Arie M. Spitz

Experience

Received Favorable Ruling for Client During Age Discrimination Trial

Client: A Coal Company

We represented our clients, a coal company and two of its management employees, in a case involving age and disability discrimination, hostile work environment and two other counts before a southern West Virginia jury in Logan County.  Before the case went to trial, we successfully obtained dismissal for the individual defendants and, through summary judgment, whittled the multi-count complaint down to three causes of action: age and disability discrimination and a hostile work environment.  At the closing of the plaintiff’s case in chief, we successfully argued for judgment as a matter of law on the disability and hostile work environment claims.  By cross-examining the plaintiff with the admissions he made during his videotaped deposition, we then showed the company did not take into account the plaintiff’s age when it terminated him for sleeping while underground.  At the conclusion of the three day trial, we obtained a full defense verdict, with the jury finding that the company did not discriminate against the plaintiff due to his age.

Successfully Represented Insurance Company in Policy Dispute

Client: Insurance Company

We represented our client, an insurance company, in a dispute over the application of a $5 million commercial umbrella policy following a fatal car accident. The case involved the owner of a car dealership, whose son was driving a dealership car that struck and killed a motorcyclist and the motorcyclist’s estate. The estate and the owner of the dealership contended that the dealership’s commercial umbrella insurance policy covered the owner’s son because he was driving a car owned by the dealership, even though the son was not working for the dealership.  After significant discovery disputes and motions practice, we sought a writ of prohibition from the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals based, in part, upon what was eventually found to be “outrageous conduct” by the owner of the dealership during the course of discovery. Ultimately, the West Virginia Supreme Court agreed with our position that the commercial umbrella insurance policy did not apply, and all claims against our client were dismissed. 

Obtained Writ of Prohibition from the West Virginia Supreme Court Dismissing Insurance Bad Faith Claims for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Client: An Insurance Carrier

We represented an insurance carrier accused of acting in bad faith in violation of West Virginia common law and the West Virginia Unfair Trade Practices Act in connection with the defense of an ongoing personal injury lawsuit and related declaratory judgment action concerning the scope of insurance coverage applicable to the personal injury lawsuit. The insurance carrier had offered what it considered the limits of the applicable coverage in order to settle the personal injury lawsuit, but this was insufficient to resolve the matter and the underlying plaintiff initiated a declaratory judgment action to seek an expansion of the amount of applicable coverage. Because the insureds wanted as much coverage afforded to them as possible for the personal injury lawsuit they asserted bad faith claims against the insurance carrier for taking the position it had offered its limits. The West Virginia Supreme Court found the insureds’ bad faith claims were not ripe because the question of what coverage applied to the personal injury lawsuit had not been resolved. The West Virginia Supreme Court further noted there is basis for a bad faith cause of action when an insurance carrier retains independent counsel to defend an insured and separate counsel to prosecute a declaratory judgment action concerning the scope of coverage afforded to the insured.

Dismissal of Malpractice Claims Against an Attorney

We represented an attorney accused of intentionally inadequately defending his client, the plaintiff, due to the attorney’s relationship with the opposing counsel and because of the plaintiff’s race. We successfully obtained dismissal of all claims, with the court finding that the plaintiff’s complaint was frivolous and failed to state a claim.

Obtained Writ of Prohibition from the West Virginia Supreme Court that caused the dismissal of a potential class action

We obtained a Writ of Prohibition from the West Virginia Supreme Court ordering the plaintiff to submit to arbitration based upon an arbitration agreement contained in the plaintiff’s mortgage. This resulted in dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims, which were brought as a putative class action under the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act.

Obtained Writ of Prohibition from the West Virginia Supreme Court dismissing all claims

We represented an insurance agent accused of starting a sexual relationship with the plaintiff’s ex-wife in order to convince her to purchase an annuity. The plaintiff alleged claims of negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and other torts. The West Virginia Supreme Court found that all of the plaintiff’s claims were based upon the fact that our client allegedly had an affair with the plaintiff’s ex-wife, and so were in reality all claims for alienation of affections. This resulted in the dismissal of all claims against our client.

Dismissal of ERISA Breach of Fiduciary Duty Claims

We represented an employer accused of failing to properly process an employee’s benefits enrollment form, which resulted in the employee’s spouse not receiving life insurance coverage. The employee alleged that our client negligently failed to procure the insurance coverage and breached its fiduciary duties under ERISA by failing to procure the coverage. We successfully argued that the employee’s state law claims were preempted by ERISA and that she had failed to allege a cognizable breach of fiduciary duty claim under ERISA, which resulted in dismissal of all claims.

Obtained Dismissal of a West Virginia Patient Safety Act Claim

A former hospital administrator’s claim of retaliation in violation of the West Virginia Patient Safety Act was dismissed because we proved that the former employee was not subject to the Act’s protection because she was an administrator.

Obtained Order Enforcing an Arbitration Award

We successfully defeated a plaintiff’s challenge to an arbitration award in our client’s favor.

Successfully Defended Appeal of the Dismissal of Breach of Fiduciary Duty and Conversion Claims

We obtained dismissal of breach of fiduciary duty and conversation claims against our client, a bank, based upon the statute of limitations. The plaintiff, an attorney, had deposited client funds into an account under his name. These funds were seized by the state of West Virginia as a result of the lawyer owing back taxes. The lawyer sued the bank, alleging that it should not have permitted the state to seize the funds because they were client funds, despite being in an account in his name. We argued that the lawyer knew for more than five years of the seizure of the funds before he filed suit and that the claims should be dismissed under the statute of limitations. After we prevailed at the Circuit Court, the lawyer appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court, which upheld the dismissal.

Summary Judgment on an ERISA Claim for Benefits

Our client contended that the widow of its deceased employee was entitled to life insurance benefits under the client’s employee benefits plan. The insurance company that sponsored the plan denied coverage for the benefits. Our client fought on behalf of the widow of its deceased employee to establish coverage for the benefits by arguing that that insurance company had abused its discretion in denying the benefits. We ultimately prevailed and were grated summary judgment against the insurance company.

Summary Judgment on Employment Discrimination Claims

We successfully demonstrated to the judge that a hospital administrator’s allegations of harassment by a male nurse and failure by the hospital to properly respond to her report of harassment could not be tied to a gender motivated bias. This summary judgment award was subsequently upheld on appeal.

Carr-Lambert v. Grant County Bd. of Educ., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 89456 (N.D. W. Va. Aug. 11, 2011)

We defended the president of the Grant County Board of Education in a third-party complaint that alleged harassment, intimidation, malicious actions and bad faith. The plaintiff, a member of the board, alleged that our client intimidated and retaliated against her for voting not to renew the employment contract of the current superintendent, and claimed damage to her mental health and reputation. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia found that the acts of our client were within the scope of his employment as president of the board, and were not of a malicious purpose or made in bad faith. Summary judgment was granted for our client.