Tort Reform in Virginia

Nicholas J. Lawrence, Esquire
March 31st, 2013
By: Nicholas J. Lawrence, Esquire

Two bills involving tort reform have recently passed the Virginia General Assembly, and are expected to be become law. One addresses the use of discovery depositions in support of a motion for summary judgment, and the other addresses the award of expert witness fees when a nonsuit is taken shortly before trial.

House Bill 1708 amends Va. Code § 8.01-420 to allow limited use of discovery depositions under some circumstances in support of a motion for summary judgment. The amendment clarifies the statute to allow summary judgment to be based on requests for admission that are in turn based on deposition testimony, so long as the deposition testimony is not referenced in the request for admission, and the party is not required to admit having testified to specific facts.

The second part of the amendment would establish special rules for motions for summary judgment seeking dismissal of claims for punitive damages only, so long as the punitive damages claim is not based on the operation of a motor vehicle under influence of alcohol or drugs. If the motion for summary judgment seeks dismissal of a claim for punitive damages, and the punitive damages claim is not based on the operation of a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the amendment would allow the motion to be based on discovery depositions.
House Bill 1709 amends Va. Code § 8.01-380(C) to clarify that a nonsuiting party may be assessed reasonable witness fees and travel costs of expert witnesses if the nonsuit is taken during trial, as well as within 7 days prior to trial. The more significant amendment of the statute establishes a presumption that “invoices, receipts, or confirmation of payment” shall be admitted as evidence of fees and costs incurred without the necessity of testimony to establish the authenticity of the documents or the reasonableness of the fees. While the amendment does not expand the time period in which costs and fees may be assessed, or the types of costs and fees that may be assessed, it should make it somewhat easier a defendant to obtain an award where the costs or fees are contested.

Disclaimer

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