Queen v. W. Va. University Hospitals was a case before the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia in 1987 concerning the definition of public agency.
This case established that a private entity need not expressly be created by a public body to be considered a creation of the public body. Strongly enabling statutes that establish the purpose, function and bylaws of a soon to be established corporation can constitute creation with regards to the public records laws.
- The West Virginia University Hospital's (WVUH) medical center was opened in 1960 and was funded by a state-wide tax. It has since been operated by the University Board of Regents.
- In 1983 the Legislature authorized the Board of Regents to issue bonds to upgrade the facilities or construct new facilities. In 1984, pursuant to a decree from the legislature, The construction of new facilities and control of existing operations was transferred to a private not-for-profit corporation, which was created by the legislature. The corporation was governed by a board composed of the nine members of the Board of Regents, seven individuals appointed by the governor and one individual appointed by the hospital. The board is required to annually report its finances to the state and upon dissolution of the corporation, all assets revert to the states.
- As a result of a number of complaints, the Attorney General submitted a records request to WVUH.
- WVUH denied the request, claiming that they were not a public body and thus not subject to the public records laws.
- The trial court ruled in favor of favor of the attorney general.
- The decision was appealed.
Ruling of the court
The trial court ruled in favor of the Attorney General ordering the release of all the documents in question.
The Supreme Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court, ruling in favor of the attorney general. The court determined that WVUH was in fact a public body because it was created by a public body. The court determined that while the enabling statute did not in itself create WVUH, it did enable its creation, outline all of its bylaws, grant its powers and essentially establish its purpose. The court felt that adopting a simple formal separation misconstrued the actual extent of the enabling statute. Based on this, the court established that the WVUH was in essence created by a public body and thus subject to the freedom of information act. The court went on to reject the notion that the documents in question are exempt, thereby ruling completely in favor of the Attorney General.