West Virginia Law Review

Document Type



The November elections of 1976 brought about a major change in the composition of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. Three new justices, a majority of the court, were elected. The consequences of the election have been widely felt throughout the State. In no area has its impact been greater, however, than in the area of workmen's compensation law. The court has shown a great willingness to hear workmen's compensation appeals. In reviewing such appeals, the court has chosen to play an active role in the review of evidence, something generally avoided by prior courts. There has been little reluctance to substitute the majority's assessment of the evidence for the factual findings of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board. In substantive law the court has likewise had great impact, and in certain areas has taken action which would normally be considered within the purview of the legislature. Most significantly, the statutory immunity to suit granted to employers by the West Virginia Workmen's Compensation Act, except in cases of intentional injury, has been altered to an extent which will only be finally determined by later cases. Other decisions have: liberalized the continuous exposure requirements of the occupational pneumoconiosis provisions of the Act; removed the requirement of demonstrating aggravation of an existing occupational pneumoconiosis condition with a particular employer in order to be entitled to benefits; extended the protection of a legislatively lengthened statute of limitations to claimants whose occupational pneumoconiosis claims were not yet barred when the new limitation period became effective; permitted concurrent recovery of benefits in separate claims even though the total amount of benefits paid exceeded statutory limits; liberalized requirements for reopening claims; and provided protection for innocent victims of horseplay. This article will assess the new court's role in reviewing both substantive and procedural aspects of workmen's compensation law. The discussion is divided into two broad areas: substantive changes in West Virginia workmen's compensation law; and scope of the court's review.



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