Rowe v. Grapevine Corp., No. 26353.

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtSTONE.
Citation206 W.Va. 703,527 S.E.2d 814
PartiesCurniff ROWE, et al., Plaintiffs Below, Appellants, v. GRAPEVINE CORPORATION, et al., Defendants Below, Appellees.
Decision Date15 December 1999
Docket NumberNo. 26353.

527 S.E.2d 814
206 W.Va.
703

Curniff ROWE, et al., Plaintiffs Below, Appellants,
v.
GRAPEVINE CORPORATION, et al., Defendants Below, Appellees

No. 26353.

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

Submitted October 5, 1999.

Decided December 15, 1999.


527 S.E.2d 817
Gary G. Geffert, Bruce N. Goldstein, Mountain State Justice, Inc., Attorneys for Appellants

David H. Webb, Keyser, West Virginia, Attorney for Grapevine Corporation.

Mark Jenkinson, Douglas & Jenkinson, Martinsburg, West Virginia, John M. Simpson, Fulbright & Jaworski, Washington, D.C., Attorneys for Douglas Dirting, John W. Cushwa, J. David Cushwa, Blue Ridge View Orchard Co., Inc., William Kilmer, Lloyd Lutman, the Estate of L. Randolph Huyett, Marvin McK. Ellis, Gary Lutman and Russell Pitzer.

Patrick G. Henry, III, PLLC, Martinsburg, West Virginia, Attorney for Cumberland Valley Orchard, Inc., Bruce E. Eyler, and Phillip Eyler.

Stephen R. Fielder, Bunker Hill, West Virginia, Attorney for Beallair Orchards, Inc., A. Elwood Butler, B. Bruce Butler, John Porterfield, Porterfield Orchards, Inc., Mary Frances Hockman, and Twin Ridge Orchard Co., Inc.

Richard G. Gay, Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, Attorney for Henry Davenport, Charles O. Leavitt, Dorothy Leavitt, Del Orchard, Inc.

Manis H. Perkins, Jr., pro se.

Louis B. Athey, pro se.

527 S.E.2d 815

527 S.E.2d 816
STONE, Judge

This consolidated appeal1 involves the dismissal through summary judgment of claims brought by thirty-seven migrant farm workers under the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act ("Act"), West Virginia Code §§ 21-5-1 to -18 (1996 & Supp.1999). By order dated December 30, 1998, the Circuit Court of Berkeley County determined that the Plaintiffs' claims, which covered the period of 1983-1987, were barred under principles of res judicata since those claims had previously been dismissed in an administrative proceeding before the United States Department of Labor ("Department of Labor"). With regard to the claims for 1988-1989, the lower court ruled that those claims were subject to a settlement agreement entered into between the Department of Labor and Defendant Grapevine Corporation ("Grapevine"), and were, accordingly, precluded from further consideration. In addition, the lower court determined that the Act did not apply to Plaintiffs' claims that were predicated on a contractual provision guaranteeing them work and/or pay for three-fourths of the contract period ("three-fourths guarantee")2 and dismissed summarily the individual wage assignment claims brought by each of the named Plaintiffs. After a thorough review of

527 S.E.2d 818
these issues, we conclude that the lower court was in error with regard to its determination that res judicata principles precluded it from considering Plaintiffs' claims for 1983-1987 and in its dismissal, without findings, of the Plaintiffs' individual claims for unlawful wage assignments. The lower court did not commit error, however, in refusing to consider Plaintiffs' claims for 1988-1989; in holding that the Act did not apply to the three-fourths guarantee claims; or in dismissing the individually-named Defendants. Accordingly, we affirm, in part, and reverse, in part, the decision of the circuit court.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Plaintiffs are migrant farm workers from Jamaica3 who were hired to pick apples in the orchards of the Defendant apple growers in one or more years from 1983 through 1989. Grapevine, whose shareholder members are apple growers in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, was the contractual agent who traveled to Jamaica and entered into contracts with the individual farm workers on behalf of the individual growers.4 The apple-picking season lasts, at best, six to seven weeks. Despite this potential harvesting period, the picking season often ends earlier due to the fact that the apples trees are completely picked.5 As a matter of practice, the Defendant growers would provide Plaintiffs with an advance ten-day notice of the date when the apple-picking season would officially end.6

Citing the three-fourths guarantee language in their contracts,7 Plaintiffs brought suit in state court to recover the differential in the pay they received with what they alleged they were owed pursuant to the contractual provision guaranteeing them either a minimum amount of work or payment in lieu of available work. There is no dispute that each of the Defendant growers paid Plaintiffs their wages in full through the end of the ten-day notice period and there is also no dispute that, at the end of the ten-day period, there were no more apples in need of picking. In addition, the individual Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants wrongfully assigned portions of their wages for such items as insurance, travel-related expenses, and medical costs, in violation of the Act. See W.Va. Code § 21-5-3.

When this matter was previously before us, we determined that the Defendant growers were joint employers with the contracting agent, Grapevine, 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-motions for summary judgment that were filed in December 1995 and January

527 S.E.2d 819
1996, Judge Wilkes denied Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, but granted partial summary judgment to Defendants for the 1983-1987 claims on res judicata grounds due to the dismissal of these same claims by a federal administrative law judge. Judge Wilkes also dismissed individual Defendants Charles and Dorothy Leavitt,8 holding that they were not employers within the meaning of the Act. Plaintiffs sought relief from both of these orders9 under Rule 59(e) of the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure. Due to a variety of factors, this case did not proceed for a lengthy period of time.10

By order dated December 30, 1998, Judge Taylor denied Plaintiffs' motion to alter or amend the order of February 28, 1996, dismissing Defendants Charles and Dorothy Leavitt and further denied Plaintiffs' motion to alter or amend the order of July 22, 1996, dismissing Plaintiffs' claims for the three-fourths guarantee for the years 1983 to 1987 on res judicata grounds. In this same order, Judge Taylor, ruling for the first time on these issues, dismissed Plaintiffs' three-fourths guarantee claims for 1988 and 1989; dismissed Plaintiffs' claims for liquidated damages under the Act on grounds that the three-fourths guarantee payments were not "wages" under the Act; and dismissed Plaintiffs' unlawful wage assignment claims. Plaintiffs appeal from the adverse rulings made in the lower court's order entered on December 30, 1998.

II. Standard of Review

Plaintiffs contend that our review of this matter should be de novo consistent with our holding in syllabus point one of Painter v. Peavy, 192 W.Va. 189, 451 S.E.2d 755 (1994), which identifies the standard of review for summary judgment rulings. This case does not present itself, however, as a typical matter that has been wholly resolved on grounds of summary judgment. Instead, the matter before us involves the lower court's reconsideration of previous orders pursuant to pending motions to alter or amend in addition to unresolved summary judgment motions. In syllabus point one of Wickland v. American Travellers Life Insurance Co., 204 W.Va. 430, 513 S.E.2d 657 (1998), we held that

[t]he 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.

Because the orders11 which Plaintiffs sought to alter or amend were both granted as motions for summary judgment, the applicable standard of review which governs Judge Taylor's consideration of Plaintiffs' motions to alter or amend the judgments previously entered by Judge Wilkes is de novo under our holding in Wickland. With regard to the remaining matters that were resolved for the first time in Judge Taylor's December 30, 1998, order, our review of those issues is also on a de novo basis as those matters were ruled upon on grounds of summary judgment. See Peavy, 192 W.Va. at 190, 451 S.E.2d at 756, syl. pt. 1.

527 S.E.2d 820
III. Discussion

A. Dismissal of 1983-1987 Claims on Res Judicata Grounds

In 1990, Plaintiffs12 filed a complaint with the Department of Labor alleging that Grapevine had violated the three-fourths guarantee provision during the 1983 to 1989 picking seasons. By order dated June 16, 1994, the administrative law judge hearing the matter for the Department of Labor determined that the claims for 1983-1987 were time-barred by the provisions of 20 C.F.R. § 655.110(a) (1998).13 That provision provides that "[i]f, during the period of two years after a temporary alien agricultural labor certification has been granted ... [and the regional administrator] has reason to believe that an employer violated a material term or condition of the temporary alien agricultural labor certification, the [regional administrator] shall ... investigate the matter." Id. Concluding that the Department of Labor "lacked the authority to proceed with the investigation" under the prescribed two-year period for conducting investigations, the administrative law judge dismissed Plaintiffs' claims for 1983-1987.14

When considering cross-summary judgment motions of the parties in 1996, Judge Wilkes found:

the plaintiffs herein were parties to the prior action (or in privity with parties to that action); that the three-quarter guarantee claims set forth in the present case with respect to the 1983-1987 harvest seasons are substantially the same as those in the prior litigation; and that the earlier litigation resulted in
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13 practice notes
  • Harper v. Public Service Com'n of West Virginia, No. 2:03-CV-00516.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Southern District of West Virginia
    • February 27, 2006
    ...relitigating the issues that were decided or the issues that could have been decided in the earlier action.'" Rowe v. Grapevine Corp., 206 W.Va. 703, 527 S.E.2d 814, 820 (1999) (quoting State v. Miller, 194 W.Va. 3, 459 S.E.2d 114, 120 (1995)). In addition, res judicata applies to quasi-jud......
  • Baker v. Chemours Co. FC, No. 19-0906
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • February 25, 2021
    ...he represents the same legal right." 204 W. Va. at 478, 513 S.E.2d at 705. We expanded upon this formulation in Rowe v. Grapevine Corp. , 206 W. Va. 703, 527 S.E.2d 814 (1999), holding that privity "is merely a word used to say that the relationship between one who is a party on the record ......
  • Horne v. Lightning Energy Servs., LLC, Civil Action No. 1:15CV84.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Northern District of West Virginia
    • August 12, 2015
    ...one who is a party on the record and another is close enough to include that other within the res judicata." Rowe v. Grapevine Corp., 206 W.Va. 703, 527 S.E.2d 814, 826 (1999) (citations omitted). Virtual representation is a variety of privity that "precludes relitigation of any issue that ......
  • Beahm v. 7 Eleven, Inc., No. 33833.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • August 26, 2008
    ...one who is a party on the record and another is close enough to include that other within the res judicata.'" Rowe v. Grapevine Corp., 206 W.Va. 703, 715, 527 S.E.2d 814 (1999). In other words, "preclusion is fair so long as the relationship between the nonparty and a party was such that th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
13 cases
  • Harper v. Public Service Com'n of West Virginia, No. 2:03-CV-00516.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Southern District of West Virginia
    • February 27, 2006
    ...relitigating the issues that were decided or the issues that could have been decided in the earlier action.'" Rowe v. Grapevine Corp., 206 W.Va. 703, 527 S.E.2d 814, 820 (1999) (quoting State v. Miller, 194 W.Va. 3, 459 S.E.2d 114, 120 (1995)). In addition, res judicata applies to quasi-jud......
  • Baker v. Chemours Co. FC, No. 19-0906
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • February 25, 2021
    ...he represents the same legal right." 204 W. Va. at 478, 513 S.E.2d at 705. We expanded upon this formulation in Rowe v. Grapevine Corp. , 206 W. Va. 703, 527 S.E.2d 814 (1999), holding that privity "is merely a word used to say that the relationship between one who is a party on the record ......
  • Horne v. Lightning Energy Servs., LLC, Civil Action No. 1:15CV84.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Northern District of West Virginia
    • August 12, 2015
    ...one who is a party on the record and another is close enough to include that other within the res judicata." Rowe v. Grapevine Corp., 206 W.Va. 703, 527 S.E.2d 814, 826 (1999) (citations omitted). Virtual representation is a variety of privity that "precludes relitigation of any issue that ......
  • Beahm v. 7 Eleven, Inc., No. 33833.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • August 26, 2008
    ...one who is a party on the record and another is close enough to include that other within the res judicata.'" Rowe v. Grapevine Corp., 206 W.Va. 703, 715, 527 S.E.2d 814 (1999). In other words, "preclusion is fair so long as the relationship between the nonparty and a party was such that th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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