Erwin v. West Virginia American Water Company, Inc., (Cabell County, WV 07-C-1067)

The plaintiff was an administrative assistant at a water utility company. While off work for non-work-related medical issues, the company discovered discrepancies in the employee's time cards, which investigation revealed that the employee had been mischaracterizing her time off and obtained paid time off in excess of what was permissible. While in the middle of the company's investigation of the potential time discrepancies, the employee left work one day and traveled to a Sears store on her lunch hour to shop for treadmills, which she was going to purchase for the office using a company credit card. While testing a treadmill, the employee fell and sustained injuries. She initially did not seek medical attention, but later that same day, she went to the hospital, where it was learned that she had broken her foot. While the employee was off work, the company completed its investigation into the time discrepancies. When the employee returned to work after a one week, medically-excused absence, the company provided her an opportunity to explain the time card discrepancies. The employee was not able to provide an explanation, and instead obtained a doctor's excuse to go off again on temporary total disability. The company fired the employee for her conduct in reference to the time cards. In addition, the company also initially opposed her claim for workers compensation benefits, which benefits were initially denied. That initial denial was eventually reversed, and the employee received partial disability benefits. The plaintiff filed a civil suit alleging that the company made fraudulent misrepresentations during her workers compensation proceedings. In addition, she claimed that her termination was in retaliation for having filed a claim for workers compensation benefits. Finally, she claimed that the company discriminated against her on the basis of her having filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits. After extensive discovery and motion practice, the trial court dismissed all claims for punitive damages and alleged lost long-term disability benefits under ERISA, whereupon the case settled shortly before trial.