JWCF, LP v. Farruggia, No. 12–0389.

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM:
Citation752 S.E.2d 571,232 W.Va. 417
PartiesJWCF, LP, (formerly known as Baker Installations, Inc.), a foreign corporation conducting business in West Virginia, Petitioner v. Steven FARRUGGIA, Respondent.
Decision Date27 December 2013
Docket NumberNo. 12–0389.

232 W.Va. 417
752 S.E.2d 571

JWCF, LP, (formerly known as Baker Installations, Inc.), a foreign corporation conducting business in West Virginia, Petitioner
v.
Steven FARRUGGIA, Respondent.

No. 12–0389.

Supreme Court of Appeals of
West Virginia.

Submitted Sept. 10, 2013.
Decided Oct. 7, 2013.

Concurring in part and Dissenting in part Opinion of Justice Benjamin
Dec. 27, 2013.


[752 S.E.2d 573]





Syllabus by the Court

1. “ ‘We review the rulings of the circuit court concerning a new trial and its conclusion as to the existence of reversible

[752 S.E.2d 574]

error 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.’ Tennant v. Marion Health Care Foundation, Inc., 194 W.Va. 97, 459 S.E.2d 374 (1995).” Syl. Pt. 2, Beverly v. Thompson, 229 W.Va. 684, 735 S.E.2d 559 (2012).

2. “ ‘[T]he 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).” Syl. Pt. 2, Estep v. Mike Ferrell Ford Lincoln–Mercury, Inc., 223 W.Va. 209, 672 S.E.2d 345 (2008).

3. “In order to make a prima facie case of discrimination under W.Va.Code, 23–5A–1, the employee must prove that: (1) an on-the-job injury was sustained; (2) proceedings were instituted under the Workers' Compensation Act, W.Va.Code, 23–1–1 et seq.; and (3) the filing of a workers' compensation claim was a significant factor in the employer's decision to discharge or otherwise discriminate against the employee.” Syl. Pt. 1, Powell v. Wyoming Cablevision, Inc., 184 W.Va. 700, 403 S.E.2d 717 (1991).

4. “When an employee makes a prima facie case of discrimination, the burden then shifts to the employer to prove a legitimate, nonpretextual, and nonretaliatory reason for the discharge. In rebuttal, the employee can then offer evidence that the employer's proffered reason for the discharge is merely a pretext for the discriminatory act.” Syl. Pt. 2, Powell v. Wyoming Cablevision, Inc., 184 W.Va. 700, 403 S.E.2d 717 (1991).

5. “ ‘[N]ew points of law ... will be articulated through syllabus points as required by our state constitution.’ Syllabus Point 2, in part, Walker v. Doe, 210 W.Va. 490, 558 S.E.2d 290 (2001).” Syl. Pt. 13, State ex rel. Med. Assurance of W. Va., Inc. v. Recht, 213 W.Va. 457, 583 S.E.2d 80 (2003).

6. “ ‘ “ ‘Upon a motion to direct a verdict for the defendant, every reasonable and legitimate inference fairly arising from the testimony, when considered in its entirety, must be indulged in favorably to plaintiff; and the court must assume as true those facts which the jury may properly find under the evidence.’ Syllabus, Nichols v. Raleigh–Wyoming Coal Co., 112 W.Va. 85[, 163 S.E. 767 (1932) ].” Point 1, Syllabus, Jenkins v. Chatterton, 143 W.Va. 250[, 100 S.E.2d 808](1957).' Syl. Pt. 1, Jividen v. Legg, 161 W.Va. 769, 245 S.E.2d 835 (1978).” Syl. Pt. 2, Brannon v. Riffle, 197 W.Va. 97, 475 S.E.2d 97 (1996).

7. “In actions of tort, where gross fraud, malice, oppression, or wanton, willful, or reckless conduct or criminal indifference 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.” Syl. Pt. 4, Mayer v. Frobe, 40 W.Va. 246, 22 S.E. 58 (1895).

8. “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....” Syl. Pt. 6, in part, Perrine v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co., 225 W.Va. 482, 694 S.E.2d 815 (2010).

9. “ ‘It will be presumed that a trial court acted correctly in giving or in refusing to give instructions to the jury, unless it appears from the record in the case that the instructions were prejudicially erroneous or that the instructions refused were correct and should have been given.’ Syllabus Point 1, State v. Turner, 137 W.Va. 122, 70 S.E.2d 249 (1952).” Syl. Pt. 1, Moran v. Atha Trucking, Inc., 208 W.Va. 379, 540 S.E.2d 903 (1997).

10. “The West Virginia Rules of Evidence and the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure allocate significant discretion to the trial court in making evidentiary and procedural rulings. Thus, rulings on the admissibility of evidence and the appropriateness of a particular sanction for discovery violations are committed to the discretion of

[752 S.E.2d 575]

the trial court. Absent a few exceptions, this Court will review evidentiary and procedural rulings of the circuit court under an abuse of discretion standard.” Syl. Pt. 1, McDougal v. McCammon, 193 W.Va. 229, 455 S.E.2d 788 (1995).

11. “Factors to be considered in determining whether the failure to supplement discovery requests under Rule 26(e)(2) of the Rules of Civil Procedure should require exclusion of evidence related to the supplementary material include: (1) the prejudice or surprise in fact of the party against whom the evidence is to be admitted; (2) the ability of that party to cure the prejudice; (3) the bad faith or willfulness of the party who failed to supplement discovery requests; and (4) the practical importance of the evidence excluded.” Syl. Pt. 5, Prager v. Meckling, 172 W.Va. 785, 310 S.E.2d 852 (1983).

12. “As to the balancing under Rule 403, the trial court enjoys broad discretion. The Rule 403 balancing test is essentially a matter of trial conduct, and the trial court's discretion will not be overturned absent a showing of clear abuse.” Syl. Pt. 10, in part, State v. Derr, 192 W.Va. 165, 451 S.E.2d 731 (1994).


Barbara G. Arnold, Esq., MacCorkle, Lavender & Sweeney, PLLC, Charleston, WV, for Petitioner.

Stephen P. New, Esq., Beckley, WV, for Respondent.


PER CURIAM:

This is an appeal by JWCF, LP, formerly Baker Installations, Inc., from a jury verdict in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia, in favor of the respondent, Mr. Steven Farruggia, a former JWCF employee, in this workers' compensation employment discrimination case. The circuit court denied JWCF's motions for judgment as a matter of law and a new trial, and JWCF appeals to this Court. Upon review of the appendix record, briefs, arguments of counsel, and applicable legal authority, this Court affirms the decisions of the circuit court.

I. Factual and Procedural History

JWCF is a telecommunications company performing contract work in this state. Mr. Farruggia began employment with JWCF as a cable installer in 2005. He was thereafter terminated for refusing to take a drug test in 2006 but was re-hired one month later by JWCF. On February 14, 2007, Mr. Farruggia suffered a compensable back injury and later underwent a surgical procedure.

Mr. Farruggia was released to light duty work by his physician, Dr. Christopher Grose, on August 23, 2007, and Mr. Farruggia returned to work on September 19, 2007, as a “progress evaluator.” According to the testimony adduced at trial, this was designed as a “strictly temporary” light duty position, and written notice was given to Mr. Farruggia that the position of “progress evaluator” would be eliminated when he was able to return to his regular duty position.

On October 2, 2007, Dr. Saghir Mir found that Mr. Farruggia was not yet at maximum medical improvement and deferred examination for another three months. Mr. Farruggia had refused physical therapy in September 2007, indicating that he was physically unable to participate in it. A work log dated October 30, 2007, indicated that Mr. Farruggia was still performing only his light duty work and was not installing cable by himself. By November 2007, Mr. Farruggia contends that he had begun performing his prior job of installing cable, without assistance.1

[752 S.E.2d 576]

On November 12, 2007, Mr. Farruggia agreed to a settlement of $20,000 for his worker's compensation claim. On November 29, 2007, he was terminated. He requested employment again on February 14, 2008, but JWCF did not consider him for further employment. Mr. Farruggia filed a civil action against JWCF on April 11, 2008, asserting discrimination in violation of West Virginia Code §§ 23–5A–1 et seq. and asserting that his receipt of a workers' compensation settlement was a significant factor in JWCF's decision to discharge him.2

During trial, Mr. Farruggia testified that he was specifically informed by his supervisor, Mr. Austin Cantrell, that his termination was premised upon his workers' compensation settlement.3 Mr. Farruggia's testimony on this matter was corroborated by the testimony of a lead technician at JWCF, Mr. Jason Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong testified that he was present when Mr. Farruggia was informed of the termination and indicated that Mr. Farruggia had been told that the termination was indeed related to the workers' compensation settlement.

Ms. Cherrie Lyttle, claims handler for Mr. Farruggia's workers' compensation claim, also testified regarding the relationship between Mr. Farruggia's workers' compensation settlement and the termination. Ms. Lyttle explained that Cinnomin Yohe, a JWCF manager, had informed Ms. Lyttle that JWCF's policy was not to settle workers' compensation claims and that Mr. Farruggia would be terminated as soon as he signed the agreement.

JWCF introduced witnesses indicating that no connection existed between the workers' compensation settlement and the termination. According to JWCF's theory of defense, the light duty position had simply been eliminated and Mr. Farruggia had not demonstrated, by competent medical evidence, that he was capable of returning to his former position as a...

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3 practice notes
  • Sneberger v. Morrison, No. 14-0662
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 11, 2015
    ...the province of the trier of fact, and that we, as an appellate court, owe great deference to the verdict.'" JWCF, LP v. Farruggia, 232 W.Va. 417, 426, 752 S.E.2d 571, 580-81 (2013) (quoting Hutchison v. City of Huntington, 198 W.Va. 139, 157, 479 S.E.2d 649, 667 (1996)). Therefore, we have......
  • Sneberger v. Morrison, No. 14–0662.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 11, 2015
    ...the province of the trier of fact, and that we, as an appellate court, owe great deference to the verdict.’ ” JWCF, LP v. Farruggia, 232 W.Va. 417, 426, 752 S.E.2d 571, 580–81 (2013) (quoting Hutchison v. City of Huntington, 198 W.Va. 139, 157, 479 S.E.2d 649, 667 (1996) ). Therefore, we ha......
  • Brumfield v. Workman, No. 18-0109
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • March 26, 2019
    ...of whether a punitive damages jury instruction is appropriate is within the sound discretion of the trial judge." JWCF, LP v. Farruggia, 232 W. Va. 417, 428, 752 S.E.2d 571, 582 (2013).IV. Discussion 42 United States Code Section 1983 provides a federal cause of action for alleged violation......
3 cases
  • Sneberger v. Morrison, No. 14-0662
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 11, 2015
    ...the province of the trier of fact, and that we, as an appellate court, owe great deference to the verdict.'" JWCF, LP v. Farruggia, 232 W.Va. 417, 426, 752 S.E.2d 571, 580-81 (2013) (quoting Hutchison v. City of Huntington, 198 W.Va. 139, 157, 479 S.E.2d 649, 667 (1996)). Therefore, we have......
  • Sneberger v. Morrison, No. 14–0662.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 11, 2015
    ...the province of the trier of fact, and that we, as an appellate court, owe great deference to the verdict.’ ” JWCF, LP v. Farruggia, 232 W.Va. 417, 426, 752 S.E.2d 571, 580–81 (2013) (quoting Hutchison v. City of Huntington, 198 W.Va. 139, 157, 479 S.E.2d 649, 667 (1996) ). Therefore, we ha......
  • Brumfield v. Workman, No. 18-0109
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • March 26, 2019
    ...of whether a punitive damages jury instruction is appropriate is within the sound discretion of the trial judge." JWCF, LP v. Farruggia, 232 W. Va. 417, 428, 752 S.E.2d 571, 582 (2013).IV. Discussion 42 United States Code Section 1983 provides a federal cause of action for alleged violation......

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