WV Supreme Court decides loan case stemming from student’s death - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

WV Supreme Court decides loan case stemming from student’s death

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picture courtesy of the West Virginia Supreme Court picture courtesy of the West Virginia Supreme Court
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The West Virginia Crime Compensation fund does not have to reimburse unpaid student loans owed by a student who was fatally shot in 2008 because the loans were used for semesters before his death, West Virginia Supreme Court justices recently decided.

Angela Smith filed her case against the West Virginia Crime Victims Compensation Fund and the state Court of Claims following the death of her 25-year-old son, Donte Newsome.

Newsome was a Marshall University football player who was shot and killed outside a Huntington nightclub in 2008. Newsome died at Saint Mary's Medical Center shortly after the shooting.

Jerel Garner was sentenced in 2010 to 21-25 years for shooting Newsome. He was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, wanton endangerment and carrying a concealed weapon.

He was found not guilty of attempted murder in the shooting of Curtis Keys — another Marshall football player who was wounded that same night.

After her son's death, Smith filed a claim with the West Virginia Crime Victims Compensation Fund and the Court of Claims, where she was awarded $8.184.99 for medical expenses, funeral and burial costs.

Under state code, "lost scholarship" is defined as a "scholarship, academic award, stipend or other monetary scholastic assistance which had been awarded or conferred upon a victim in conjunction with a post-secondary school educational program and which the victim is unable to receive or use, in whole or in part, due to the injuries received from criminally injurious conduct."

In her petition for writ of certiorari, Smith argued unpaid student loans would fall under "other monetary scholastic assistance" and should be reimbursed.

Attorneys for the state's Crime Victims Compensation Fund argued although state code includes some property rights, a student receiving a scholarship, academic award or stipend "is not generally obligated to repay such an award."

Attorneys additionally asserted the words "awarded or conferred" do not contemplate a loan.

In the May 24 opinion delivered by Justice Allen Loughry, justices said student loans are encompassed in the definition of "lost scholarship" and "other scholastic monetary assistance." 

"Although we have found that student loans are ‘other scholastic monetary assistance' as set forth in West Virginia code … our analysis cannot end there," the opinion continues.

Justices found that although loans would be included in this definition under state code, students would have to be unable to use or receive that "lost scholarship" because of "criminally injurious conduct."

"In other words, the ‘lost scholarship,' whether it be in the form of a scholarship, academic award of student loan, must not have been received or used by the victim, in whole or in part, prior to the criminally injurious conduct that provided the basis for the compensation claim," the opinion states.

Therefore, since Smith had requested payment of loans received for semesters before his death, the fund would not have to pay for them.