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No. 34745 - L. H. Jones Equipment Company, a West Virginia corporation, Plaintiff v.
Swenson Spreader, LLC, Defendant
Ketchum, J., dissenting:
I respectfully dissent from the majority.
Swenson Spreader is not a farm equipment dealer. It is a manufacturer of salt
spreaders and other products used to control ice buildup on roads and highways. Nevertheless,
the majority finds that Swenson Spreader is bound by the West Virginia Farm Equipment
Dealer Contract Act as plainly titled in W.Va. Code, ch. 47, art. 11f. In fact, ch. 47, art. 11f,
§1, states: This article shall be known and may be cited as the 'West Virginia Farm Equipment
Dealer Contract Act.' Even the introductory provision found in the 1989 Acts of the
Legislature, relied on by the majority, contemplates the title Farm Equipment Dealer Contract
Act by which the article may be known and cited.
The title of the Act, as thus set forth in our Code, puts the public, business
owners and lawyers researching our statutory indexes on notice that the Act is about farm
dealers. Consequently, it is difficult to conceptualize why a person searching through our
statutory indexes to determine the law relating to their highway salt spreading business would
understand that an Act titled Farm Equipment Dealer Contract Act could apply to highway salt
Under the reasoning of the majority, a person so researching our statutory
indexes in the Code cannot rely on the plain title of an Act but, instead, must read each section
of every Act in West Virginia to be sure he or she is complying with West Virginia law.
Researching applicable law should not be an endurance contest. Nor should individuals be
expected to second guess the titles of Acts placed in the Code by the Legislature.
I contend that our State constitutional provision (Article 5, Section 30) plainly
requires that a statute's purpose be expressly codified in its listed title. It is only fair that
citizens and businesses be informed of the purpose of an Act in the Act's title. Untoward
results arise when a title in our State Code misleads interested parties about the scope and
reach of an Act or statute. I submit that Swenson's lawyers will now have to read this State's
entire chapter entitled and indexed as school law to be sure that there is no paragraph within
relating to highway salt spreaders.
In West Virginia, under the result reached by the majority, we are required when
researching horse manure to search our indexes for draft animals. We can no longer rely
on the plain title in the State Code promulgated by the Legislature.
I, therefore, dissent.