Copley v. Mingo County Bd. of Educ., No. 22877

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtWORKMAN
Citation195 W.Va. 480,466 S.E.2d 139
Parties, 106 Ed. Law Rep. 915 John Mark COPLEY, Plaintiff Below, Appellant, v. MINGO COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION; Edward Keith, President; Ted Warden, June Glover, Lossie Mahone, Tom Brewer, Members; Everett Conn, Superintendent of Schools, Defendants Below, Appellees.
Decision Date08 December 1995
Docket NumberNo. 22877

Page 139

466 S.E.2d 139
195 W.Va. 480, 106 Ed. Law Rep. 915
John Mark COPLEY, Plaintiff Below, Appellant,
v.
MINGO COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION; Edward Keith, President;
Ted Warden, June Glover, Lossie Mahone, Tom
Brewer, Members; Everett Conn,
Superintendent of Schools,
Defendants Below, Appellees.
No. 22877.
Supreme Court of Appeals of
West Virginia.
Submitted Sept. 27, 1995.
Decided Dec. 8, 1995.

Page 141

[195 W.Va. 482] Syllabus by the Court

1. Appellate review of a circuit court's order granting a motion for judgment on the pleadings is de novo.

2. 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. In this respect it is essentially a delayed motion to dismiss. The West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure approach the motion essentially as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim in that the motion will not be granted except when it is apparent that the deficiency could not be cured by an amendment.

3. 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.

4. A board of education that in good faith hires an employee is not subject to civil action for damages for breach of contract by that employee when it is thereafter determined as a result of the grievance process established by West Virginia Code §§ 18-29-1 to -11 (1994 & Supp.1995) that another individual should have been placed in that position.

Jane Moran, Williamson, for Appellant.

Joanna I. Tabit, Jan L. Fox, Steptoe & Johnson, Charleston, for Appellees.

WORKMAN, Justice:

John Mark Copley appeals from a January 20, 1995, order of the Circuit Court of Mingo County granting the Appellee Mingo County Board of Education's (the "Board") motion for judgment on the pleadings. After examining the issues raised, we affirm the lower court's decision concerning Appellant's contractual claim. We find it necessary, however, to remand this case to consider the quantum meruit claim.

Appellant, a teacher and assistant football coach at Williamson High School, was informed by Superintendent of Mingo County Schools, Everett Conn, ("Superintendent Conn") on May 30, 1992, that he had been hired as the Tug Valley High School ("Tug Valley") head basketball coach effective July 1, 1992. 1 In reliance on this announcement, Appellant quit his coaching position at Williamson, thereby forfeiting the $2000 annual stipend for that position. He resigned his position of teaching a class of handicapped students in favor of teaching a single student because of the increased time demands associated with the new coaching position. During the summer of 1992, Appellant conducted various fundraising events upon his own initiative and at his own expense which generated $3500. These funds were turned over to the Tug Valley principal to be used for the purchase of new basketball uniforms. Additionally, Appellant alleges that he conducted two weeks of practice for the Tug Valley basketball team before being notified that he was being replaced as the basketball coach due to a successful grievance initiated by Frank Smith, the former Tug Valley assistant basketball coach.

On October 30, 1992, an opinion was issued by an administrative law judge ("ALJ") in the Smith grievance proceeding which contained a finding that Mr. Smith was more qualified for the basketball coaching position than Appellant and directed that Mr. Smith be instated to the position with backpay. Superintendent Conn admits that Appellant was not informed of the grievance initiated by Mr. Smith until after the ALJ opinion was

Page 142

[195 W.Va. 483] issued. 2 The record reflects that Appellant was advised by Superintendent Conn, Board member June Glover, and Grievant Smith regarding the findings of the ALJ. 3

The Board voted not to appeal the ALJ decision. Appellant did appeal 4 the decision, but by order dated May 3, 1994, the Circuit Court of Mingo County upheld the ALJ decision and dismissed the appeal with prejudice. On February 10, 1994, Appellant filed a complaint against the Board, alleging breach of an oral contract of employment. Through this lawsuit Appellant sought damages in the amount of $8500 5 on grounds of detrimental reliance and unjust enrichment. In answer to the complaint filed against it, the Board averred that no enforceable contract existed between it and Appellant. The Board based its position on the statutory provision concerning extracurricular assignments which requires that "[t]he terms and conditions of the agreement between the employee and the board of education shall be in writing and signed by both parties." W.Va.Code § 18A-4-16(3) (Supp.1995).

In reliance on the written contract provision of West Virginia Code § 18A-4-16(3), the Board filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings on July 28, 1994. Before this motion was argued, the depositions of Superintendent Conn and Board member June Glover were taken. 6 On September 6, 1994, the motion for judgment on the pleadings was argued. The court granted the Board's motion, but also granted Appellant's motion to amend his complaint. 7

Upon the filing of the amended complaint, 8 the Board filed a second motion for judgment on the pleadings and a hearing was held on this motion on November 28, 1994. The court refused Appellant's request to consider "any evidence" produced during discovery, and granted the motion for judgment by order dated January 20, 1995.

Appellant argues that he was wrongly denied the opportunity to present evidence at the hearing on the Board's second motion for judgment on the pleadings. Additionally, he contends that the court did consider evidence during the first motion for judgment which

Page 143

[195 W.Va. 484] transformed such proceeding into a summary judgment motion.

* * *

Motions for judgment on the pleadings are governed by Rule 12(c) of the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 12(c) provides that

[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. 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.

W.Va.R.Civ.P. 12(c). We recognized in Calvert Fire Insurance Co. v. Bauer, 175 W.Va. 286, 332 S.E.2d 586 (1985), that "[c]ourts generally adhere to a rather restrictive standard in ruling on motions for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c)." 175 W.Va. at 287, 332 S.E.2d at 588.

Our review of a circuit court's order granting a motion for judgment on the pleadings is de novo. 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. In this respect it is essentially a delayed demurrer or a motion to dismiss. Consistent with modern procedure, the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure approach the motion essentially as a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim in that the motion will not be granted except when it is apparent that the deficiency could not be cured by an amendment. See Lanasa Fruit Steamship & Importing Co. v. Universal Ins. Co., 302 U.S. 556, 559, 58 S.Ct. 371, 372, 82 L.Ed. 422, 424 (1938); see also Korn and Paley, Survey of Summary Judgment, Judgment on the Pleadings and Related Pre-trial Procedures, 42 Cornell L.Q. 483 (1957). 9 We recently stated the standard for determining a motion to dismiss in State ex rel. McGraw v. Scott Runyan Pontiac-Buick, Inc., 194 W.Va. 770, 461 S.E.2d 516 (1995):

The circuit court, viewing all the facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party, may grant the motion only if 'it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his[, her, or its] claim which would entitle him[, her, or it] to relief.'

Id. at 776, 461 S.E.2d at 522 (citations omitted). We extend that ruling to motions for judgment on the pleadings by holding that 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. To the extent that this is inconsistent with our ruling in Calvert Fire Insurance Co., we hereby overrule that decision.

Applying these principles to the instant case, we initially examine whether Appellant could prove any facts justifying the relief he sought in the complaint. Both parties concede that a written contract was never executed with regard to Appellant's hiring by the Board as the Tug Valley head basketball coach. The statute at issue is phrased in mandatory terms--"the terms and conditions of the agreement ... shall be in writing and

Page 144

[195 W.Va. 485] signed by both parties." W.Va.Code § 18A-4-16(3) (emphasis supplied); see Marion County Bd. of Educ. v....

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33 practice notes
  • Burch v. Nedpower Mount Storm, LLC, No. 33201.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 8, 2007
    ...when it is apparent that the deficiency could not be cured by an amendment." Syllabus Point 2, Copley v. Mingo County Bd. of Educ., 195 W.Va. 480, 466 S.E.2d 139 2. "A circuit court, viewing all the facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party, may grant a motion for judgment on t......
  • In re Packaged Seafood Prods. Antitrust Litig., Case No.: 15–MD–2670 JLS (MDD)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • March 14, 2017
    ...therefor, the law requires the party receiving the benefits to pay their reasonable value. Copley v. Mingo County Board of Education, 195 W.Va. 480, 466 S.E.2d 139 (1995). Id. at 884–85 (footnote omitted) (italicization in original). However, several paragraphs later the Realmark Court reve......
  • Blake v. Charleston Area Medical Center, No. 24132.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 25, 1997
    ...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 chal......
  • Martin Oil v. PHILADELPHIA LIFE INS., No. 23813.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 8, 1997
    ...to amend its pleadings, we are not limited by the lower court's grounds in making our review. See Copley v. Mingo County Bd. of Educ., 195 W.Va. 480, 485, 466 S.E.2d 139, 144 ("stating that lower court's judgment may be affirmed `when it appears that such judgment is correct on any legal gr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
32 cases
  • Burch v. Nedpower Mount Storm, LLC, No. 33201.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 8, 2007
    ...when it is apparent that the deficiency could not be cured by an amendment." Syllabus Point 2, Copley v. Mingo County Bd. of Educ., 195 W.Va. 480, 466 S.E.2d 139 2. "A circuit court, viewing all the facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party, may grant a motion for judgment on t......
  • In re Packaged Seafood Prods. Antitrust Litig., Case No.: 15–MD–2670 JLS (MDD)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • March 14, 2017
    ...therefor, the law requires the party receiving the benefits to pay their reasonable value. Copley v. Mingo County Board of Education, 195 W.Va. 480, 466 S.E.2d 139 (1995). Id. at 884–85 (footnote omitted) (italicization in original). However, several paragraphs later the Realmark Court reve......
  • Blake v. Charleston Area Medical Center, No. 24132.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 25, 1997
    ...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 chal......
  • Martin Oil v. PHILADELPHIA LIFE INS., No. 23813.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 8, 1997
    ...to amend its pleadings, we are not limited by the lower court's grounds in making our review. See Copley v. Mingo County Bd. of Educ., 195 W.Va. 480, 485, 466 S.E.2d 139, 144 ("stating that lower court's judgment may be affirmed `when it appears that such judgment is correct on any legal gr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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