Terry R. Brumfield, Jr., Defendant Below, Petitioner
Jennings Mark Workman, Jr., Plaintiff Below, Respondent
2013, Respondent Jennings Mark Workman, Jr. brought this
civil rights action, under 42 United States Code § 1983,
against Petitioner Terry R. Brumfield, Jr., Deputy Sheriff of
Logan County, West Virginia, and others. Mr. Workman alleged
his rights secured by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of
the United States Constitution were violated when he was
wrongfully removed from his residence and forced to leave
under the threat of arrest. The jury found in favor of Mr.
Workman, awarded $4, 862 for lost personal property and $5,
000 for annoyance and inconvenience, and assessed all damages
against Deputy Brumfield.
Brumfield appeals the orders of the Circuit Court of Logan
County that denied his post-trial motions for judgment as a
matter of law and for a new trial. W.Va. R. Civ. Pro 50(b)
& 59. He contends the circuit court should have dismissed
the claims against him on the basis of qualified immunity.
Deputy Brumfield also appeals the order awarding $201, 913 in
attorney's fees to Mr. Workman's trial counsel.
See 42 U.S.C. § 1988. He contends the circuit
court erred by not affording him an on-the-record examination
of the fee petition. Mr. Workman raises several
cross-assignments of error including his argument that the
circuit court erred by not instructing the jury on punitive
damages and denying his Rule 59 motion for a new trial on the
issue of punitive damages.
Court has considered the parties' briefs, their oral
arguments, and the record on appeal. Upon review, the Court
discerns no substantial question of law. Consequently, a
memorandum decision is the appropriate disposition pursuant
to Rule 21 of the West Virginia Rules of Appellate Procedure.
As explained below, we affirm the orders of the circuit court
denying the parties' post-trial motions, vacate the order
awarding attorney's fees, and remand for proceedings
consistent with this decision.
civil rights action from which this appeal arises concerns
the unlawful eviction of Mr. Workman from his
residence. Mr. Workman received an interest in this
property-Lot No. 53 in the Taplin Subdivision with a
doublewide trailer-after his father passed away intestate in
2004. Mr. Workman received a 12.5% interest in this property,
as did each of his three siblings. Mr. Workman's mother
received 50% interest in this property that she later
conveyed to defendant below, Frank M. Dillon.
September 9, 2011, Mr. Workman moved into the home. That same
day, Mr. Workman obtained a title report from attorney George
L. Partain (the "Partain letter") showing that he
was a co-owner of the property and that all owners had
"equal access and right to be on the property at all
times." Mr. Workman signed up for utility services and
made repairs to the home.
February 14, 2013, Mr. Dillon went to the home along with
defendant below Kellie Curry (Mr. Dillon's ex-girlfriend)
and defendant below Christopher Codispoti (Ms. Curry's
then-boyfriend). Mr. Dillon told Mr. Workman that he (Mr.
Dillon) had a deed to the property, and that Mr. Workman had
to move out so that Ms. Curry and Mr. Codispoti could move
in. Mr. Workman responded by calling the police. West
Virginia State Trooper Roger Glaspell, who responded to the
call, reviewed the Partain letter and the utility bills in
Mr. Workman's name. Trooper Glaspell also reviewed Mr.
Dillon's "deed." Trooper Glaspell concluded
that the matter was civil in nature and needed to go through
the court system.
underlying lawsuit concerns the events that took place the
following day, February 15, 2013. Frank M. Dillon and his
father (also named Frank Dillon, hereinafter "Mr.
Dillon's father") asked Magistrate Leonard Codispoti
for a criminal warrant of trespass for an unknown
trespasser on the property. Magistrate Codispoti
refused, and told the Dillons to go to the sheriff's
office for an "intake," and to let the sheriff seek
a warrant. Mr. Dillon and his father went to the
sheriff's office where Mr. Dillon apparently drafted and
signed a statement regarding Mr. Workman and the property.
Mr. Dillon's father later testified that Logan County
Sheriff Sonya Porter told deputies to "[g]o get him
out" or "[p]ut him out."
about 4:00 p.m. on February 15, 2013, Deputy Brumfield and
defendant below Logan County Sheriff Deputy Joseph Lyall went
to the property and told Mr. Workman that they had an order
to remove him. Mr. Workman responded that he was part owner
and gave the deputies the Partain letter, which both appeared
to read. Deputy Brumfield stated that the letter was
"not worth the paper it was written on" and that
Mr. Workman had twenty minutes to gather what he could and
get off the property. When Mr. Workman protested, the
deputies started to arrest him. Mr. Dillon told the deputies
he did not want Mr. Workman arrested, but just wanted him off
the property. Deputy Brumfield told Mr. Workman that (1) Mr.
Workman would have to go to magistrate court to sort the
matter out, and (2) Mr. Workman would be arrested if he came
back to the property. Mr. Workman left on foot with the
possessions he could carry. Ms. Curry and Mr. Codispoti moved
into the residence later that evening.
Workman learned that there was no court order for his
eviction. Mr. Workman lost personal belongings including
furniture and was homeless for more than two years. He slept
on friends' couches, in his truck, or outdoors.
Workman filed this action against Deputies Brumfield and
Lyall, and Sheriff Porter, for violating his rights secured
by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States
Constitution and requested damages and attorney's fees.
42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988. Mr. Workman alleged Mr.
Dillon, Ms. Curry, and Mr. Codispoti acted in concert with
four-day jury trial in this matter commenced in October 2017.
Deputy Brumfield moved for judgment as a matter of law and
maintained his defense of qualified immunity. The circuit
court rejected his motion. The jury found only one defendant,
Deputy Brumfield, liable and assessed $4, 862 in special
damages for lost personal property and $5, 000 for annoyance
and inconvenience. On October 18, 2017, the court entered
judgment against Deputy Brumfield for $9, 862.
Deputy Brumfield filed a Rule 50 motion for a judgment as a
matter of law and a Rule 59 motion for a new trial. Mr.
Workman also filed a Rule 50 motion for judgment as a matter
of law against Deputy Lyall, a Rule 59 motion for a new trial
on punitive damages, and a motion for attorney's fees and
costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988 on behalf of George
L. Partain and two other lawyers who worked on the case.
a November 2017 hearing on the post-trial motions, the
circuit court denied Mr. Workman's Rule 59 and Rule 50
motions. It also denied Deputy Brumfield's Rule 50 and
Rule 59 motions. The circuit court granted Mr. Partain's
motion for $201, 913 in attorney's fees and $5, 323 in
costs. This appeal followed.
Standard of Review
them, the parties raise fifteen assignments and
cross-assignments of error. For purposes of clarity, we
consolidate those that are related. See Tudor's
Biscuit World of Am. v. Critchley, 229 W.Va. 396,
401-02, 729 S.E.2d 231, 236-37 (2012) (consolidating related
and/or redundant assignments of error).
Brumfield appeals the circuit court's orders denying his
post-trial motions. Rule 50(b) of the West Virginia Rules of
Civil Procedure allows a defendant to move for a judgment
notwithstanding the verdict if, with respect to an issue
essential to a plaintiff's case, there exists no legally
sufficient evidentiary basis for the jury to find in favor of
the plaintiff. In syllabus point one of Mildred L.M. v.
John O.F., 192 W.Va. 345, 452 S.E.2d 436 (1994), this
In reviewing a trial court's ruling on a motion for a
judgment notwithstanding the verdict, it is not the task of
the appellate court reviewing facts to determine how it would
have ruled on the evidence presented. Its task is to
determine whether the evidence was such that a reasonable
trier of fact might have reached the decision below. Thus, in
ruling on a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the
verdict, the evidence must be viewed in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party. If on review, the evidence
is shown to be legally ...