Mr. Witt and C.W. began work in November 1987. In December 1987, Structures and C.W. agreed that C.W. would install certain framing for an additional payment of $10,489..

Page 43

[185 W.Va. 464] The framing work was documented by change order number one, dated December 29, 1987, signed for C.W. by Carole Dawson, President of C.W. The record also contains a second change order, dated February 1, 1988, indicating that C.W. would provide a backhoe for moving brick and digging rock for $860 and would perform additional concrete work for $515, for a total additional payment of $1,375. The second change order, although signed by Structures, was never signed by C.W.

Before C.W. could complete all the concrete sidewalks, certain underground utility lines had to be completed. After Structures rejected all bids to install the utility lines (C.W. bid about $20,000), Structures purchased some material and attempted to contract for labor only. In December 1987, Structures asked Mr. Witt if he and the C.W. crew would install the utility lines by working after hours. Although Mr. Witt was a full-time salaried employee of C.W., he agreed to use C.W.'s crew to install the utility lines. Structures paid Mr. Witt $1,300 on December 11, 1987 and $3,000 on January 22, 1988. In order to install the utility lines, Mr. Witt used a backhoe that had been rented by C.W. and stone that had been paid for by C.W. The stone was valued at $855 and the second change order indicates that the rental cost of the backhoe to install the utility lines was $860.

Although the parties dispute how C.W. learned of Mr. Witt's installation of the utility lines, both agree that Structures never informed C.W. in advance of Mr. Witt's additional work. 1 In January 1988 after learning of Mr. Witt's additional work, C.W. fired Mr. Witt, and stopped work on the project. At the time C.W. stopped work, C.W. estimated that the original contract for concrete was 95% completed, and that the first change order for framing was 90% completed. Structures paid C.W. $54,975.60 on the contract. After C.W. left the project, Structures hired Mr. Witt to complete the contract and paid him about $11,500.

Mr. Witt and the C.W. crew were supposed to install the utility lines after regular hours. Mr. Witt testified that the C.W. crew worked on the utility lines at least one weekend. However, C.W. maintained that given the amount of work necessary to install the utility lines, there was not enough daylight in December and January to complete the work outside the normal working hours.

C.W. sued Structures for compensatory damages based on the unpaid portion of the work C.W. completed and punitive damages based on an alleged tortious interference with an employment relationship. 2 The jury awarded C.W. $24,154.30 in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages. After the circuit court denied Structures' motion for a new trial or a remittitur, Structures appealed to this Court alleging the following assignments of error: (1) C.W. failed to prove that Structures intentionally interfered with an employment relationship without justification or excuse; (2) punitive damages were not justified; (3) the jury was given inconsistent instructions on the standard of proof; and (4) the circuit court failed to declare a mistrial because of improper and inflammatory remarks made during his closing argument of C.W.'s counsel.

I

West Virginia's two leading cases on intentional interference with an employment relationship are Torbett v. Wheeling Dollar Sav. & Trust Co., 173 W.Va. 210, 314 S.E.2d 166 (1983) and Thacker Coal & Coke Co. v. Burke, 59 W.Va. 253, 53 S.E. 161 (1906). See Bryan v. Massachusetts Mut. Life Ins. Co., 178 W.Va. 773, 364

Page 44

[185 W.Va. 465] S.E.2d 786 (1987) (holding no tortious interference existed because defendants had both a financial and business interest); W. Prosser...

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22 practice notes
  • Davis v. Celotex Corp., No. 20651
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 21 Julio 1992
    ...74 S.E. 943 (1912)." See also Jarvis v. Modern Woodmen of Am., 185 W.Va. 305, 406 S.E.2d 736 (1991); C.W. Dev., Inc. v. Structures, Inc., 185 W.Va. 462, 408 S.E.2d 41 In Harless v. First National Bank in Fairmont, 169 W.Va. 673, 691, 289 S.E.2d 692, 702 (1982), we outlined several reasons f......
  • Bowling v. Ansted Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge, Inc., CHRYSLER-PLYMOUTH-DODG
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 11 Diciembre 1992
    ...S.E.2d 66 (1981)." These elements must be proved by clear and convincing evidence. See C.W. Dev., Inc. v. Structures, Inc., of W. Va., 185 W.Va. 462, 408 S.E.2d 41 (1991); Cardinal State Bank Nat'l Ass'n v. Crook, 184 W.Va. 152, 399 S.E.2d 863 (1990); Muzelak v. King Chevrolet, Inc., supra;......
  • In re Carozza, Bankruptcy No. 891-83188-20. Adv. No. 891-8450-20.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Second Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Eastern District of New York
    • 10 Mayo 1994
    ...clear and convincing evidence. Bowling, 188 W.Va. at 472, 167 BR 336 425 S.E.2d 144 (citing, e.g., C.W. Dev., Inc. v. Structures, Inc., 185 W.Va. 462, 408, 408 S.E.2d 41 (1991); Cardinal State Bank, Nat'l Ass'n v. Crook, 184 W.Va. 152, 399 S.E.2d 863 (1990); Romano v. New England Mut. Life ......
  • Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., Inc., No. 33350.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 3 Abril 2008
    ...under section 767 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts and our case of C.W. Development Inc. v. Structures, Inc. of West Virginia, 185 W.Va. 462, 465, 408 S.E.2d 41, 44 (1991), finding that the evidence was clearly sufficient for the jury to conclude [i] Defendants developed a plan to inter......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
22 cases
  • Davis v. Celotex Corp., No. 20651
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 21 Julio 1992
    ...74 S.E. 943 (1912)." See also Jarvis v. Modern Woodmen of Am., 185 W.Va. 305, 406 S.E.2d 736 (1991); C.W. Dev., Inc. v. Structures, Inc., 185 W.Va. 462, 408 S.E.2d 41 In Harless v. First National Bank in Fairmont, 169 W.Va. 673, 691, 289 S.E.2d 692, 702 (1982), we outlined several reasons f......
  • Bowling v. Ansted Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge, Inc., CHRYSLER-PLYMOUTH-DODG
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 11 Diciembre 1992
    ...S.E.2d 66 (1981)." These elements must be proved by clear and convincing evidence. See C.W. Dev., Inc. v. Structures, Inc., of W. Va., 185 W.Va. 462, 408 S.E.2d 41 (1991); Cardinal State Bank Nat'l Ass'n v. Crook, 184 W.Va. 152, 399 S.E.2d 863 (1990); Muzelak v. King Chevrolet, Inc., supra;......
  • In re Carozza, Bankruptcy No. 891-83188-20. Adv. No. 891-8450-20.
    • United States
    • United States Bankruptcy Courts. Second Circuit. U.S. Bankruptcy Court — Eastern District of New York
    • 10 Mayo 1994
    ...clear and convincing evidence. Bowling, 188 W.Va. at 472, 167 BR 336 425 S.E.2d 144 (citing, e.g., C.W. Dev., Inc. v. Structures, Inc., 185 W.Va. 462, 408, 408 S.E.2d 41 (1991); Cardinal State Bank, Nat'l Ass'n v. Crook, 184 W.Va. 152, 399 S.E.2d 863 (1990); Romano v. New England Mut. Life ......
  • Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., Inc., No. 33350.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 3 Abril 2008
    ...under section 767 of the Restatement (Second) of Torts and our case of C.W. Development Inc. v. Structures, Inc. of West Virginia, 185 W.Va. 462, 465, 408 S.E.2d 41, 44 (1991), finding that the evidence was clearly sufficient for the jury to conclude [i] Defendants developed a plan to inter......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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