Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Virginia

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In this insurance coverage dispute, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court ruling in favor of Doswell Truck Stop, LLC (DTS) on DTS's declaratory judgment action against James River Insurance Company and entered final judgment declaring that an auto exclusion precluded coverage of James Smith's injuries under the policy at issue, holding that the trial court erred in ruling in favor of DTS. Smith filed a personal injury lawsuit against DTS for injuries he allegedly suffered as a result of a tire explosion that occurred when DTS was repairing a tire on Smith's tractor-trailer. DTS filed an insurance claim with James River, which had issued a commercial general liability policy to DTS. James River denied coverage on the basis that DTS's claim was precluded by the auto exclusion. DTS then filed this action seeking a determination of whether the policy covered Smith's injury. The circuit court ruled in favor of DTS. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred determining that the auto exclusion was ambiguous with respect to the meaning of "maintenance" of an auto; and (2) the circuit court erred in ruling that an independent basis existed for coverage under the policy. View "James River Insurance Co. v. Doswell Truck Stop, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court accepted certification of a question of law in a proceeding pending before the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut and answered that Virginia law recognizes that the collateral source rule can apply to breach of contract cases. Specifically at issue was whether Virginia law applies the collateral source rule to a breach of contract action where the plaintiff has been reimbursed by an insurer for the full amount it seeks in damages from the defendant. The Supreme Court answered that the same rationales supporting the recognition of the collateral source rule in tort cases also supports the rule's application in certain breach of contract actions. The Court further explained that whether the rule applies to a given case requires a case by case analysis as to whether the parties' expectations, in light of those rationales, support the rule's application. View "Dominion Resources, Inc. v. Alstom Power, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission not to award Appellant benefits after he was injured while renovating a historic school building, holding that Appellant did not meet his burden of proving his statutory-employer claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Appellant sought benefits against a church and its historical society, alleging that these entities were his statutory employers. The Commission denied benefits, holding that none of the defendants were Appellant’s direct employer and that the church and the historical society were not Appellant’s statutory employers. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission applied the correct legal standard and acted within its fact-finding discretion in concluding that Appellant had failed to prove that the church or the historical society were his statutory employers. View "Jeffreys v. Uninsured Employer's Fund" on Justia Law

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In this appeal by a railroad corporation (Defendant) from a judgment in favor of one of its employees (Plaintiff) in an action brought under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. 51 through 59, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court, holding that the circuit court did not err in admitting certain testimony or in granting Defendant’s motions to strike and to set aside the verdict. After a jury trial, the circuit court entered judgment on the verdict and awarded Plaintiff damages. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no merit to Defendant’s argument that the circuit court erred in admitting expert testimony; and (2) the evidence was sufficient to create a jury issue with regard to causation, and, armed with a jury verdict in his favor approved by the trial court, Plaintiff was entitled to have the evidence and the inferences reasonably drawn from it viewed in the light most favorable to him. View "Norfolk Southern Railway Co. v. Sumner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Virginia’s Dead Man’s Statute, Va. Code 8.01-397, permits admission of a decedent’s hearsay statements offered by the defense in a personal injury action brought against the decedent’s estate and that the circuit court did not err in refusing to vacate the jury’s verdict of no damages when the estate conceded liability. Specifically, the Court held (1) the circuit court did not err in admitting hearsay testimony recounting the decedent’s description of the collision under the Dead Man’s Statute; and (2) the circuit court did not err in refusing to set aside the jury’s verdict of no damages as contrary to the law and evidence presented. View "Shumate v. Mitchell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s judgment against Defendants as to Plaintiff’s claims for tortious interference and statutory business conspiracy, holding that the circuit court erred in ruling that Defendants were liable for tortiously interfering with their own contract and in therefore finding that their tortious interference could serve as the predicate unlawful act for statutory business conspiracy. Plaintiff, Read Properties, LLC, filed a complaint against Defendants, Francis Hospitality, Inc. and Delta Educational Systems, Inc., alleging breach of contract, intentional interference with contract, and statutory business conspiracy. The circuit court found in favor of Plaintiff on all claims. The Supreme Court affirmed as to the breach of contract claim and otherwise reversed, holding (1) Defendants could not tortiously interfere with their own contract; and (2) because Plaintiff’s underlying claims of tortious interference with a contract against Defendants failed, its claims of statutory business conspiracy must also fail. View "Francis Hospitality, Inc. v. Read Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the decision of the circuit court granting the demurrers filed by Carilion Clinic and Carilion Healthcare Corporation (collectively, Carilion) and dismissing all of Lindsey Parker’s claims against it, including both vicarious and direct liability claims, holding that the circuit court correctly dismissed the direct liability claims but erred in dismissing the vicarious liability claim on demurrer. Parker sued Carilion and two Carilion employees, alleging that they had disclosed her confidential medical information to others. Parker served process on Carilion but did not serve either employee. The circuit court sustained Carilion’s demurrers. The Supreme Court held (1) Parker’s notice of appeal was timely; (2) the circuit court erred in granting the demurrer to the extent that it dismissed Parker’s respondent superior claim against Carilion; and (3) the circuit court properly found that Carilion was not directly liable under Fairfax Hospital v. Curtis, 254 Va. 437, 442 (1997) or under the doctrine of negligence per se. View "Parker v. Carilion Clinic" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that an employer owes a duty of care to an employee’s family member who alleges exposure to asbestos from the work clothes of an employee where the family member alleges the employer’s negligence allowed asbestos fibers to be regularly transported away from the place of employment to the employee’s home. Three years after Wanda Quisenberry was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos dust and fibers, Wanda died. Plaintiff alleged that Wanda was exposed to asbestos when her father brought home on his clothes asbestos fibers from his place of work, that Employer had reason to know of the dangers that asbestos posed to workers’ family members, and that Employer was negligent in failing to exercise reasonable care to sufficiently warn workers not to wear work clothes home. Employer sought to dismiss the action on the basis that Virginia precedent did not support imposing a legal duty on an employer for injury to an employee’s family member that occurred outside the premises. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia then issued a certification order requesting that the Supreme Court consider this dispositive question of law. The Supreme Court answered as set forth above, holding that the take-home duty is recognized by Virginia law. View "Quisenberry v. Huntington Ingalls Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court striking Plaintiff’s evidence at the trial of her personal injury action against Defendants, holding that the circuit court did not err in ruling that Defendants only owed a duty of care to Plaintiff commensurate with the duty a landlord owes its tenant. Plaintiff rented Defendants’ vacation rental house for her family’s one-week vacation at Virginia Beach. Plaintiff alleged in her complaint that Defendants were negligent because they failed to maintain the house’s floors in a safe and fit condition and failed to warn her of the dangerous condition that caused her to fall. At the conclusion of Plaintiff’s evidence Defendants moved to strike her evidence and enter judgment for Defendants. The circuit court granted the motion on the grounds that Defendants only owed Plaintiff a duty of care commensurate with that of landlord and tenant. The court then entered judgment in Defendants’ favor. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendants did not owe Plaintiff the elevated duty of care that an innkeeper owes its guest but rather, under the evidence presented by Plaintiff, Defendants only owed Plaintiff the duty of care that a landlord owes its tenant. View "Haynes-Garrett v. Dunn" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court ruling that Plaintiff’s amended complaint alleging a wrongful death action failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted against Irish Fleet, Inc. and Reginald Morris under a theory of assumed duty. Plaintiff, the administrator of the estate of Peter Ambrister, brought this wrongful death action against Defendants arising from the murder of her husband, a taxicab driver, by his passenger. Irish Fleet and Morris filed demurrers to Plaintiff’s amended complaint, asserting that Plaintiff failed to allege sufficient facts to support a cause of action based on a theory that they assumed a duty to Plaintiff. The circuit court sustained the demurrers. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in ruling that the amended complaint failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted against Defendants under a theory of assumed duty. View "Terry v. Irish Fleet, Inc." on Justia Law