Rowe v. Grapevine Corp., No. 22512

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtNEELY; BROTHERTON; FOX
Citation193 W.Va. 274,456 S.E.2d 1
Parties, 130 Lab.Cas. P 57,877, 2 Wage & Hour Cas.2d (BNA) 1143 Curniff ROWE, et al., Appellants, v. GRAPEVINE CORPORATION, et al., Appellees.
Decision Date16 February 1995
Docket NumberNo. 22512

Page 1

456 S.E.2d 1
193 W.Va. 274, 130 Lab.Cas. P 57,877,
2 Wage & Hour Cas.2d (BNA) 1143
Curniff ROWE, et al., Appellants,
v.
GRAPEVINE CORPORATION, et al., Appellees.
No. 22512.
Supreme Court of Appeals of
West Virginia.
Submitted Jan. 24, 1995.
Decided Feb. 16, 1995.
Syllabus by the Court

1. The West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act, W.Va.Code 21-5-1 [1987], et seq. is applicable to any firm that suffers or permits a person to work; therefore, when foreign agricultural workers are recruited by a corporation whose only activity is the hiring, transporting, feeding, housing and payment of workers who perform all their services for individual growers, the individual growers are joint employers of the workers for the purposes of the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act.

Page 2

[193 W.Va. 275] 2. When the agent of an employer enters into a written contract with a worker and the object of the written contract is to provide labor to the employer, the ten-year statute of limitations for an action on a written contract, W.Va.Code 55-2-6 [1923], applies to an action against both the employer and the agent.

Garry G. Geffert, West Virginia Legal Services Plan, Inc., Martinsburg, and Bruce Goldstein, Farmworker Justice Fund, Inc., Washington, D.C., for Rowe, et al.

Richared G. Gay, Berkeley Springs, for Leavitt Orchard.

John M. Simpson, Jacqueline R. Depew, Fulbright & Jaworski, Washington, D.C., and Mark Jenkinson, Hunt, Lees, Farrell & Kessler, Martinsburg, for Dirting, Ellis, Huyett, Kilmer and Lutnam.

NEELY, Chief Justice:

This appeal is from a summary judgment entered by the Circuit Court of Berkeley County. Although the underlying case is complex both factually and legally, the narrow issues before us today are extraordinarily simple: (1) Did the circuit court err by granting summary judgment in favor of the individual defendants on the grounds that the individual defendants in this case were not "employers" under the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act, W.Va.Code 21-5-1 [1987], et seq. and (2) did the circuit court err in granting summary judgment on the grounds that insofar as it concerned the individual defendants, Count III of the plaintiffs' complaint is subject to the five-year statute of limitations set forth in W.Va.Code 55-2-6 [1923]. We conclude that the circuit court erred in both these legal rulings and, therefore, reverse and remand for further proceedings.

Plaintiffs in this case are foreign nationals who, at various times, worked temporarily as apple pickers in West Virginia from 1983 through 1989 pursuant to the United States Department of Labor's temporary foreign worker program. Plaintiffs were hired by Tri-Country Growers, Inc., a predecessor of defendant Grapevine Corporation (hereafter collectively referred to as "Grapevine"). Grapevine is a corporation organized under the laws of the State of West Virginia. The individual defendants are orchardists who were shareholders in Grapevine during the 1983 through 1989 period. Plaintiffs picked apples in the orchards of the individual orchardist defendants.

Plaintiffs' employment relationship with Grapevine was contractual. The only signatories to the employment contracts at issue in this case were plaintiffs, Grapevine and a representative of the West Indies Central Labour Organization. None of the shareholders of Grapevine who are defendants in these cases was a signatory to those contracts. Plaintiffs contend, inter alia, that certain monies deducted from their pay were invalid wage assignments because they allegedly did not meet the requirements of the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act (hereinafter WPCA), W.Va.Code 21-5-1 [1987] et seq. For example, plaintiff Pinnock claims that defendants Charles and Dorothy Leavitt and Del Orchard, Inc., violated the WPCA by withholding $6.17 for meals and $12 for insurance in 1989. Plaintiff Thomas makes a similar claim against the Leavitt defendants and Del Orchard, Inc. of $6.17 for meals and $4 for insurance in 1989.

The wage withholdings at issue were made by Grapevine pursuant to written instruments signed by Grapevine and each plaintiff. None of the individual defendants, namely, Dirting, Ellis, Huyett, Kilmer, Lutman, Charles and Dorothy Leavitt or Del Orchard, Inc., was a signatory to any withholding document. None of the individual defendants received any of the sums that were deducted.

During the period at issue in this case, Grapevine recruited and hired plaintiffs, sending a representative to Jamaica for that purpose....

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5 practice notes
  • Rowe v. Grapevine Corp., No. 26353.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 15, 1999
    ...that a ten-year statute of limitations applied to Plaintiffs' contractual-based claims. See Rowe v. Grapevine Corp. ("Rowe I"), 193 W.Va. 274, 456 S.E.2d 1 (1995). Following our ruling in Rowe I, Plaintiffs filed a consolidated amended class action on July 31, 1995. In response to......
  • Clay v. Consol Pa. Coal Co., Civil Action No. 5:12CV92.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Northern District of West Virginia
    • July 3, 2013
    ...Inc., 466 F.3d 298, 306 (4th Cir.2006) (applying joint employer doctrine to Fair Labor Standards Act claim); Rowe v. Grapevine Corp., 193 W.Va. 274, 456 S.E.2d 1, 3–4 (1995) (applying joint employer doctrine to West Virginia WPCA claim); Amoroso v. Marion County Comm'n, 172 W.Va. 342, 305 S......
  • Legg v. Johnson, Simmerman & Broughton, No. 30591.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 3, 2002
    ...provision is different from and broader than the common law definition of an "employee." See, Rowe v. Grapevine Corporation, 193 W.Va. 274, 456 S.E.2d 1 (1995). And it was adopted to further an important public policy: "This public policy requires employers to pay the wages o......
  • Saunders v. Tri-State Block Corp., No. 26853.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 12, 2000
    ...and that David C. Saunders was actually working for or through LEMET or Lehigh Metallurgical Services. In Rowe v. Grapevine Corporation, 193 W.Va. 274, 456 S.E.2d 1 (1995), the Court indicated that the fact that an individual was an employee of one "employer" did not preclude him ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • Rowe v. Grapevine Corp., No. 26353.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 15, 1999
    ...and that a ten-year statute of limitations applied to Plaintiffs' contractual-based claims. See Rowe v. Grapevine Corp. ("Rowe I"), 193 W.Va. 274, 456 S.E.2d 1 (1995). Following our ruling in Rowe I, Plaintiffs filed a consolidated amended class action on July 31, 1995. In response to cross......
  • Clay v. Consol Pa. Coal Co., Civil Action No. 5:12CV92.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Northern District of West Virginia
    • July 3, 2013
    ...Inc., 466 F.3d 298, 306 (4th Cir.2006) (applying joint employer doctrine to Fair Labor Standards Act claim); Rowe v. Grapevine Corp., 193 W.Va. 274, 456 S.E.2d 1, 3–4 (1995) (applying joint employer doctrine to West Virginia WPCA claim); Amoroso v. Marion County Comm'n, 172 W.Va. 342, 305 S......
  • Legg v. Johnson, Simmerman & Broughton, No. 30591.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • December 3, 2002
    ...This provision is different from and broader than the common law definition of an "employee." See, Rowe v. Grapevine Corporation, 193 W.Va. 274, 456 S.E.2d 1 (1995). And it was adopted to further an important public policy: "This public policy requires employers to pay the wages of working ......
  • Saunders v. Tri-State Block Corp., No. 26853.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • July 12, 2000
    ...and that David C. Saunders was actually working for or through LEMET or Lehigh Metallurgical Services. In Rowe v. Grapevine Corporation, 193 W.Va. 274, 456 S.E.2d 1 (1995), the Court indicated that the fact that an individual was an employee of one "employer" did not preclude him from pursu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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