BMHJ Blog: Legal Information, Resources, & News

New Virginia Statutory Amendments Impact On Trying Auto Cases In General District Court

Angela M. London
April 2nd, 2021
By: Angela M. London

On March 18, 2021, Governor Northam signed into law bills SB1108 and SB 1182. These two bills will directly affect general district court practice. SB1108 raised the jurisdictional limit in general district court for cases involving personal injury claims from $25,000 to $50,000. The increase in jurisdictional limits takes effect on July 1, 2021. SB1182 raised automobile liability insurance policy minimum bodily injury limits from $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident, and $20,000.00 for property damage to $30,000 per person, $60,000 per accident, and $20,000 for property damage. The increased limits go into effect on policies issued after January 1, 2022. After January 1, 2025, Virginians can expect another minimum policy limits increase, this time to $50,000 per person, $100,000 per accident, and $25,000 for property damage.

General district courts have generally been considered the faster and less expensive process by which an injured party can seek recovery. This is attributable to the fact that there is no formal discovery and no jury. Parties are limited to subpoenas to the opposing party, and to third parties for records or appearances at trial. A case filed in January could be concluded by April if the parties are aggressive and motivated to get their case set for trial. While testimony of medical providers at trial is permissible, parties usually forgo in-person testimony of physicians for medical records attested to by affidavit of the treating provider, which is permitted by statute. A trial for injuries arising from a motor vehicle accident could be tried from start to finish in less than an hour.

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Summary Judgment: How much is a “mere scintilla”?

Melissa J. Wiles
March 4th, 2021
By: Melissa J. Wiles

In Camille Sedar v. Reston Town Center Property, LLC, the Fourth Circuit gave a master class in the application of the summary judgment standard.

The case arose out of a trip and fall at Reston Town Center. The plaintiff was walking with her colleagues out of the parking garage. As she begun to descend the concrete stairs, she tripped and fell down the stairs, face first. She hit her face on the ground, lost consciousness, and suffered relatively severe injuries.

While none of her colleagues actually saw her fall, they did notice loose bricks at the top of the stairs after she fell. Her colleagues took photographs and a video of the scene immediately following the fall, which depict uneven bricks and sagging caulk between the bricks and the top step. The plaintiff filed suit against the property owner and property manager for negligence.

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Trial Court’s Denial of Sovereign Immunity Reversed by the Virginia Supreme Court

Nicole L. Antolic
January 19th, 2021
By: Nicole L. Antolic

Recently, Julia Judkins secured a victory in the Virginia Supreme Court when it granted a Petition for Interlocutory Appeal pursuant to Va. § Code 8.01-670.1(B) and reversed the trial court’s denial of the petitioners/defendants’ plea in bar in Ann Marie Francis v. Patricia Fitzgerald, et al., Circuit Court Case No. CL18-2643. The issue on appeal was whether the trial court improperly denied the defendants’ plea in bar and subsequent motion for reconsideration as to their entitlement of sovereign immunity.

This case arises from an assault on the plaintiff by a fifteen-year-old foster child. The defendants were social workers and employees of an immune entity previously dismissed from the case. In coordinating the placement of a fifteen-year-old foster child, they obtained information about the child from various sources and performed assessments to determine whether there was a family that appropriately met the best interests of the child. The defendants followed state mandated procedures and guidelines and exercised their own professional judgment and discretion in making these determinations. Ultimately, they identified the plaintiff as a potential foster parent for the child in part because of her experience fostering other children of the same age and because she had other children of the same age. Following placement, the defendants arranged planning meetings to determine what services the child might require to help him adjust to his new environment and whether and when therapy might be appropriate. Despite the initial success of placement, after returning home from a week with his grandparents, the child attacked the plaintiff with a baseball bat causing significant injuries.

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Moving Cases to Conclusion and Thinking Outside the Box

Melissa H. Katz, Esquire
September 22nd, 2020
By: Melissa H. Katz, Esquire

How do you move a case to conclusion if you can’t agree on a settlement and a jury trial is light years away? Since both parties have a common interest in expeditious and successful case closure, alternative methods of deciding the case should be considered. It is more important than ever to think outside the box of traditional methods of case resolution given the backlog of cases COVID-19 has created in our court systems.

Whether liability, damages, or both, are at issue, remote mediation, trial by judge, or arbitration, with or without high-low agreements, are viable options of adjudication. This article will focus on arbitration and suggestions to avoid missteps, disagreements and derailment.

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GDC Practice in the Time of Covid-19

Angela M. London
August 4th, 2020
By: Angela M. London

The legal profession, like many other industries, has experienced significant upheaval as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Since mid-March, many lawyers and law firms have utilized work from home policies to ensure that attorneys and staff stay productive and meet their obligations to clients. However the initial uncertainty of the coronavirus resulted in the closure of courthouses to the public throughout the Commonwealth.

According to the Supreme Court of Virginia, from March 16, 2020, with the issuance of the Court’s first COVID Order, to May 1, 2020, the General District Courts of Virginia continued approximately 413,000 cases to a later date. This has created a significant backlog that these courts must now work through.

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This blog and the information provided has been prepared by Bancroft, McGavin, Horvath & Judkins, P.C. (“BMHJ”) for information purposes only and is not intended nor to be construed as legal advice. This blog may contain the opinions of the members and associates of this firm on various legal issues and is not legal advice. Read More