Submitted: January 30, 2019
from the Circuit Court of Jefferson County The Hon.
Christopher C. Wilkes, Judge Civil Action No. CC-19-2017-C-92
Christian J. Riddell, Esq. Stedman & Riddell, PLLC
Martinsburg, West Virginia Counsel for Jeremiah Goodwin
Charles F. Johns, Esq. Amy M. Smith, Esq. Steptoe &
Johnson PLLC Bridgeport, West Virginia Counsel for Shepherd
Charles F. Printz, Jr., Esq. Christopher Dulany Petersen,
Esq. Bowles Rice LLP Martinsburg, West Virginia Counsel for
the City of Shepherdstown
Meredith J. Risati, Esq. Steptoe & Johnson PLLC
Canonsburg, Pennsylvania Counsel for Shepherd University
JUSTICE WORKMAN dissents and reserves the right to file a
BY THE COURT
"In an action for malicious prosecution, plaintiff must
show: (1) that the prosecution was set on foot and conducted
to its termination, resulting in plaintiff's discharge;
(2) that it was caused or procured by defendant; (3) that it
was without probable cause; and (4) that it was malicious. If
plaintiff fails to prove any of these, he can not
recover." Syl. pt. 1, Radochio v. Katzen, 92
W.Va. 340, 114 S.E. 746 (1922).
order for a plaintiff to prevail on a claim for intentional
or reckless infliction of emotional distress, four elements
must be established. It must be shown: (1) that the
defendant's conduct was atrocious, intolerable, and so
extreme and outrageous as to exceed the bounds of decency;
(2) that the defendant acted with the intent to inflict
emotional distress, or acted recklessly when it was certain
or substantially certain emotional distress would result from
his conduct; (3) that the actions of the defendant caused the
plaintiff to suffer emotional distress; and, (4) that the
emotional distress suffered by the plaintiff was so severe
that no reasonable person could be expected to endure
it." Syl. pt. 3, Travis v. Alcon Laboratories,
Inc., 202 W.Va. 369');">202 W.Va. 369, 504 S.E.2d 419 (1998).
action is before this Court upon consolidated appeals filed
by Jeremiah Goodwin ("Goodwin"), the plaintiff
below, from two orders entered in the Circuit Court of
Jefferson County which dismissed Goodwin's complaint for
malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional
distress. The first order, entered on September 8, 2017,
granted the motion to dismiss filed by defendant City of
Shepherdstown ("Shepherdstown"). The second
order, entered on February 28, 2018, granted the motion for
judgment on the pleadings filed by Shepherd University
review, this Court finds Goodwin's appeals to be without
merit. Therefore, the orders entered by the Circuit Court on
September 8, 2017, and February 28, 2018, are affirmed.
Factual and Procedural Background
April 12, 2017, Goodwin filed a complaint in the Circuit
Court of Jefferson County against Shepherdstown and the
University. The factual allegations in the complaint included
University student, was sexually assaulted on the campus by
an unknown assailant. The assault occurred on February 1,
2015, between 7:40 p.m. and 7:55 p.m. C.P. called 911 and
stated that, although she could not see the assailant's
face, he was between 5'8" and 5'10,"
wearing a black beanie and a black winter jacket. The police
issued a warning notification for the campus and received two
calls in response. The first call came from a female student
whom Goodwin had approached that evening asking for a date.
The second call concerned a different male individual.
According to Goodwin, the police did not follow up on the
second call, even though the description of the individual
more closely matched the description given by C.P. during her
911 call. Goodwin, 6'3," was wearing a black shirt
with a hood, not a winter jacket or a beanie.
February 3, 2015, Goodwin was arrested. The arrest was
pursuant to an arrest warrant issued upon a finding of
probable cause by a Jefferson County magistrate. Goodwin
alleged that a report later filed by the University police
was falsified to state that C.P. described her assailant as
wearing a black shirt with a hood.
further alleged in the complaint that an alibi witness was
suppressed. According to Goodwin, Lisa Olney, a restaurant
owner, called the Shepherdstown police in response to a
newspaper article she read about the assault. Soon after, Ms.
Olney was interviewed by Shepherdstown and University police
officers. She told the officers that Goodwin was in the
restaurant at the time of the assault. Goodwin alleges that
the police falsely told Ms. Olney that the time stated in the
newspaper was inaccurate. As alleged in the complaint, the
officers made no notes of the interview and never disclosed
Ms. Olney's evidence to Goodwin. According to Goodwin, it
was not until his current counsel was appointed, over a year
after the initial arrest, that the defense discovered Ms.
Olney's alibi evidence.
January 2016, the Jefferson County grand jury returned an
indictment charging Goodwin with three felonies committed on
February 1, 2015, against C.P.: two counts of first degree
sexual abuse and one count of assault during the commission
of a felony.However, the Circuit Court entered an
order in September 2016 which dismissed all charges against
Goodwin "without prejudice."
reflected in the order, the dismissal was upon the motion of
the State for a dismissal without prejudice "at this
time," based upon "anticipated DNA results being
unavailable and no current date when, or even if, such
results would be available." Moreover, the order
indicated that the State's motion was with the agreement
of the victim. Goodwin alleges that between his arrest and
the dismissal of the charges he was incarcerated for six
months, suffered financial hardships, missed employment
opportunities, and underwent treatment for psychological
complaint against Shepherdstown and the University set forth
claims for malicious prosecution and the intentional
infliction of emotional distress. With regard to malicious
prosecution, Goodwin alleged that the Shepherdstown and
University police officers committed misconduct by
suppressing the alibi evidence of Ms. Olney. Goodwin further
alleged that the State, "after being informed of the
existence of [Goodwin's] alibi witness, continued to
prosecute [Goodwin] without any probable cause to believe he
had committed the crime." As to intentional infliction
of emotional distress, Goodwin alleged that the Shepherdstown
and University police officers engaged in outrageous conduct,
i.e., falsely charging him with the assault of C.P. and
suppressing the alibi evidence, thereby subjecting him to
wrongful imprisonment and the stigma of being branded a sex
offender. Goodwin demanded compensatory and punitive
23, 2017, Shepherdstown filed a motion to dismiss, followed
by the University's motion, in September 2017, for
judgment on the pleadings. Both motions sought the dismissal
of Goodwin's malicious prosecution and intentional
infliction of emotional distress claims. The Circuit Court
granted Shepherdstown's motion on September 8, 2017, and
the University's motion on February 28, 2018.
dismissal orders are nearly identical. The Circuit Court
determined that Goodwin's complaint failed to establish a
claim of malicious prosecution because the underlying
criminal case (1) had not been "procured" by
Shepherdstown or the University, (2) was not without probable
cause, nor was it malicious in view of the probable cause
findings evidenced by the arrest warrant, Goodwin's
preliminary hearing and the indictment, and (3) was dismissed
without prejudice on the motion of the prosecutor.
Circuit Court also determined that Goodwin's complaint
failed to establish a claim of intentional infliction of
emotional distress. The Circuit Court rejected Goodwin's
assertion that his imprisonment was connected to the failure
of the police to disclose the alibi evidence. Emphasizing
that the duty to disclose the alibi evidence to Goodwin
rested with the prosecutor and not the police officers, the
Circuit Court concluded that Goodwin's incarceration was
predicated on multiple findings of probable cause and,
consequently, subject to the discretion of the prosecutor.
stating that the officers had acted within their official
capacities when they interviewed alibi witness Lisa Olney,
the Circuit Court concluded that Goodwin's claims of
malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional
distress, against Shepherdstown and the University, were
precluded by qualified governmental immunity.
Standards of Review
claims against Shepherdstown were dismissed pursuant to West
Virginia Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for "failure
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." In
syllabus point 3 of Chapman v. Kane Transfer Company,
Inc., 160 W.Va. 530, 236 S.E.2d 207 (1977), this Court
observed: "The trial court, in appraising the
sufficiency of a complaint on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, should
not dismiss the complaint unless it appears beyond doubt that
the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his
claim which would entitle him to relief. Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)."
although appellate review of an order granting a motion to
dismiss is de novo, syl. pt. 2, State ex rel.
McGraw v. Scott Runyan Pontiac-Buick, Inc., 194 W.Va.
770, 461 S.E.2d 516 (1995), the allegations of a complaint
dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) must be taken as true. Syl. pt.
1, Wiggins v. Eastern Associated Coal Corp., 178
W.Va. 63, 357 S.E.2d 745 (1987). Nevertheless, the complaint
"must articulate sufficient information to outline the
elements of a claim or permit inferences to be drawn that
these elements exist." See Louis J. Palmer,
Jr., and the Hon. Robin Jean Davis, Litigation Handbook
on West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure, p. 408
(5th ed. 2017).
claims against the University were dismissed pursuant to the
University's motion under Rule 12(c) for judgment on the
pleadings. As this Court noted in syllabus point 3 of
Copley v. Mingo County Board of Education, 195 W.Va.
480, 466 S.E.2d 139 (1995): "A circuit court, viewing
all the facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving
party, may grant a motion for judgment on the pleadings only
if it appears beyond doubt that the nonmoving party can prove
no set of facts in support of his or her claim or
assignments of error primarily concern the required elements
of a malicious prosecution claim, initially recognized by
this Court in Radochio v. Katzen, 92 W.Va. 340, ...