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January 2016 Archives

Senate Bill 294- Compulsory Direct Deposit of Wages

Senate Bill 294, which was introduced on January 14, 2016, seeks to enact new law through which West Virginia employers may require their employees to be paid wages or salaries by direct deposit or electronic transfer, so long as, certain conditions are met including, but not limited to, the employee must have the ability to withdraw his/her entire net pay without having to pay a fee to the financial institution holding the account. Direct deposit and/or electronic transfer would not be required if it would violate a collective bargaining agreement or other labor contract. This bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 274- Civil Jurisdiction of Magistrate Courts

Senate Bill 274, which was introduced on January 14, 2016, seeks to drastically change the jurisdictional limits and authority of the Magistrate Court system. As proposed, the amount in controversy jurisdictional limit would increase from $5,000 to $30,000. As a result, many more cases would be subject to litigation in the Magistrate Courts. The bill also includes a provision which would allow a Circuit Court judge to order that a case be litigated and/or tried in Magistrate Court if its amount in controversy is $30,000 or less. No other jurisdictional requirements and/or limitations are affected by this bill. Senate Bill 274 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 302- Limiting Product Liability Actions

One of the most significant issues in product liability litigation today is whether retailers and distributors can be held strictly liable for defective products. The majority of jurisdictions, including West Virginia, impute strict liability on retailers and distributors. Accordingly, even an innocent seller in West Virginia may be subject to liability simply due to its presence in the chain of distribution. Senate Bill 302, if enacted, seeks to limit sellers' liability in product liability actions.

West Virginia Workers' Compensation

In past sessions, several bills were proposed that would have dismantled statutory reforms to the West Virginia Workers' Compensation Act and returned West Virginia to the days of "liberal" evidentiary interpretation in Workers' Compensation matters. Notably, these bills would have eliminated the medical management rule known as "Rule 20" and given the treating physician almost complete discretion and authority to offer any treatment and add any conditions to the claim; eliminated the preponderance of the evidence standard for evidentiary interpretation and reinstated the "rule of liberality;" and created or re-created benefits which are not currently payable. Similar measures have been introduced this session, but it is not expected that any of these proposals will gain traction.

Senate Bill 291- Law Enforcement Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems

As unmanned aircrafts or "drones" become more accessible with wider ranges of uses to the general public, we can expect the use of unmanned aircrafts by law enforcement agencies to increase. It is easy to see the benefits: assisting in criminal investigations, collecting evidence, and conducting surveillance, to name a few. But just as we expect law enforcement agencies to honor and respect our constitutional rights when conducting "traditional" forms of police work, we should also expect law enforcement agencies to deploy unmanned aircrafts in the course of their work in a constitutionally permissible manner. Senate Bill No. 291 was introduced on January 13, 2016 with the purpose of establishing procedures for the use of unmanned aircraft systems by law enforcement, and seeks to strike a balance between their use and our expectations of privacy as citizens.

House Bill 2615- West Virginia Small Business Capital Act

At the start of the 2016 Regular Legislative Session, Delegates Lane and Faircloth introduced House Bill 2615, which creates the West Virginia Small Business Capital Act (the "Act"). The Act exempts the offer and sale of certain securities from the requirements of the West Virginia Uniform Securities Act and is designed to provide small businesses with additional start-up options.

Senate Bill 255- Permitting Creditor to Collect and Recover from Consumer Creditor's Reasonable Expenses

Consumer creditors are often faced with incurring fees and/or other expenses incidental to the consumer's principle obligation that they believe should legitimately be passed on to the consumer. Many creditors who have attempted to collect these fees, however, have faced potential violations of the West Virginia Consumer Credit Protection Act, which presently bars debt collectors from the collection of or the attempt to collect any interest or other charge, fee, or expense incidental to the principle obligation unless such interest or incidental fee, charge, or expense is expressly authorized by the agreement creating or modifying the obligation and by statute or regulation. While a consumer may have expressly agreed to pay incidental fees and costs in the agreement creating the obligation, the WVCCPA severely limits those circumstances in which the creditor can actually recover the fees.

Senate Bill 111 - Prohibiting Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation

In many states, both before and after the United States Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell that effectively legalized gay marriage, legislatures and municipalities have sought to enact legislation to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in a variety of contexts. West Virginia Senate Bill 111, introduced on January 13, 2016, seeks to amend the West Virginia Human Rights Act and the West Virginia Fair Housing Act to include "sexual orientation" amongst the various protected classes identified in those anti-discrimination measures.