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Chapter 55     Entire Code
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Chapter 55  |  Article 55 - 17  |  Section 5
WVC 55- CHAPTER 55. ACTIONS, SUITS AND ARBITRATION;
JUDICIAL SALE.

WVC 55 - 17 - ARTICLE 17. PROCEDURES FOR CERTAIN ACTIONS AGAINST THE STATE.

WVC 55 - 17 - 1 §55-17-1. Findings; purpose.
(a) The Legislature finds that there are numerous actions, suits and proceedings filed against state government agencies and officials that may affect the public interest. Depending upon the outcome, this type of litigation may have significant consequences that can only be addressed by subsequent legislative action. In these actions, the Legislature is not directly involved as a party. The Legislature is not a proper party to these actions because of an extensive structure of constitutional protections established to safeguard the prerogatives of the legislative branch under our governmental system of checks and balances. Government agencies and their officials require more notice of these actions and time to respond to them and the Legislature requires more timely information regarding these actions, all in order to protect the public interest. The Legislature further finds that protection of the public interest is best served by clarifying that no government agency may be subject to awards of punitive damages in any judicial proceeding.

(b) The Legislature further finds that there are numerous actions, suits and proceedings filed on behalf of the State of West Virginia or a government agency thereof, that may affect the public interest. Depending upon the outcome, this type of litigation may have significant consequences that can only be addressed by subsequent legislative action. In such litigation, the Governor, Department of Administration and the Legislature may not be directly involved as parties. Additionally, the Governor, Department of Administration and the Legislature need advance notice of potential moneys that may become available as a result of seizure or forfeiture of assets under state or federal criminal law. The Governor, Department of Administration and the Legislature require more timely information regarding these actions in order to protect the public interest. The Legislature further finds that protection of the public interest is best served by requiring notice to the Governor, the Secretary of the Department of Administration, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Delegates of any action brought on behalf of the state or a government agency thereof, which may result in a judgment, award or settlement and when the state or a government agency thereof, becomes eligible for moneys from state or federal seizure or forfeiture of assets in criminal cases.

(c) It is the purpose of this article to establish procedures to be followed in certain civil actions filed on behalf of or against state government agencies and their officials.

WVC 55 - 17 - 2 §55-17-2. Definitions.
For the purposes of this section:

(1) "Action" means a proceeding instituted against a governmental agency in a circuit court or in the supreme court of appeals, except actions instituted pursuant to statutory provisions that authorize a specific procedure for appeal or similar method of obtaining relief from the ruling of an administrative agency and actions instituted to appeal or otherwise seek relief from a criminal conviction, including, but not limited to, actions to obtain habeas corpus relief.

(2) "Government agency" means a constitutional officer or other public official named as a defendant or respondent in his or her official capacity, or a department, division, bureau, board, commission or other agency or instrumentality within the executive branch of state government that has the capacity to sue or be sued;

(3) "Judgment" means a judgment, order or decree of a court which would:

(A) Require or otherwise mandate an expansion of, increase in, or addition to the services, duties or responsibilities of a government agency;

(B) Require or otherwise mandate an increase in the expenditures of a government agency above the level of expenditures approved or authorized before the entry of the proposed judgment;

(C) Require or otherwise mandate the employment or other hiring of, or the contracting with, personnel or other entities by a government agency in addition to the personnel or other entities employed or otherwise hired by, or contracted with or by the government agency;

(D) Require or otherwise mandate payment of a claim based upon a breach of contract by a government agency; or

(E) Declare an act of the Legislature unconstitutional and, therefore, unenforceable.

WVC 55 - 17 - 3 §55-17-3. Preliminary procedures; service on Attorney General; notice to the Legislature.
(a)(1) Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, at least thirty days prior to the institution of an action against a government agency, the complaining party or parties must provide the chief officer of the government agency and the Attorney General written notice, by certified mail, return receipt requested, of the alleged claim and the relief desired. Upon receipt, the chief officer of the government agency shall forthwith forward a copy of the notice to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Delegates. The provisions of this subdivision do not apply in actions seeking injunctive relief where the court finds that irreparable harm would have occurred if the institution of the action was delayed by the provisions of this subsection.

(2) The written notice to the chief officer of the government agency and the Attorney General required by subdivision (1) of this subsection is considered to be provided on the date of mailing of the notice by certified mail, return receipt requested. If the written notice is provided to the chief officer of the government agency as required by subdivision (1) of this subsection, any applicable statute of limitations is tolled for thirty days from the date the notice is provided and, if received by the government agency as evidenced by the return receipt of the certified mail, for thirty days from the date of the returned receipt.

(3) A copy of any complaint filed in an action as defined in section two of this article shall be served on the Attorney General.

(b) (1) Notwithstanding any procedural rule or any provision of this code to the contrary, in an action instituted against a government agency that seeks a judgment, as defined in section two of this article, the chief officer of the government agency which is named a party to the action shall, upon receipt of service, forthwith give written notice thereof, together with a copy of the complaint filed, to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Delegates.

(2) Upon request, the chief officer of the government agency shall furnish the President and Speaker with copies of pleadings filed and discovery produced in the proceeding and other documents, information and periodic reports relating to the proceeding as may be requested.

(3) The chief officer of a government agency who fails without good cause to comply with the provisions of this subsection is guilty of misfeasance. This subsection does not require a notice or report to the President and the Speaker that no action has been instituted or is pending against a governmental agency during a specified period.

(c) The requirements for notice and delivery of pleadings and other documents to the President of the Senate or Speaker of the House of Delegates pursuant to the provisions of this section do not constitute a waiver of any Constitutional immunity or protection that proscribes or limits actions, suits or proceedings against the Legislature or the State of West Virginia.

(d) The exercise of authority granted by the provisions of this section does not subject the Legislature or any member of the Legislature to any terms of a judgment.

WVC 55 - 17 - 4 §55-17-4. Procedures pending action.
Notwithstanding any other provisions of law to the contrary:

(1) A government agency shall be allowed sixty days to serve an answer to a complaint or petition for which a summons has been issued and served upon a government agency;

(2) Judgment by default may not be entered against a government agency in an action as defined in section two of this article unless the court, after a hearing on a motion for default judgment, finds that the government agency clearly intends to fail to appear, plead or otherwise defend in the action; and

(3) No government agency may be ordered to pay punitive damages in any action.

WVC 55 - 17 - 5 §55-17-5. Notice of settlement, seizure or forfeiture.
(a) So that the Governor, the Department of Administration and the Legislature may be aware of potential awards, the person or entity bringing any action on behalf of the State of West Virginia, or a government agency thereof, which could result in settlement or judgment shall upon commencement of the action and prior to entering into any settlement agreement which directs how the money should be expended, notify and provide copies of pleadings and related documents to the Governor, the Secretary of the Department of Administration, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Delegates.

(b) When a government agency becomes aware that moneys may be available to them from a state or federal seizure or forfeiture in a criminal case they shall notify the Governor, the Secretary of the Department of Administration, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Delegates: Provided, That the total value of the assets to be seized or forfeited exceeds two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

WVC 55 - 17 - 6 §55-17-6. Construction of article.
(a) It is the express intent of the Legislature that the provisions of this article be liberally construed to effectuate the public policy set forth in section one of this article.

(b) The provisions of this article may not be construed to impose any liability upon a state agency from which the agency is otherwise immune.

Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2013 1st Special Session
The WV Code Online is an unofficial copy of the annotated WV Code, provided as a convenience. It has NOT been edited for publication, and is not in any way official or authoritative.


Recent legislation affecting the Code

Citation Year/Session Short Title
§55 - 7 B- 6 D - (Repealed Code)
SENATE BILL - 586
PASSED - Regular Session

SB586 ENR  (Uploaded - 03/25/2014)
Removing unconstitutional language regarding jurors and verdicts in certain civil litigation
Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2013 1st Special Session
The WV Code Online is an unofficial copy of the annotated WV Code, provided as a convenience. It has NOT been edited for publication, and is not in any way official or authoritative.
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