Mandolidis v. Elkins Industries, Inc., s. 13926

Citation161 W.Va. 695,246 S.E.2d 907,96 A.L.R.3d 1035
Decision Date27 June 1978
Docket Number13982 and 13983,Nos. 13926,s. 13926
CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia

Syllabus by the Court

1. Under W.Va. § 23-4-2 an employer is subject to a common law tort action for damages or for wrongful death where such employer commits an intentional tort or engages in wilful, wanton, and reckless misconduct, and to the extent that the syllabus point in Allen v. Raleigh-Wyoming Mining Co., 117 W.Va. 631, 186 S.E. 612 (1936), syllabus point 3 of Brewer v. Appalachian Constructors, Inc., 135 W.Va. 739, 65 S.E.2d 87 (1951), and syllabus point 2 of Eisnaugle v. Booth, W.Va., 226 S.E.2d 259 (1976) are inconsistent therewith, they are hereby expressly disapproved of and overruled.

2. A motion for summary judgment may only be granted where there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.

3. "The trial court, in appraising the sufficiency of a complaint on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, should not dismiss the complaint unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Syl. pt. 3, Chapman v. Kane Transfer Co., W.Va., 236 S.E.2d 207 (1977) Citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957).

Cardot, Kent & Queen, James A. Kent, Jr., Elkins, Calwell, Steele, McCormick & Peyton, W. Stuart Calwell, Jr., Nitro, for appellants in No. 13926.

Brown, Harner & Busch, John F. Brown, Jr., Elkins, for appellee in No. 13926.

DiTrapano, Mitchell, Lawson & Field, John R. Mitchell, Charleston, for appellants in No. 13982.

Steptoe & Johnson, Edward W. Eardley, Charleston, for appellee Baker, in No. 13982.

Kay, Casto & Chaney, Don R. Sensabaugh, Jr., Charleston, for appellee P. A. Drill, in No. 13982.

Love, Wise, Robinson & Woodroe, Charles M. Love and David A. Faber, Charleston, for appellee U. S. Steel, in No. 13982.

Edward G. Atkins, Charleston, for appellant in No. 13983.

Shaffer, Theibert, Ikner & Schlaegel, H. G. Shaffer, Jr., Madison, for appellee in No. 13983.

Spilman, Thomas, Battle & Klostermeyer, Lee F. Feinberg and James H. Davis, III, Charleston, amicus curiae for WV Manufacturers Ass'n.

Jackson, Kelly, Holt & O'Farrell, John L. McClaugherty and Alvin L. Emch, Charleston, amicus curiae for WV Farm Bureau; WV Homebuilders Assoc.; WV Retailers Assoc.; WV Auto. Dealers Assoc.; WV Chamber of Commerce; WV Coal Assoc.; WV Surface Mining and Reclamation Assoc.; WV Oil and Natural Gas Assoc.; WV Motor Truck Assoc.; Contractors Assoc. of WV; and WV Restaurant and Licensed Beverage Assoc.

James B. McIntyre, McIntyre & Jordan, Charleston, amicus curiae for WV Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.

George G. Burnette, Jr., Charleston, amicus curiae for Dist. 17, United Mine Workers of America.

Ross Maruka, Fairmont, amicus curiae for Dist. 31, United Mine Workers of America.

Harrison Combs, Washington, D. C., James M. Haviland, Charleston, amicus curiae for International Union, United Mine Workers of America.

McGRAW, Justice:

For purposes of decision, the Court has consolidated three cases here on writs of error. Each case involves a tort action brought by employees or their heirs against employers subject to this state's Workmen's Compensation Act.

Each action arises from injuries or deaths suffered by employees during the course of and as a result of their employment. Notwithstanding the immunity from common law suit granted to employers by W.Va.Code § 23-2-6, 1 plaintiffs commenced their actions relying on the deliberate intent exception to such immunity contained in W.Va.Code § 23-4-2. 2


The validity Vel non of the trial courts' judgments, in the cases at bar, can only be ascertained by an examination and analysis of the substantive law as set forth in W.Va.Code § 23-4-2. That provision by its express language preserves for employees a common law action against employers "as if this chapter had not been enacted" "if injury or death result to any employee from the deliberate intention of the employer to produce such injury or death." In these appeals, this Court is asked to delineate the extent to which this statutory provision provides immunity to employers subject to the Act. The individual parties to these actions, as well as various employer and labor organizations filing amicus curiae briefs, urge us to employ familiar and competing rules of statutory construction to ascertain the intent of the Legislature in enacting this provision in 1913. What must be remembered is that canons of construction are but aids devised by courts to ascertain the true meaning, purpose and intent of the Legislature. What was the intention of the original section? The answer to this specific question can best be answered by recalling the purpose for the enactment of workmen's compensation legislation in the first instance.

The paramount reason for such legislation was, of course, that under the common law tort system workers injured in industrial accidents recovered compensatory damages in a rather small percentage of cases. 3

The common law tort system with its defenses of contributory negligence, assumption of risk and the fellow servant rule was considered inimical to the public welfare and was replaced by a new and revolutionary system wherein "fault" became immaterial-- essentially a no-fault system.

The Workmen's Compensation Act was designed to remove Negligently caused industrial accidents from the common law tort system. 4 This quote from an earlier Workmen's Compensation decision provides additional historical perspective and insight as to the purpose of this law:

"The conditions giving rise to a law, the faults to be remedied, the aspirations evidently intended to be efficiently embodied in the enactment, and the effects and consequences as regards responding to the prevailing conceptions of the necessities of public welfare, play an important part in shaping the proper administration of the legislation. In the aggregate, they sometimes shed very efficient light in aid of clearing up obscurities as to the legislative intent . . . The courts should fully appreciate that and be imbued with and guided by the manifest intent of the law to eradicate, utterly, the injustice to employers and employees, and the public as well, of the old system, and to substitute in its place an entirely new one based on the highest conception of man's humanity to man and obligation to industry upon which all depend; recognizing the aggregate of its attending accidents as an element of cost to be liquidated and balanced in money in the course of consumption--a system dealing with employees, employers, and the public as necessarily mutual Participants in bearing the burdens of such accidents, displacing the one dealing only with the class of injuries happening through inadvertent failure, without real moral turpitude, to exercise average human care, and placing employee and employer, whose interests are economically the same, in the false position of adversaries, to the misfortune of both and the public, intensified by opportunity for those concerned as judicial assistants to profit by such misfortunes. Most lamentable it will be, if this new system--so freighted with hopes for the minimizing of human burdens and their equitable distribution shall not endure and be perfected to the best that human wisdom can attain." McVey v. Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co., 103 W.Va. 519, 522-3, 138 S.E. 97, 98 (1927) Quoting Milwaukee v. Miller, 154 Wis. 652, 144 N.W. 188 (1913) (Emphasis supplied).

We now turn to an analysis of our case law construing this statute. In Collins v. Dravo Contracting Co., 114 W.Va. 229, 171 S.E. 757 (1933), the Court rejected the proposition that an employer could never "deliberately intend" to cause an injury or death by an act of omission, 5 and held that under W.Va.Code § 23-4-2 a personal representative may prosecute a wrongful death action on behalf of a decedent employee's widow, widower, child or dependent, because such provision provides a right of action "as if this chapter (Workmen's Compensation Act) had not been enacted." Moreover, the Court held plaintiff's common law declaration sufficient "to require the defendant to go to trial upon the theory of deliberate intent to injure or kill." Id. at 236, 171 S.E. at 759.

Less than a year later this Court was asked again to rule on the legal sufficiency of a declaration in Maynard v. Island Creek Coal Co., 115 W.Va. 249, 175 S.E. 70 (1934), and in syllabus point 1 thereof it was held:

Allegations in a declaration of acts of gross negligence by the employer do not constitute deliberate intention within the meaning of the said statutory provision. To bring a case within said provision, at the very least, there must be alleged facts from which the natural and probable consequence reasonably to be anticipated would be death or serious injury to the employee affected thereby.

In addition, the Court stated that "(a) subscribing employer who has . . . complied with the statute is absolutely exempted from liability to employees for injuries received by them in the course of and resulting employment, except, if such injuries be Willfully inflicted by the employer . . ." Id. at 252, 175 S.E. at 71. (emphasis supplied) And, more than that, the Court said "that the carelessness, indifference, and negligence of an employer may be so wanton as to warrant a judicial determination that his ulterior intent was to inflict injury." Id. at 253, 175 S.E. at 72.

It is clear from this language that the Maynard court did not, in construing the statute, conclude that a showing of specific intent to injure or kill was...

To continue reading

Request your trial
190 cases
  • Pack v. Van Meter, No. 16561
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • October 29, 1986
    ...451 n. 4, 288 S.E.2d 511, 518 n. 4 (1982); cf. Annot., 4 A.L.R.4th 798 (1981). The principles of Mandolidis v. Elkins Industries, Inc., 161 W.Va. 695, 246 S.E.2d 907, 96 A.L.R.3d 1035 (1978), are not applicable simply because the plaintiff did not sue her employer. Even if we assume the ind......
  • Weigle v. Pifer
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of West Virginia
    • October 14, 2015
    ...and outrage claims, not all tortious acts which injure a plaintiff constitute negligence. See also Mandolidis v. Elkins Indus., Inc. , 161 W.Va. 695, 705, 246 S.E.2d 907 (1978)("The law of this jurisdiction recognizes a distinction between negligence, including gross negligence, and wilful,......
  • City of Charleston v. Joint Comm'n
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of West Virginia
    • July 20, 2020
    ...between negligence, including gross negligence, and wil[l]ful, wanton, and reckless misconduct." See Mandolidis v. Elkins Indus., Inc., 161 W.Va. 695, 246 S.E.2d 907, 913 (1978) (superseded by statute on other grounds); Groves v. Groves, 152 W.Va. 1, 158 S.E.2d 710, 713 (1968) ; Korzun v. S......
  • Ball v. Joy Mfg. Co., Civ. A. No. 1:87-0268
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of West Virginia
    • November 8, 1990
    ...actions." This pseudonym is in reference to the opinion of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in Mandolidis v. Elkins Industries, Inc., 246 S.E.2d 907 (W.Va.1978). In Mandolidis, the Court found ... the phrase "deliberate intent to produce such injury or death" must be held to mean ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Intentional disregard: remedies for the toxic workplace.
    • United States
    • Environmental Law Vol. 30 No. 4, September 2000
    • September 22, 2000
    ...a civil remedy in the case of willful or wanton conduct by the employer. The leading case on this is Mandolidis v. Elkins Indus., Inc., 246 S.E.2d 907 (W.Va. 1978). However, shortly after the court held for the worker in Mandolidis, the West Virginia legislature amended its statute to clari......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT