Bowles Rice Prevails in Appeal of Deliberate Intent Matter

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April 23, 2015

Bowles Rice prevailed in an appeal of a deliberate intent summary judgment to the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.

The Supreme Court’s decision affirmed a 2013 ruling in the Circuit Court of Mason County, West Virginia, that the negligence doctrine of res ipsa loquitor – "the thing speaks for itself" – must be rejected, as negligence theories do not apply to the statutory cause of action of deliberate intent.

On appeal, plaintiff's counsel raised, for the first time, failure to properly inspect under the case of Ryan v. Clonch. The Supreme Court stated that plaintiff's counsel waived its right to assert Ryan v Clonch, because it was not argued to the Circuit Court. 

This claim concerned an employee injured when a hydro-reactive chemical substance placed in a dumpster exploded during a rainstorm. Despite taking numerous depositions, plaintiff was unable to find evidence that the company was aware of how the substance was placed in the dumpster.

Absent any evidence of actual knowledge, plaintiff creatively argued that res ipsa loquitur doctrine should be applied in order to find the respondent knew how the substance was placed in the dumpster. 

A summary judgment was granted in favor of the defense, with limited oral argument, as the motion filed by Bowles Rice had already convinced the judge that the petitioner failed to establish (1) the respondent’s actual knowledge of the unsafe working condition, and (2) that the respondent intentionally exposed plaintiff to the unsafe working condition.