Monday, November 25, 2013

Imperial Colliery Co. v. Fout case brief

Imperial Colliery Co. v. Fout case brief summary
373 S.E.2d 489 (W. Va. 1988)

Defendant tenant appealed from a summary judgment entered by the Kanawha County Court (West Virginia), which dismissed the tenant's retaliatory eviction defense and awarded possession of the premises to plaintiff landlord in its action pursuant to W. Va. Code § 55-3A-1 et seq.

The tenant was employed as a coal miner and rented a house trailer from the landlord, which was allegedly interrelated with the tenant's employer. When the landlord filed suit for possession of the premises, the tenant asserted that the suit was brought in retaliation for his involvement in a strike by union mine workers. The tenant claimed that the alleged retaliatory motive was violative of his First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly, and of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C.S. § 151 et seq.


  • On appeal, the court affirmed the summary judgment in favor of the landlord. 
  • The court held that retaliation could be asserted as a defense to a summary eviction proceeding only if the landlord's conduct was in retaliation for the tenant's exercise of a right incidental to the tenancy. 
  • The tenant's First Amendment rights that were allegedly violated were unrelated to his property interest and did not arise from the tenancy relationship. 
  • Therefore, those rights were not protected under the retaliatory eviction defense.
The court affirmed the summary judgment entered by the trial court in favor of the landlord.

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