Doe v. Pak, No. 15–0013.

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtChief Justice KETCHUM
Parties John DOE, an unknown driver, Petitioner v. Hasil PAK, Respondent.
Decision Date26 January 2016
Docket NumberNo. 15–0013.

784 S.E.2d 328

John DOE, an unknown driver, Petitioner
v.
Hasil PAK, Respondent.

No. 15–0013.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

Submitted Jan. 20, 2016.
Decided Jan. 26, 2016.


Tiffany R. Durst, Esq., Nathaniel D. Griffith, Esq., Pullin, Fowler, Flanagan, Brown & Poe, PLLC, Morgantown, WV, for Petitioner.

John R. Angotti, Esq., David J. Straface, Esq, Angotti & Straface, Morgantown, WV, for Respondent.

Chief Justice KETCHUM :

The respondent, Ms. Hasil Pak, was injured in a car wreck caused by an unknown, hit-and-run driver. Ms. Pak filed an uninsured motorist suit against the unknown driver, "John Doe," seeking damages for her injuries. Her uninsured motorists' insurance carrier was the petitioner, State Farm, who defended the lawsuit.1

Before trial, State Farm advanced Ms. Pak $30,628.15, on her damages. After a jury returned a verdict for Ms. Pak, the Circuit Court of Monongalia County entered a judgment order on December 4, 2014, refusing State Farm any credit against the final judgment for the advance payment.

State Farm now appeals the circuit court's order asserting that the court erred in refusing to credit the advance payment against the final judgment. State Farm also alleges that the circuit court erred in calculating prejudgment interest.

Upon review, we agree that the circuit court erred when it refused to credit State Farm's advance payment against the final judgment. The circuit court also erred in calculating prejudgment interest. We reverse the circuit court's December 4, 2014, judgment order and remand this case for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On November 23, 2009, Ms. Pak was involved in a car wreck when an unknown, hit-and-run driver allegedly crossed into her lane while traveling in the opposite direction and hit her car. Ms. Pak was physically injured, and she claims her injuries kept her from, inter alia, performing her housework. An expert testified as to the value of the housework that she was unable to perform. However, she did not claim she paid, or incurred an obligation to pay, for help with her housework.

Ms. Pak had a motor vehicle insurance policy from State Farm. Pursuant to the medical payments coverage of this policy, State Farm paid $25,000.00 for Ms. Pak's medical bills.

Additionally, Ms. Pak had coverage for uninsured motorists with a limit of $100,000.00 for personal injuries. Pursuant to the uninsured motorists' coverage, State Farm offered to settle Ms. Pak's case for $30,628.15. Ms. Pak refused the offer.

Ms. Pak filed a complaint against the unknown (and therefore uninsured) "John Doe" in the circuit court and served State Farm with the complaint to recover damages from her uninsured motorists' coverage. Prior to trial, State Farm offered to pay Ms. Pak $30,628.15 as an advance payment toward

784 S.E.2d 330

any subsequent judgment.2 Pursuant to this offer, State Farm sent the following letter to Ms. Pak's counsel on June 29, 2012:

Your client's current demand is $100,000.00; which is the policy limit. At this time, it appears we have reached an impasse. I am enclosing our payment for the amount of the initial offer since our last evaluation. The initial offer was $30,628.15....



This payment will also be credited against any final determination of damages.

This payment should be considered an advance without prejudicing your client's right to receive a higher amount in the future through continued negotiations.... This offer or your acceptance thereof, does not waive any defenses, we may have now or in the future, under the policy.

(Emphasis added). Ms. Pak's counsel negotiated State Farm's check.

State Farm and Ms. Pak continued to disagree on the extent of her damages, and the case went to trial in September 2013. The jury returned a verdict of $101,000.00, exclusive of prejudgment interest, which included the following: $25,000.00 for medical expenses; $30,000.00 for loss of earning capacity; $10,000.00 for loss of household services to date; $6,000.00 for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life to date; and $30,000.00 for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life to be incurred in the future. The circuit court reduced the $101,000.00 verdict to $70,700.00 because the jury found Ms. Pak to be 30% at fault in the car wreck.

Ms. Pak submitted a proposed final order that did not credit State Farm for its payment of $25,000.00 on its medical payments coverage or its $30,628.15 advance payment on its uninsured motorists' coverage. State Farm objected to the proposed order on two grounds: (1) the judgment should be reduced by these payments and prejudgment interest should not accrue on them; and (2) prejudgment interest should not accrue on the damages awarded for "loss of household services" because she did not expend money, or incur any financial obligation, for those services.

On May 14, 2014, the circuit court entered an order ruling on State Farm's objections. In its order, the circuit court found that Ms. Pak's judgment should be reduced by State Farm's $25,000.00 payment on its medical payments coverage for Ms. Pak's medical bills, and thus, prejudgment interest should not accrue on that amount.3 However, the circuit court refused to credit State Farm for its $30,628.15 advance payment or omit that amount from the calculation of prejudgment interest. As to this advance payment, the circuit court concluded that: "this amount was gratuitously paid by State Farm ... this payment could very well be found to constitute a gift[.]"

State Farm filed a motion to alter or amend the circuit court's May 14, 2014, order. In its motion, State Farm contended the circuit court erred by refusing to credit it for the $30,628.15 advance payment and incorrectly calculated prejudgment interest. The circuit court denied State Farm's motion, and on October 3, 2014, it entered a judgment order which failed to credit State Farm for any of the earlier payments, including the $25,000.00 payment under its medical payments coverage or the $30,628.15 advance payment on its uninsured motorists' coverage.

State Farm then filed a second motion to alter or amend, this time as to the circuit court's October 3, 2014, judgment order. On December 4, 2014, the circuit court entered the amended judgment order that is the basis for this appeal. In this order, the circuit

784 S.E.2d 331

court credited State Farm for its $25,000.00 payment under Ms. Pak's medical payments coverage and ruled that prejudgment interest did not accrue on that amount. However, the circuit court ruled again that State Farm's $30,628.15 advance payment was likely a "gift." Therefore, the circuit court gave State Farm no credit for this advance payment, and it was included in the calculation of prejudgment interest. In addition, prejudgment interest was calculated on the $10,000.00 awarded for "loss of household services" even though Ms. Pak made no out-of-pocket expenditures to have someone else perform her housework. State Farm now appeals the circuit court's December 4, 2014, judgment order to this Court.

II.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

State Farm requests that we review the circuit court's denial of its motion to alter or amend judgment. We have held: "The standard of review applicable to an appeal from a motion to alter or amend a judgment, made pursuant to W.VA. R. CIV. P. 59(e), is the same standard that would apply to the underlying judgment upon which the motion is based and from which the appeal to this Court is filed." Syl. Pt. 1, Wickland v. Am. Travellers Life Ins. Co., 204 W.Va. 430, 513 S.E.2d 657 (1998).

Accordingly, "We review the final order and the ultimate disposition under an abuse of discretion standard, and we review the circuit court's underlying factual findings under a clearly erroneous standard. Questions of law are subject to a de novo review." Syl. Pt. 2, in part, Walker v. W. Va. Ethics Comm'n, 201 W.Va. 108, 492 S.E.2d 167 (1997). To the extent this appeal is based on the calculation of prejudgment interest, it is subject to de novo review. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Rutherford, 229 W.Va. 73, 76, 726 S.E.2d 41, 44 (2011).

III.

ANALYSIS

State Farm raises three issues for appeal. First, State Farm made a $30,628.15 advance payment under its uninsured motorists' coverage to Ms. Pak, which was accompanied by a letter stating: "This payment will also be credited against any final determination of damages." State Farm argues that the circuit court's failure to credit it for this advance payment requires it to pay Ms. Pak twice for the same damages and thus violates public policy. Second, State Farm argues the circuit court was required to deduct the $30,628.15 advance payment before calculating prejudgment interest on Ms. Pak's judgment. Finally, State Farm asserts prejudgment interest does not accrue on the award for "loss of household services" because she did not expend funds or incur any financial obligation for household services.

A. State Farm's $30,628.15 Advance...

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4 practice notes
  • Wal-Mart Stores E., L.P. v. Ankrom, No. 19-0666
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 18, 2020
    ...to make an injured plaintiff whole as far as loss of use of funds is concerned.").66 Syl. Pt. 13, id.67 See Doe v. Pak , 237 W. Va. 1, 7, 784 S.E.2d 328, 334 (2016) (prejudgment interest on loss of household services—an out-of-pocket expenditure under W. Va. Code § 56-6-31 —available only w......
  • Edwards v. Mcelliotts Trucking, LLC, CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:16-1879
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Southern District of West Virginia
    • December 11, 2018
    ..."Generally, a circuit court must deduct all proper credits, payments, and set-offs before calculating prejudgment interest." Doe v. Pak, 784 S.E.2d 328, 333 (W. Va. 2016) (internal citations omitted). When dealing with apportioning the offset of the total judgment and how that affects the p......
  • Solomon v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., Case No. 5D18-3920
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • August 21, 2020
    ...double recovery at the expense of the defendant. Id. at 122–23.The West Virginia Supreme Court's decision in Doe v. Pak , 237 W.Va. 1, 784 S.E.2d 328 (2016), is also supportive of State Farm's position. There, the plaintiff was injured in an automobile collision caused by an unknown hit-and......
  • Fielder v. R.V. Coleman Trucking, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:16CV23
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Northern District of West Virginia
    • January 29, 2018
    ...an appropriate amount for those losses. Id. The plaintiff believes this approach is consistent with the Doe v. Pak, 237 W.Va. 1, n.8, 784 S.E.2d 328, n.1 (2016). This Court finds that, given plaintiff's response described above, defendant R.V. Coleman's motion in limine regardingPage 15 pla......
4 cases
  • Wal-Mart Stores E., L.P. v. Ankrom, No. 19-0666
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 18, 2020
    ...to make an injured plaintiff whole as far as loss of use of funds is concerned.").66 Syl. Pt. 13, id.67 See Doe v. Pak , 237 W. Va. 1, 7, 784 S.E.2d 328, 334 (2016) (prejudgment interest on loss of household services—an out-of-pocket expenditure under W. Va. Code § 56-6-31 —available only w......
  • Edwards v. Mcelliotts Trucking, LLC, CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:16-1879
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Southern District of West Virginia
    • December 11, 2018
    ..."Generally, a circuit court must deduct all proper credits, payments, and set-offs before calculating prejudgment interest." Doe v. Pak, 784 S.E.2d 328, 333 (W. Va. 2016) (internal citations omitted). When dealing with apportioning the offset of the total judgment and how that affects the p......
  • Solomon v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., Case No. 5D18-3920
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • August 21, 2020
    ...double recovery at the expense of the defendant. Id. at 122–23.The West Virginia Supreme Court's decision in Doe v. Pak , 237 W.Va. 1, 784 S.E.2d 328 (2016), is also supportive of State Farm's position. There, the plaintiff was injured in an automobile collision caused by an unknown hit-and......
  • Fielder v. R.V. Coleman Trucking, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:16CV23
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Northern District of West Virginia
    • January 29, 2018
    ...an appropriate amount for those losses. Id. The plaintiff believes this approach is consistent with the Doe v. Pak, 237 W.Va. 1, n.8, 784 S.E.2d 328, n.1 (2016). This Court finds that, given plaintiff's response described above, defendant R.V. Coleman's motion in limine regardingPage 15 pla......

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