Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Beckley - Lawsuits and other allegations of wrongdoing against the West Virginia State Police cost the state nearly $5 million over the past five years, the Register-Herald newspaper reported. The Board of Risk and Insurance Management paid out $3.1 million to settle claims against the state police. BRIM also spent $1.5 million in investigating the cases, officials said.
[USA Today]
Attorney general supports Preston smoking ban
The West Virginia Attorney General has opined that a county smoking ban imposed by a board of health overrules and nullifies a less-restrictive ban imposed by a city within that county. [Dominion Post]
Supreme Court protects companies' seniority policies on jobs
Disabled workers can't leapfrog others under ADA
WASHINGTON - Companies' seniority policies almost always trump the demands of disabled employees, the Supreme Court ruled Monday in a 5-4 decision that continued the justices' trend of limiting the reach of the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act.
[Charleston Gazette (Associated Press)]

Monday, April 29, 2002

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals released ten new opinions last week. Click here to see summaries prepared by W. Va. Supreme Court Clerk Rory Perry. (Thanks, Rory!)

LAUDERDALE v. NEAL, et al., No. 29963 (Per Curiam)(April 26, 2002).

LAMBERT v. WCD/VECELLIO & GROGAN, et al., Nos. 30041-30043 (Davis, C.J.)(Maynard, J., concurring)(April 26, 2002).

CNG TRANSMISSION CORP. v. CRAIG, Tax Comm'r, No. 29996 (Starcher, J.)(April 26, 2002).

SER WV DHHR, BUREAU for CHILD SUPP. ENF., et al., v. CARPENTER, No, 29774 (Davis, C.J.)(Albright, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part)(April 26, 2002).

AMERICAN STATES INS. CO. v. TANNER, et al., No. 29991 (Davis, C.J.)(April 26, 2002).

SER MOBIL CORP., et al. v. GAUGHN, et al., No. 30314. (Per Curiam)(Maynard, J., concurring)(Davis, C.J., disqualified)(Madden, Judge, by temporary assignment)(April 26, 2002).

JEWELL v. FORD, et al., No. 30037 (Per Curiam)(Starcher, J., concurring)(April 12, 2002).

SHROYER v. HARRISON COUNTY BD. Of ED., No. 30033 (Per Curiam)(McGraw, J. and Albright, J., dissenting)(April 12, 2002).

BELCHER v. WAL-MART Inc., et al., No. 30000 (Per Curiam)(Starcher, J. and McGraw, J., dissenting)(April 8, 2002).

STATE v. ROBIN BARNHART, No. 29967 (Per Curiam)(April 8, 2002).

Thursday, April 25, 2002

Charleston Daily Mail: Court displays debated
The state Supreme Court will meet Thursday to discuss whether a policy is needed to regulate information displayed in county courthouses for causes such as victims' rights.

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

USA Today: Bill to ban job discrimination against gays OK'd. Senate seems likely to pass bill thanks to broad support from corporate America.

Associated Press

At Boeing Co., workers no longer spend hours hovering over a fax
machine. Instead, the aerospace giant uses the Internet to send 18,000
faxes and receive 15,000 each month via e-mail. A new crop of
sophisticated, networked fax products is gaining ground as corporate
technology managers begin to appreciate the convenience and savings.
Internet faxing can involve a fax machine hooked to the Internet, a PC
with a fax modem or an Internet connection or, in Boeing's case, a fax
service that uses computer servers to do all the heavy lifting and give
users remote access to faxing via the Web.
Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP

In February of this year, the IRS issued the long-awaited final and
proposed regulations under COBRA, which are generally effective for plan
years beginning after 1999. Before the effective date, an employer must
operate in good faith compliance with a reasonable interpretation of the
statutory requirements.

Friday, April 19, 2002

The Charleston Gazette Online: "The owners and operators of an Eastern Panhandle wood treatment plant deliberately exposed workers to the creosote that poisoned them with fatal forms of cancer, a jury concluded Thursday. Hanson-Beazers East and CSX share equal blame for the four deaths, the Kanawha County Circuit Court jury found. But jurors refused to award 'medical monitoring' costs or other damages to surviving workers from the Green Springs plant and their families. The jury awarded $825,000, including $476,000 in punitive damages, to the estates of four area residents whose deaths were blamed on creosote exposure."

This is the second high-profile case this year in which the jurors have refused to award damages for medical monitoring. (The first was a suit filed by healthy smokers against the U.S. tobacco companies decided in January.) The cause of action was created by our State Supreme Court in the 1999 decision Bower v. Westinghouse Electric Corporation. West Virginia courts now allow uninjured people who have been exposed to some toxic, disease-causing substance (in this case, creosote), to sue and recover the costs of medical monitoring. So far, jurors have been less than impressed with equities of these suits.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

E-signatures Still Not Catching On
Despite the enactment of the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act at the federal level, and the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act at the state level (effective July 13, 2001), both of which give the green light to electronic signatures, I have yet to sign any document electronically except my tax return this past February. Why can't we get our acts together and start taking advantage of e-signatures? You would think that as document-intensive as the practice of law is, lawyers would be leading the way in the private sector for the use of e-signatures.

Troy Wolverton, writing for ZDNet, expresses some thoughts as to why e-signing has not caught on.

The government has left the law open-ended as to the method (and technology) used to e-sign documents, and no standard seems to have yet emerged. They can be obtained through encrypted passwords or so-called "digital fingerprints," as well as by unsecured methods, such as faxed signatures or clicking an acceptance button on a Web page. The most secure methods, at this point, seem too complicated for minor transactions and require subscriptions to various third-party services. Before e-signatures will be used for major transactions such as mortgages and insurance contracts, companies will want to see how the court decisions come down for people attempting to avoid contracts bearing their electronic signature. Also, until biometric authentication devices such as iris scanning or fingerprinting becomes commonplace, knowing for certain who is on the other side of any online deal is nearly impossible.
Welfare Reform through the Courts?
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals voted 4-1 Wednesday to consider a case involving two McDowell County families who lost their welfare benefits. (Justice Spike Maynard, the Court's lone conservative, cast the "no" vote).

The plaintiffs exhausted their 60 months of welfare benefits, and both were denied an extension. This case promises to be another political hot potato for the Court, as evidenced by the numerous "Friend of the Court" briefs already filed by such organizations as the AFL-CIO and the Welfare Law Center of New York. According to one report, "The state cannot afford to restore benefits to the 200 families who have been cut off or the 500 families who are scheduled to be cut off during the next year[.]"