by Ron Gregory
CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has upheld Mingo Circuit Court rulings in which a former Sheriff sued a former Circuit Judge and the Mingo County Commissioners.
Only Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis dissented from the Mingo dismissal of allegations made by former Sheriff Rosanna S. Crum against former Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury and County Commissioners Greg “Hootie” Smith, John Mark Hubbard and David Baisden. Crum, widow of Sheriff Eugene Crum who was gunned down on Williamson’s Second Avenue, also named Thomas McComas in her lawsuits.
The majority decision, affirmed by Justices Menis Ketchum, Brent Benjamin, Margaret Workman and Allen Loughry, means Crum cannot continue to pursue allegations against the defendants. In the memorandum decision, the court’s majority maintained it had sufficient facts to rule on the matter without oral arguments, which had been requested by Crum attorney Richard Robb of South Charleston. The order notes that at all relevant times, Thornsbury was a sitting Circuit Judge and Smith, Hubbard and Baisden were members of the County Commission.
The narrative of the decision says that on April 3, 2013, Sheriff Walter Eugene Crum was killed in the line of dury while in his vehicle. The following day,the court says Rosie Crum alleges that the “respondents (those named by Crum) went to (Rosie Crum’s) home and assured her that ‘they would take care of all funeral and burial costs.'” Chafin Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements but the defendants “did not pay for these services.” Rosie Crum maintains that when she asked the funeral home about a headstone for the deceased Sheriff, “she was informed that she had to pay the outstanding funeral bill before she could purchase a headstone.”
Rosie Crum then asserts that she approached two of the three Commissioners, one of whom told her the county would not pay the bill “while the other reportedly avoided her.” After that, Rosie Crum paid the funeral expenses herself.
On April 2, 2015, Rosie Crum filed a complaint against the funeral home, Hubbard, Smith, Baisden, Thornsbury and McComas.
According to her complaint, McComas, Sheriff of Cabell County and head of the State Sheriffs’ Association; and Tib Cook of Chafin Funeral Home planned the services based on the assurances that the bill would be taken care of by the defendants.
In her suit, Rosie Crum asserted numerous claims against the defendants in addition to alleging that the funeral home’s conduct “amounted to negligence, breach of implied contract, and tortious breach of an implied contract. The plaintiff asked for “at least” $30,000. The widow, who was appointed Sheriff to replace her late husband, claimed that she would never have planned such an elaborate service if she had not been assured the expenses would be taken care of by others.
The Mingo Circuit Court systematically dismissed the charges on various grounds during the next few months. The memorandum dismissing the appeal addresses each of the allegations made by Rosie Crum, denying all.
In summary, the memo dismisses the appeal because “we find no error in the circuit court’s finding that respondents were entitled to the dismissal of petitioner’s claims against them.”
The order was entered on October 28.