OPINION ISSUED NOVEMBER 15, 1992
WILLIAM R. HUTTON
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN RESOURCES
Claimant represents self.
John E. Shank, Deputy Attorney General, for respondent.
On July 28, 1991, claimant Hutton was a substance abuse therapist employed at Huntington State
Hospital by respondent, Department of Health and Human Resources.
It appears from the record (consisting of the notice of claim, respondent's Answer, and the statement
of respondent's counsel in open Court)that:
1. Claimant was on duty at the Hospital on July 28,1992, when he was engaged in conversation by
a male visitor to the hospital, one Thomas Russell, who was accompanied by a four-year-old girl,
the daughter of Russell and of a female patient. Claimant advised Russell that he (Hutton) was not
permitted to talk about the patient's case without her consent. Russell asserted that the child could
see her mother at any time, but claimant said a visit might take place only during visiting hours;
whereupon Russell suggested he might take the patient out of the Hospital, to which suggestion
claimant replied that Russell had no right to do so, and asked Russell to leave and, in the course of
escorting Russell to the door, touched Russell on the shoulder. Russell became hostile and abusive
and on the way out threatened to file a criminal action against claimant.
2. In fact, Russell did file a battery charge against claimant in the Magistrate Court of Cabell County,
and the magistrate found against claimant. Claimant appealed to the Circuit Court of Cabell County
which dismissed the criminal action. Claimant seeks to be indemnified to the extent of $1,500 for
legal fees incurred by him in and about his defense to the criminal charge.
3. At the time of the incident aforesaid, claimant was performing his duty in accordance with the
hospital protocol, and acted in good faith to carry out instructions for handling such a situation. The
respondent admits that as a result of the incident and criminal charges an internal agency
investigation of the incident was convened and concluded that claimant acted within the scope and
authority of his duties, as well as in conformity with applicable hospital procedures.
So, we come to the question: does respondent have a duty to indemnify claimant for reasonable
"As a general rule, the employer is bound to indemnify his employee for all loss or injury sustained
by his employment...In order than recovery may be sustained it must be made to appear that the
plaintiff, at the time complained of, was acting for and in place of his master in accordance with and representing his master's will and not his own, and that the business she was doing is strictly that of
his master and not in any respect his own." 53 Am. Jr. 2d 200, Master and Servant §132.
"A contract of indemnity need not to express; indemnity may be recovered if the evidence establishes
an implied contract...."
41 Am. Jur. 2d 705, Indemnity §19
"The rules governing whether a public official is entitled to indemnification for attorneys' fees are
the same in both the civil and criminal context. In order to justify indemnification from public funds,
the underlying action must arise from the discharge of an official duty in which the government has
an interest; the official must have acted in good faith; and the agency seeking to indemnify the
officer must have either the express or implied authority to do so."
3rd point, syl. by Court in Powers v. Goodwin, 291 S.E.2d 466 (W.Va. 1982).
It is apparent to the Court that in causing Russell to leave the hospital the claimant was acting strictly
in the line of duty, in accordance with the spirit and letter of the instructions promulgated by the
State for its own benefit. There is no evidence of personal motivation or
interest on the part of the claimant, and we find that he acted in good faith throughout the incident.
As Powers holds, the agency seeking to indemnify the officer must have either the express or implied
authority to do so. We are cited no statute of general application conferring authority to indemnify
State personnel charged with criminal acts committed in the performance of their duties or
responsibilities for attorneys' fees, but W.Va. Code §20-1-13 has, for more than fifty years,
authorized the director of conservation to pay for legal services rendered or to be rendered to his
personnel in defense of criminal charges involving their action performed int the line of duty; by
enactment of this statute, the Legislature has implicitly embraced the principle of indemnification.
If the civil sector has generally accepted indemnification, and the State has, by implication, accepted
it, why should there not be a moral obligation on the part of the State to indemnify this claimant, who
has necessarily employed an attorney to defend him for an act directed by the State for its own
Since the Legislature, in enacting W.Va. Code §20-1-13, limited indemnification to $500.00, we feel
constrained, also, to do so, and award the sum of $500.00 to the claimant.
Award of $500.00.
KEYSTONE HELICOPTER CORPORATION,
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY,
On this date this claim came before the Court upon a Stipulation filed by the parties as follows:
1. On or about January 28, 1992, Keystone filed with the Court of Claims its Notice of Claim against
2. The nature of Keystone's claim concerns certain maintenance and service performed by Keystone
on the State of West Virginia's Bell 222U model helicopter. The nature and scope of this
maintenance and service is set forth in certain documents referenced in Keystone's Notice of Claim,
and attached as exhibits thereto, namely Keystone's Quotation NO. 111B, the Department's Purchase
Order No. DPS19 and Keystone's Invoice No. 95872.
3. On or about March 3, 1992, the Department answered Keystone's Notice of Claim.
4. After undertaking discussions concerning the nature of Keystone's claim, the benefits derived by
the Department from the maintenance and services provided by Keystone, and other issues attendant
to the circumstances surrounding the matter, the Department and Keystone have reached an
agreement as to the amount of an award which represents fair consideration for the maintenance and
services provided by Keystone and the benefits therefrom received by the Department.
5. It is the agreement of the parties that Keystone be awarded the amount $95,000.00 as satisfaction
for its claim now pending before the West Virginia Court of Claims. The parties further stipulate that
this amount represents a percentage discount on the whole of the items which comprise Keystone's
claim and it does not represent an item by item determination of the various components of the
6. It is further agreed by and between the parties that this award is being stipulated to and agreed
upon as full, fair and final compromise of Keystone's claim now pending before the Court of Claims
as Claim No. CC-92-49 and that this award resolves all claims outstanding between the parties.
And the Court, having duly considered the facts stipulated and the reasonableness of the
recommended award, hereby adopts the Stipulation and ORDERS that an award be made to the
claimant in the amount of $95,000.00.
ENTERED: December 10, 1992
David G. Hanlon