CHARLESTON, W. Va. – A Kanawha County circuit judge has dismissed an attempt by American Electric Power to move a high-profile wrongful death lawsuit to another county.
The AEP says the lawsuit brought against it and its affiliates by the estate of Sean McGinley should be moved to Braxton County where the traffic accident that claimed McGinley’s life occurred.
McGinley, a well-known Charleston attorney, was killed in an accident on June 3, 2021, when a northbound AEP digger truck crossed the median after blowing a tire and struck the southbound car of McGinley not far from Frametown exit. He was returning from Morgantown at the time of the accident.
His estate alleges there was no pre-auction inspection of the truck.
The main defendants in the lawsuit, brought by McGinley’s widow, Ana Marino, include AEP subsidiary Kentucky Power and AEP Transmission.
Attorney Becky Pomeroy, representing the utility company, asked Kanawha County Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit in a hearing last week to move the case.
“Given that the crash occurred in Braxton County and it appears to be the county with the most contacts in the dispute in the case, we believe Braxton County is the most appropriate,” Pomeroy said. .
She further argued that the plaintiffs were using defendant Capital City Auto, which has a location in Kanawha County, as a venue giving the defendant and the plaintiffs now plan to remove that defendant from the lawsuit.
Pomeroy argued that without Capital City Auto, plaintiffs cannot identify enough Kentucky Power and AEP Transmission’s ties to Kanawha County to keep the lawsuit there.
“You have to allege enough contacts to meet the personal proficiency requirements, but they don’t even come close,” Pomeroy told Tabit.
McGinley’s estate attorney, Robert Bastress III, countered and told Tabit that the plaintiffs had 14 pages of American Electric Power ties to Kanawha County.
“AEP admitted to negotiating labor agreements on behalf of Kanawha County employees, they admitted to hiring engineers in Kanawha County, and they admitted to appearing before the (State) Civil Service Commission in Charleston .,” Bastress said.
Pomeroy said a listing in a phone book is not enough to say that AEP has a “component of doing business.”
“Many different companies have listings in telephone books in areas where they are not located or do business,” Pomeroy said.
Bastress said the plaintiffs in civil lawsuits choose the venue, not the defendants. He said previous state Supreme Court rulings support his case.
Tabit, before denying AEP’s request, said the motion seemed to split hairs. She said plaintiffs had a low bar to uphold when it came to venue.
“The standard under the law is minimum contact under the law. I think this venue in Kanawha County is appropriate,” Tabit said.
The truck was based in Kentucky. It was picked up there by an auto auction employee and was taken to the Mountain State Auto Auction in Shinnston when the wreckage occurred. Mountain State Auto was also named as a defendant in the case.
The depositions have begun. The trial is currently scheduled to begin on December 12.