CSX Transp., Inc. v. Smith, No. 11–0694.

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM:
Docket NumberNo. 11–0694.
PartiesCSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., a Virginia Corporation, Defendant Below, Petitioner v. Angela SMITH, Plaintiff Below, Respondent.
Decision Date07 June 2012

229 W.Va. 316
729 S.E.2d 151
115 Fair Empl.Prac.Cas.
(BNA) 488

CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., a Virginia Corporation, Defendant Below, Petitioner
v.
Angela SMITH, Plaintiff Below, Respondent.

No. 11–0694.

Supreme Court of Appeals of
West Virginia.

Submitted April 17, 2012.
Decided June 7, 2012.


[729 S.E.2d 155]



Syllabus by the Court

1. “The appellate standard of review for an order granting or denying a renewed motion for a judgment as a matter of law after trial pursuant to Rule 50(b) of the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure [1998] is de novo. Syllabus point 1, Fredeking v. Tyler, 224 W.Va. 1, 680 S.E.2d 16 (2009).

2. “ ‘The ruling of a trial court in granting or denying a motion for a new trial is entitled to great respect and weight, [and] the trial court's ruling will be reversed on appeal [only] when it is clear that the trial court has acted under some misapprehension of the law or the evidence.’ Syl. pt. 4, in part, Sanders v. Georgia–Pacific Corp., 159 W.Va. 621, 225 S.E.2d 218 (1976).” Syllabus point 2, Estep v. Mike Ferrell Ford Lincoln–Mercury, Inc., 223 W.Va. 209, 672 S.E.2d 345 (2008).

3. “In determining whether there is sufficient evidence to support a jury verdict the court should: (1) consider the evidence most favorable to the prevailing party; (2) assume that all conflicts in the evidence were resolved by the jury in favor of the prevailing party; (3) assume as proved all facts which the prevailing party's evidence tends to prove; and (4) give to the prevailing party the benefit of all favorable inferences which reasonably may be drawn from the facts proved.” Syllabus point 5, Orr v. Crowder, 173 W.Va. 335, 315 S.E.2d 593 (1983).

4. “When a case involving conflicting testimony and circumstances has been fairly tried, under proper instructions, the verdict of the jury will not be set aside unless plainly contrary to the weight of the evidence or without sufficient evidence to support it.” Syllabus point 4, Laslo v. Griffith, 143 W.Va. 469, 102 S.E.2d 894 (1958).

5. “To establish a claim for sexual harassment under the West Virginia Human Rights Act, W. Va.Code, 5–11–1 et seq., based upon a hostile or abusive work environment, a plaintiff-employee must prove that (1) the subject conduct was unwelcome; (2) it was based on the sex of the plaintiff; (3) it was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the plaintiff's conditions of employment and create an abusive work environment; and (4) it was imputable on some factual basis to the employer.” Syllabus point 5, Hanlon v. Chambers, 195 W.Va. 99, 464 S.E.2d 741 (1995).

6. “An employee may state a claim for hostile environment sexual harassment if unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working

[729 S.E.2d 156]

environment.” Syllabus point 7, Hanlon v. Chambers, 195 W.Va. 99, 464 S.E.2d 741 (1995).

7. “A supervisory employee can state a claim for relief against an employer on the basis of a hostile work environment created by one or more subordinate employees if the employer knew or should have known about the offending conduct, yet failed to take swift and effective measures reasonably calculated to end the harassment.” Syllabus point 9, Hanlon v. Chambers, 195 W.Va. 99, 464 S.E.2d 741 (1995).

8. “Once a plaintiff in a sexual harassment case introduces evidence that demonstrates the four elements set forth in syllabus point five of Hanlon v. Chambers, 195 W.Va. 99, 464 S.E.2d 741 (1995), he/she has proven a prima facie case of sexual harassment, which must then be presented to the jury.” Syllabus point 5, Akers v. Cabell Huntington Hospital, Inc., 215 W.Va. 346, 599 S.E.2d 769 (2004).

9. “The formulation of jury instructions is within the broad discretion of a circuit court, and a circuit court's giving of an instruction is reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard. A verdict should not be disturbed based on the formulation of the language of the jury instructions so long as the instructions given as a whole are accurate and fair to both parties.” Syllabus point 6, Tennant v. Marion Health Care Foundation, Inc., 194 W.Va. 97, 459 S.E.2d 374 (1995).

10. “A trial court's instructions to the jury must be a correct statement of the law and supported by the evidence. Jury instructions are reviewed by determining whether the charge, reviewed as a whole, sufficiently instructed the jury so they understood the issues involved and were not mislead by the law. A jury instruction cannot be dissected on appeal; instead, the entire instruction is looked at when determining its accuracy. A trial court, therefore, has broad discretion in formulating its charge to the jury, so long as the charge accurately reflects the law. Deference is given to a trial court's discretion concerning the specific wording of the instruction, and the precise extent and character of any specific instruction will be reviewed only for an abuse of discretion.” Syllabus point 4, State v. Guthrie, 194 W.Va. 657, 461 S.E.2d 163 (1995).

11. “ ‘It will be presumed that a trial court acted correctly in giving ... instructions to the jury, unless it appears from the record in the case that the instructions were prejudicially erroneous[.]’ Syllabus Point 1, [in part,] State v. Turner, 137 W.Va. 122, 70 S.E.2d 249 (1952).” Syllabus point 1, in part, Moran v. Atha Trucking, Inc., 208 W.Va. 379, 540 S.E.2d 903 (1997).

12. “[T]he question of whether a jury was properly instructed is a question of law, and the review is de novo. Syllabus point 1, in part, State v. Hinkle, 200 W.Va. 280, 489 S.E.2d 257 (1996).

13. “When this Court, or a trial court, reviews an award of punitive damages, the court must first evaluate whether the conduct of the defendant toward the plaintiff entitled the plaintiff to a punitive damage award under Mayer v. Frobe, 40 W.Va. 246, 22 S.E. 58 (1895), and its progeny. If a punitive damage award was justified, the court must then examine the amount of the award pursuant to the aggravating and mitigating criteria set out in Garnes v. Fleming Landfill, Inc., 186 W.Va. 656, 413 S.E.2d 897 (1991), and the compensatory/punitive damage ratio established in TXO Production Corp. v. Alliance Resources Corp., 187 W.Va. 457, 419 S.E.2d 870 (1992)[, aff'd,509 U.S. 443, 113 S.Ct. 2711, 125 L.Ed.2d 366 (1993) ].” Syllabus point 6, Perrine v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 225 W.Va. 482, 694 S.E.2d 815 (2010).

14. “When reviewing an award of punitive damages in accordance with Syllabus point 5 of Garnes v. Fleming Landfill, Inc., 186 W.Va. 656, 413 S.E.2d 897 (1991), and Syllabus point 5 of Alkire v. First National Bank of Parsons, 197 W.Va. 122, 475 S.E.2d 122 (1996), this Court will review de novo the jury's award of punitive damages and the circuit court's ruling approving, rejecting, or reducing such award.” Syllabus point 16, Peters v. Rivers Edge Mining, Inc., 224 W.Va. 160, 680 S.E.2d 791 (2009).

15. “In actions of tort, where gross fraud, malice, oppression, or wanton, willful, or reckless conduct or criminal indifference

[729 S.E.2d 157]

to civil obligations affecting the rights of others appear, or where legislative enactment authorizes it, the jury may assess exemplary, punitive, or vindictive damages; these terms being synonymous.” Syllabus point 4, Mayer v. Frobe, 40 W.Va. 246, 22 S.E. 58 (1895).

16. “Punitive damages are an available form of remedial relief that a court may award under the provisions of W. Va.Code, 5–11–13(c) [1998].” Syllabus point 5, Haynes v. Rhone–Poulenc, Inc., 206 W.Va. 18, 521 S.E.2d 331 (1999).

17. “When a trial or appellate court reviews an award of punitive damages for excessiveness under Syllabus points 3 and 4 of Garnes v. Fleming Landfill, Inc., 186 W.Va. 656, 413 S.E.2d 897 (1991), the court should first determine whether the amount of the punitive damages award is justified by aggravating evidence including, but not limited to: (1) the reprehensibility of the defendant's conduct; (2) whether the defendant profited from the wrongful conduct; (3) the financial position of the defendant; (4) the appropriateness of punitive damages to encourage fair and reasonable settlements when a clear wrong has been committed; and (5) the cost of litigation to the plaintiff. The court should then consider whether a reduction in the amount of the punitive damages should be permitted due to mitigating evidence including, but not limited to: (1) whether the punitive damages bear a reasonable relationship to the harm that is likely to occur and/or has occurred as a result of the defendant's conduct; (2) whether punitive damages bear a reasonable relationship to compensatory damages; (3) the cost of litigation to the defendant; (4) any criminal sanctions imposed on the defendant for his conduct; (5) any other civil actions against the same defendant based upon the same conduct; (6) relevant information that was not available to the jury because it was unduly prejudicial to the defendant; and (7) additional relevant evidence.” Syllabus point 7, Perrine v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 225 W.Va. 482, 694 S.E.2d 815 (2010).

18. “The outer limit of the ratio of punitive damages to compensatory damages in cases in which the defendant has acted with extreme negligence or wanton disregard but with no actual intention to cause harm and in which compensatory damages are neither negligible nor very large is roughly 5 to 1. However, when the defendant has acted with actual evil intention, much higher ratios are not per se unconstitutional.” Syllabus point 15, TXO Production Corp. v. Alliance Resources Corp., 187 W.Va. 457, 419 S.E.2d 870 (1992), aff'd,509 U.S. 443, 113 S.Ct. 2711, 125 L.Ed.2d 366 (1993).


Marc E. Williams, Melissa Foster Bird, Jeremy C. Hodges, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP, Huntington, WV, for Petitioner.

Mark A. Atkinson, Paul L....

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15 practice notes
  • Frohnapfel v. Arcelormittal Weirton LLC, Civil Action No. 5:14–CV–45.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Northern District of West Virginia
    • April 22, 2015
    ...his or her protected activities within such period of time that the court can infer retaliatory motivation. CSX Transp. v. Smith, 229 W.Va. 316, 343, 729 S.E.2d 151, 178 (2012). As in Magic Chef, none of these elements require contractual interpretation. None of the elements turn on the mea......
  • Daye v. Plumley, No. 13-0913
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • April 4, 2014
    ...of the jury instructions so long as the instructions given as a whole are accurate and fair to both parties. CSX Transp, Inc. v. Smith, 229 W. Va. 316, 330-31, 729 S.E.2d 151, 165-66 (2012) citing Syl. pt. 6, Tennant v. Marion Health Care Found., Inc., 194 W.Va. 97, 459 S.E.2d 374 (1995). F......
  • Miller v. Toler, No. 11–0352.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 20, 2012
    ...the simple terms of the protection recognized therein. Thus, it falls to the courts to develop enforcement mechanisms to ensure public [729 S.E.2d 151]and speedy trials despite the fact the Sixth Amendment is devoid of any express enforcement mechanisms. The same is true with respect to pro......
  • Frohnapfel v. Arcelormittal Weirton LLC, Civil Action No. 5:14-CV-45
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Northern District of West Virginia
    • April 22, 2015
    ...his or her protected activities within such period of time that the court can infer retaliatory motivation. CSX Transp. v. Smith, 229 W.Va. 316, 343, 729 S.E.2d 151, 178 (2012). As in Magic Chef, none of these elements require contractual interpretation. None of the elements turn on the mea......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • Frohnapfel v. Arcelormittal Weirton LLC, Civil Action No. 5:14–CV–45.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Northern District of West Virginia
    • April 22, 2015
    ...his or her protected activities within such period of time that the court can infer retaliatory motivation. CSX Transp. v. Smith, 229 W.Va. 316, 343, 729 S.E.2d 151, 178 (2012). As in Magic Chef, none of these elements require contractual interpretation. None of the elements turn on the mea......
  • Daye v. Plumley, No. 13-0913
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • April 4, 2014
    ...of the jury instructions so long as the instructions given as a whole are accurate and fair to both parties. CSX Transp, Inc. v. Smith, 229 W. Va. 316, 330-31, 729 S.E.2d 151, 165-66 (2012) citing Syl. pt. 6, Tennant v. Marion Health Care Found., Inc., 194 W.Va. 97, 459 S.E.2d 374 (1995). F......
  • Miller v. Toler, No. 11–0352.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 20, 2012
    ...the simple terms of the protection recognized therein. Thus, it falls to the courts to develop enforcement mechanisms to ensure public [729 S.E.2d 151]and speedy trials despite the fact the Sixth Amendment is devoid of any express enforcement mechanisms. The same is true with respect to pro......
  • Frohnapfel v. Arcelormittal Weirton LLC, Civil Action No. 5:14-CV-45
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Northern District of West Virginia
    • April 22, 2015
    ...his or her protected activities within such period of time that the court can infer retaliatory motivation. CSX Transp. v. Smith, 229 W.Va. 316, 343, 729 S.E.2d 151, 178 (2012). As in Magic Chef, none of these elements require contractual interpretation. None of the elements turn on the mea......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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