BMHJ Blog: Legal Information, Resources, & News: Business/Commercial Litigation

Think Before You Yelp!

Patrick Burns, Esquire
January 14th, 2014
By: Patrick Burns, Esquire

Online business review websites, such as Yelp and Angie’s List, have become a popular resource when deciding whether to enlist the services of a particular business. In fact, the success and failure of a business can depend on online reviews. It should come as no surprise there have been a number of cases nationwide that allege defamatory postings on Yelp. See, e.g., Yelp, Inc. v. Hadeed Carpet Cleaning, Inc., No. 00116-13-4, 2014 Va. App. LEXIS 1 (Va. Ct. App. Jan. 7, 2014); Sanders v. Walsh, 219 Cal. App. 4th 855 (2013); Wilkerson v. RSL Funding, L.L.C., 388 S.W.3d 668 (Tex. App. Houston 1st Dist. 2011). However, such cases do not prevent negative reviews of businesses, if truthful. On the other hand, individuals should think twice before posting a negative review that contains inaccuracies. Any inaccuracy a business deems harmful could result in a lawsuit with expensive consequences.

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Photographs Are Worth a Thousand Words: Document a Property Condition Before It Is Materially Changed

Nicholas J. Lawrence, Esquire
December 9th, 2013
By: Nicholas J. Lawrence, Esquire

Business owners performing significant changes to their property should consider photographing the existing condition before making any changes. A recent case in the City of Virginia Beach illustrates the potential problem when improvements are made without documenting the existing conditions. In 2006, an elderly patron of a parking garage tripped and fell on the 4″ curb beside an elevator loading platform. About six months later, with no reports of any prior problems, the curb was painted yellow as part of an effort to improve overall visibility inside the garage. Eighteen months later, the property owner learned of the fall for the first time when a lawsuit was filed.

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Funkhouser v. Ford Motor Company: Reversal by the Va. Supreme Court – the substantial similarity test is alive and well.

Julia B. Judkins, Esquire
Jennifer E. White, Esquire
January 29th, 2013
By: Julia B. Judkins, Esquire and Jennifer E. White, Esquire

On January 10, 2013, the Supreme Court of Virginia issued its opinion in the case of Funkhouser v. Ford Motor Company. The court withdrew its June 7, 2012 opinion, decided 4-3, following rehearing of the matter on the defendants’ petition.

The recent decision, authored by Justice Powell, represents the view of the formerly dissenting justices, who were joined by Justice Millette to create a new majority which upheld the circuit court’s decision excluding the plaintiff’s expert testimony regarding other Ford Windstar fires. In its 4-3 decision, the majority holds that none of the fires identified by the plaintiff’s expert were admissible to prove the manufacturer knew or had reason to know of a dangerous condition because none met the elements of the substantial similarity test. The Court clarifies that the substantial similarity test requires proof (1) that the incidents occurred under substantially the same circumstances as the incident at issue in the lawsuit and (2) that the incidents were caused by the same or similar defects. (Pages 10 and 11.) The Court reasons that ignoring the importance of a same or similar defect, as advocated by the plaintiff, “would allow a plaintiff to attribute notice and actual knowledge to a manufacturer based on the mere existence of a generalized danger; there would be no requirement for the danger to be attributable to the manufacturer in any way.” (Page 11.)

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Virginia Supreme Court Vacates Controversial Products Liability Case

Jennifer E. White, Esquire
October 2nd, 2012
By: Jennifer E. White, Esquire

Virginia Supreme Court Vacates Controversial Products Liability Opinion

On Monday, September 17, 2012, the Virginia Supreme Court granted the appellee’s petition for rehearing in Funkhouser v. Ford Motor Company, vacating its June 2012 opinion. The Court’s original 4-3 decision proved controversial for the products liability bar and raised concerns that the decision’s interpretation of the admissibility of evidence of “similar events” could be used by the plaintiff’s bar in general negligence, premises liability, medical malpractice, and elder care cases.

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Restaurant Owner Not Liable for Criminal Acts of Third Party

Steven W. Bancroft, Esquire
July 16th, 2012
By: Steven W. Bancroft, Esquire

The general rule in Virginia tort law is that a person or business is not liable to a victim for the criminal acts of a third party. However, the rule is subject to some limitations and exceptions where the person or business has established a special relationship with the victim that entitles the victim to protection against third party crimes, or where the person or business has a relationship with the third party that obligates them to control the third party’s conduct. Examples of special relationships that have been recognized by the Supreme Court of Virginia include a common-carrier and a passenger, an employer and employee, an innkeeper and guest, and a business proprietor and its invitee.

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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