Robert F. Hale, Jr., Appellant,
Town of Warrenton, Appellee.
appeal from a judgment rendered by the Circuit Court No.
CL15-262 of Fauquier County.
F. Hale, Jr., appeals an order from the Circuit Court of
Fauquier County sustaining the Town of Warrenton's
demurrer and dismissing Hale's complaint with prejudice.
Because the circuit court erred in sustaining the demurrer,
we reverse the judgment of the circuit court and remand the
case for further proceedings.
appeal from a final order granting a demurrer, "we
recite the facts contained in the pleadings and all
reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable
to the plaintiff." Coutlakis v. CSX Transp.,
Inc., 293 Va. 212, 215, 796 S.E.2d 556, 558 (2017). We
also take into account factual allegations contained in
"documents brought into a case as a result of a motion
craving oyer" as they "are incorporated into the
pleadings and may be used to 'amplify' the facts
alleged in a complaint when a court decides whether to
sustain or overrule a demurrer." EMAC, L.L.C. v.
County of Hanover, 291 Va. 13, 21, 781 S.E.2d 181, 185
(2016) (alteration and citation omitted).
April 2006, the Director of Planning and Community
Development for the Town of Warrenton, Charles Mothersead,
sent Hale a letter offering him employment as the Town's
Building Official and Property Maintenance Official. Hale
accepted the offer and thereafter began service as the only
executive Building Official in charge of the Building
Department for the Town.
to Hale, after he later found himself in conflict with
"people of considerable influence in Warrenton, "
J.A. at 4, the Town Manager notified him in November 2012
that he was being removed from his "supervisor role in
the Building Department, " although his "pay grade,
job title and other assigned duties" would "remain
the same, " id. at 80. In June 2013, the Town
announced that another employee had been appointed as the
Town's new Building Official. Later that month, Hale
filed a grievance with the Town concerning his removal from
the office of executive Building Official.
the Town decided that the matter was not grievable, Hale
appealed to the circuit court. In that proceeding, Mothersead
conceded that Hale was not hired as "an interim building
official, " but rather "as a full-time
employee" who served as "the only building official
for the Town of Warrenton at that time." Id. at
19. Mothersead confirmed that Hale was the "executive
official" in charge of the building department.
also testified in the circuit court proceeding. He agreed
with the Town's attorney on cross-examination that he had
initially served in a "probationary" status but
stated that this status had expired after serving six months
on the job. Id. at 28. The circuit court did not
address these issues, however, and instead held that Hale had
failed to file a timely grievance. Id. at 40-42.
2015, Hale filed a complaint seeking money damages against
the Town for wrongful termination against public policy. Hale
later amended his complaint and instead requested a writ of
mandamus to reappoint him as "the executive official in
charge of the Warrenton building division, "
id. at 7, as a remedy for the Town's alleged
violation of 13 VAC § 5-63-50(A), a regulation codifying
Section 105.1 of the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building
Code. The Town filed a demurrer in response and contended
that Hale did not allege facts demonstrating that he was ever
permanently appointed as the Town's Building Official.
The Town also filed a motion craving oyer for the exhibits
entered into evidence at the hearing for his grievance appeal
to the circuit court. After hearing oral argument on the
motions, the circuit court granted the motion craving oyer,
upon which the parties had reached agreement, and sustained
the demurrer. During the hearing at which the circuit court
sustained the demurrer, the court stated that the alleged
facts did not demonstrate that the Town had made a
"permanent appointment" of Hale as Building
Official. R. at 305.
appeal, Hale argues that he alleged sufficient facts to
survive a demurrer and to permit the reasonable inference
that he was permanently appointed as the Building Official
for the Town of Warrenton. We agree.
purpose of a demurrer is to determine whether a complaint
states a cause of action upon which the requested relief may
be granted." Dye v. CNX Gas Co., 291 Va. 319,
323, 784 S.E.2d 703, 705 (2016). While a complaint need not
"descend into statements giving details of proof in
order to withstand demurrer, " it must contain
"sufficient allegations of material facts to inform a
defendant of the nature and character of the claim."
Assurance Data, Inc. v. Malyevac, 286 Va. 137, 143,
747 S.E.2d 804, 807-08 (2013) (quoting CaterCorp, Inc. v.
Catering Concepts, Inc., 246 Va. 22, 24, 431 S.E.2d 277,
purpose of evaluating the circuit court's ruling on a
demurrer, "we consider as true all the material facts
alleged in the complaint, all facts impliedly alleged, and
all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from such
facts." Assurance Data, 286 Va. at 143, 747
S.E.2d at 807 (alteration and citation omitted). On appeal,
however, this Court is not bound by "conclusions of
law" or "conclusory allegations" in the
complaint. Brown v. Jacobs, 289 Va. 209, 212 n.2,
768 S.E.2d 421, 423 n.2 (2015) (citations omitted). As a
result, we review de novo the sufficiency of the ...