Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Virginia
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing a suit for wrongful death against Virginia medical providers on the basis that Plaintiff had received a personal injury settlement against Kentucky medical providers concerning the same injury, holding that the circuit court erred in granting the motions to dismiss. Plaintiff, the husband of the decedent, filed wrongful death and personal injury actions in a Virginia circuit court and a Kentucky circuit court, asserting that the decedent died as a result of medical professions in both states failing to identify and treat the decedent's mesenteric ischemia. Plaintiff settled with the Kentucky defendants for an undisclosed amount, and the Kentucky circuit court dismissed all claims in the Kentucky action. The circuit court subsequently granted the Virginia defendants' motions to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred in dismissing the case on the grounds that Plaintiff elected a remedy when he settled the Kentucky personal injury action and that Plaintiff's wrongful death action was barred by Va. Code 8.01-56; and (2) none of the doctrines of claim-splitting, double recovery, or judicial estoppel supported the circuit court's granting of the motions to dismiss. View "Green v. Diagnostic Imaging Associates" on Justia Law

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In this action in which Plaintiff alleged intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation against the Commonwealth's attorney, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's ruling that the conduct alleged was insufficient to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress but reversed the circuit court's ruling that Defendant was absolutely immune from Plaintiff's defamation claim. After she was fired, Plaintiff, a former administrative assistant in the Commonwealth's attorney's office, filed this complaint against Chadwick Seth Baker, the Commonwealth's attorney for Dickenson County, alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation. Baker filed a demurrer and motion to dismiss. The circuit court sustained Baker's demurrer, ruling that termination of at-will employment did not give rise to a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress and that Baker enjoyed absolute immunity regarding the defamation claim. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) absolute immunity does not apply to a Commonwealth's attorney's allegedly defamatory statements about why he made the decision to fire an employee; and (2) Plaintiff did not adequately plead a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. View "Viers v. Baker" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting Defendants' demurrers to Plaintiff's claims alleging that various professionals who participated in custody and visitation proceedings tortiously interfered with her parental rights, holding that the tort of interference with parental rights did not extend to the facts alleged by Plaintiff. Plaintiff, the mother of three children, challenged the proceedings resulting an order awarding sole legal and physical custody of the children to their father. In her complaint, Plaintiff alleged tortious interference with parental rights and defamation. Plaintiff alleged that professionals such as the children's guardian ad litem, counselors, and therapists conspired, lied, and acted maliciously to deprive her of the rightful custody of her children. Plaintiff further alleged that one of the therapists defamed her. The circuit court granted the defendants' demurrers to the claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the allegations made in the complaint did not give rise to a cause of action for tortious interference with parental rights; and (2) the circuit court properly dismissed the defamation claims against the therapist. View "Padula-Wilson v. Landry" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the workers' compensation commission's award based on Va. Code 65.2-503 for Michael Richardson's loss of use before hip replacement surgery, holding that the court of appeals did not err in holding that, pursuant to the statute, loss of use is calculated before any surgery that improves functionality by use of a prosthetic device. Richardson sustained a work-related hip injury that would have deprived him of seventy-four percent of the normal use of his left leg if it remained untreated. Richardson's employer, however, paid for a total hip replacement that left Richardson with an eleven percent permanent loss of the use of his leg. Richardson filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits based on a seventy-four percent loss of use of his left leg. The Commission awarded Richardson permanent partial disability benefits reflecting a seventy-four percent loss-of-use rating. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that loss of use under section 65.2-503 is calculated before any surgery that improves functionality by use of a prosthetic device. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals' interpretation of the statute was reasonable. View "Loudoun County v. Richardson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court declaring that the School the City of Richmond's School Board's UM/UIM motorist coverage was $1 million, as provided in the contract between the School Board and the Virginia Association of Counties Group Self-Insurance Risk Pool (VACORP), holding that the $1 million in UM/UIM coverage the School Board contracted for was the amount of available UM/UIM coverage. Maisia Young was injured while riding a school bus. Young filed suit against the School Board seeking damages for her personal injuries. The School Board was self-insured through a self-insurance risk pool managed by VACORP. Young filed a declaratory judgment action to determine the extent of the coverage available to the School Board under the UM/UIM provisions of its contract. VACORP argued that $50,000 was the maximum amount of coverage available, as set by statute. In response, Young argued that the statutes set a minimum, not a cap, and that the maximum available was what was specified in the contract. The circuit court agreed with Young. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the School Board's UM/UIM coverage was $1 million, as provided in the contract between the School Board and VACORP. View "VACORP v. Young" on Justia Law

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In this wrongful death case, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court striking the evidence supporting a claim for punitive damages against Defendant, a physician who repeatedly prescribed narcotic pain medication to a patient, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the circuit court erred by granting Defendant's motion to strike. The patient in this case died from an accidental overdose of oxycodone, alcohol, and prescription medications. Plaintiff, the administrator of the decedent's estate, filed a wrongful death action against Defendant. In addition to damages permitted in wrongful death actions the administrator requested an award of punitive damages. Defendant conceded that he breached the applicable standard of care with respect to his care and treatment of the decedent but moved to strike the punitive damages claim. The circuit court granted the motion to strike. At issue was whether a jury could have concluded that Defendant's actions constituted a "willful and wanton" disregard for the decedent's health and safety. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under the specific circumstances of this case, the administrator's punitive damages claim should have been submitted to the jury. View "Curtis v. Highfill" on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court granting Defendants' motion to strike the evidence on the ground that it was insufficient to prove causation, holding that Plaintiff's evidence was sufficient to establish a prima facie case and survive a motion to strike at the conclusion of Plaintiff's case-in-chief. Plaintiff, as the personal representative and the administrator of his deceased wife's estate, filed a complaint alleging that Defendants had been professionally negligent, which had caused his wife's wrongful death. At the conclusion of Plaintiff's case-in-chief, Defendants moved to strike the evidence. The circuit court granted the motion and entered a final order awarding judgment to Defendants. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff's evidence was sufficient to defeat Defendants' motion to strike and that the circuit court erred by failing to view all of Plaintiff's evidence in the light most favorable to him. View "Tahboub v. Thiagarajah" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the trial court dismissing Plaintiff's wrongful-death action against the City of Petersburg alleging that the City failed to notify area residents that the infrastructure was not adequate to provide the required safe flow of water to area fire hydrants, resulting in the death of his son, holding that sovereign immunity barred Plaintiff's complaint. In the complaint, Plaintiff alleged that his son died from smoke inhalation and thermal injuries during a fire at his Petersburg residence before firefighters could establish a sufficient water supply and remove him from the burning residence. The City filed a demurrer and plea in bar, asserting that because Plaintiff's claim arose from the City's governmental functions of operating a fire department and supplying water for fire protection, sovereign immunity barred Plaintiff's suit. The circuit court granted the demurrer and plea in bar and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Plaintiff's complaint alleged negligence arising from the City's immune governmental function of providing and maintaining fire hydrants the trial court properly granted the City's demurrer and plea in bar of sovereign immunity. View "Massenburg v. City of Petersburg" on Justia Law

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In this personal injury action, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of Yashana Spruill and against Angela Tyler only on liability, holding that the trial court erred in admitting certain medical records, but the error was harmless. Spruill was a passenger in Tyler's vehicle when it was involved in an accident with a vehicle driven by Brendon Garcia. Spruill sued Tyler and Garcia seeking damages for personal injuries allegedly resulting from the accident. The jury reached a verdict in favor of Spruill against Tyler only on liability and awarded $0 in damages. Spruill appealed, arguing that her medical records were improperly admitted into evidence because they had not been properly authenticated and were inadmissible hearsay. The Supreme Court held (1) as to the admission of the medical records, neither the requirements of the authentication statute nor Va. R. Evid. 2:308(6) were satisfied; but (2) in the unique context of this case, the admission of the medical records was harmless error. View "Spruill v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiffs' claims against home builder gravestone Homes, Inc. seeking tort and contract remedies after mold developed in a new home, holding that the circuit court erred in dismissing negligent-repair claims and contract claims. George and Crystal Tingler entered into a construction contract with Graystone to construct a new home on property owned by a family-run company, Belle Meade Farm, LLC. After the house was built, rain water leaked into the house, and mold developed. Graystone tried unsuccessfully to remediate the mold. The Tinglers and their children subsequently abandoned the home and sued Graystone seeking contract remedies for roperty damage, personal injuries, and economic losses. The Tinglers and Belle Meade separately sued Graystone seeking contract remedies for economic losses and property damage. The circuit court dismissed all claims in each of the complaints. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the circuit court erred (1) in dismissing the negligent-repair counts in the Tingler family's personal injury complaints and the Tinglers' and Belle Meade's complaint; and (2) in dismissing the contract claims and contractual claims in the Tinglers' and Belle Meade's complaint. View "Tingler v. Graystone Homes, Inc." on Justia Law