Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Virginia
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court sustaining Virginia Electric and Power Company's (VEPCO) plea in bar regarding conflict preemption and dismissing Plaintiffs' complaints alleging common law personal injury, holding that conflict preemption barred Plaintiffs' claims.After VEPCO installed smart meters on Plaintiffs' home Plaintiffs fell ill with symptoms of unknown origin or cause. Plaintiffs sued VEPCO for common law injuries. The circuit court granted VEPCO's plea in bar and dismissed the complaints, finding that the claims were barred by conflict preemption. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in dismissing Plaintiffs' claims as preempted by federal law. View "Kinsey v. Virginia Electric & Power Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court granting Defendants' motion to strike as to all of Plaintiff's claims, holding that the circuit court erred in granting Defendants' motion to strike Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim.Plaintiff was prosecuted for shoplifting at a Kroger supermarket, but the case was dismissed when it became clear that Plaintiff had been misidentified. Plaintiff filed a complaint against Kroger and one of its managers (collectively, Defendants) asserting claims of malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and defamation. The circuit court granted Defendants' motions to strike as to all of Plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court erred in granting Defendants' motion to strike Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim because it ignored evidence that was favorable to Plaintiff; and (2) the circuit court did not err in granting Defendants' motion to strike Plaintiff's remaining claims. View "Dill v. Kroger Limited Partnership I" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court entering judgment on the jury's verdict for Defendants in this wrongful death action, holding that there was no abuse of discretion in the circuit court's evidentiary rulings.This case arising from an unexplained single-vehicle accident in which both occupants died. At issue during trial was which of the two occupants was the driver. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err (1) in excluding portions of the medical examiner's autopsy report and Plaintiff's experts' opinions regarding the identity of the driver and Gerald Hilliard's alleged sleep disorder; and (2) in refusing Plaintiff's proffered jury instruction on falling asleep at the wheel. View "Lucas v. Riverhill Poultry, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the court of appeals erred by affirming an award of permanent total disability benefits after Employee suffered an injury that was a compensable consequence of an earlier compensable injury.Merrick Vincent was injured during the course and scope of his employment and was awarded temporary total benefits. Vincent later fell down the stairs of his home and injured his left knee. A deputy commission awarded him benefits on the grounds that the knee injury was a compensable consequence of his previous injuries. Vincent then filed a change-in-condition claim seeking an award of permanent total disability benefits under Va. Code 65.2-503(C)(1). A deputy commission awarded the benefits, and the Workers' Compensation Commission affirmed. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) section 65.2-503(C)(1) permits an award of permanent total disability only if two disabling injuries occurred "in the same accident"; and (2) because Vincent suffered his original injuries and his knee injury in different accidents, the court of appeals erred by affirming the Commission's ruling. View "Merck v. Vincent" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Jane Doe's amended complaint alleging that, while she was a minor, she was sexually molested by the retired but still active pastor of her church, holding that the circuit court erred in dismissing several of Doe's claims.Doe's amended complaint named as defendants various individual and institutional churches and alleged negligent hiring or retention, negligent failure to warn and protect, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and other claims. The circuit court dismissed the case in its entirety. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the circuit court (1) erred in dismissing the negligent hiring or retention counts to the extent they were based on the church hiring or retaining the pastor as an employee or agent following his retirement as pastor; (2) erred in dismissing the vicarious liability claim and the claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress; and (3) did not err in dismissing the remaining claims. View "Doe v. Baker" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court awarding compensatory and punitive damages arising from Appellants' intentional statutory torts of racial harassment and stalking, holding that the evidence was sufficient to support the award.William Ellis, a black man, worked for John Powell, a white man, and his company, Northern Virginia Kitchen, Bath & Basement, Inc. (NVKBB) as an independent contractor. A dispute arose when Ellis worked at the home of a certain homeowner, referred to as Ms. C. NVKBB filed a complaint against Ms. C and Ellis, alleging, inter alia, defamation. The circuit court granted partial summary judgment against Powell for violating Va. Code 8.01-42.1 and -42.3. Thereafter, the circuit court returned a verdict in favor of Ellis. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in denying NVKBB and Powell's motions to strike and to set aside the jury's verdict; and (2) there was sufficient evidence to support the award of compensatory damages. View "Northern Virginia Kitchen, Bath & Basement v. Ellis" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing with prejudice an amended complaint filed by Lisha Bryant-Shannon (Shannon) against the Hampton Roads Community Action Program, Inc. (HRCAP) alleging its liability for defamatory statements made by Tina Vick, the HRCAP interim executive director, holding that the circuit court properly granted HRCAP's special plea of absolute privilege.After Shannon was terminated from her position she applied for unemployment benefits, but the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC) denied the application following a hearing. Shannon subsequently filed this action stating claims for defamation based in part on allegedly defamatory statements made during employment-related disciplinary proceedings and in part on Vick's allegations during the VEC proceedings. The circuit court dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the statements in the disciplinary form (1) Va. Code 60.2-623(B) grants absolute privilege to statements made during VEC proceedings; and (2) the circuit court did not err in granting HRCAP's special plea of absolute privilege. View "Bryant-Shannon v. Hampton Roads Community Action Program, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court dismissing this wrongful death action, holding that the Recreational Land Use Act, Va. Code 29.1-509, did not provide Defendants with immunity under the circumstances of this case.Shawn Nicely was visiting his grandparents, Richard and Anna Funkhouser, when Gina Shoemaker was visiting her mother, Dorothy Nesselrodt, a neighbor of the Funkhousers. According to the complaint, the Funkhousers gave Nicely permission to shoot targets on their property in the direction of Nesselrodt's home. One of the bullets did penetrate the walls of Nesselrodt's house, striking and killing Shoemaker. The circuit court dismissed this case brought by the administrator and personal representative of Shoemaker, concluding that the Funkhousers did not owe Nesselrodt or her visitors a duty and that the immunity afforded to landowners under the Act foreclosed this suit. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) landowners have a limited duty in tort to prevent activity on their property that could harm other persons not on the property; and (2) the Act did not immunize the Funkhousers. View "Shoemaker v. Funkhouser" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the determination of the trial court that James Charles St. John must pay attorney fees to the person he defrauded, holding that the circuit court did not err.St. John befriended his neighbor, Ernest Stuart Elsea, II. St. John subsequently persuaded Elsea to transfer his extensive firearm collection to a firearm trust that St. John established and controlled and had Elsea sign a durable power of attorney. St. John then induced Elsea to sign a codicil to his will naming St. John and St. John's partner as beneficiaries. Elsea filed a complaint seeking an accounting and a recovery of the firearms, alleging breach of fiduciary duty, and alleging fraud an undue influence. The circuit court rejected counts one and two but ordered St. John to either return the firearms to Elsea or pay Elsea the value of the firearms. The circuit court then ordered St. John to pay attorney's fees. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court properly awarded fees under Prospect Development Co. v. Bershader, 258 Va. 75 (1999). View "St. John v. Thompson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court entering summary judgment in favor of the Commonwealth and dismissing Plaintiff's complaint alleging that he was injured while falling down stairs negligently maintained by the Department of Corrections (DOC), holding that the circuit court erred.On appeal, Plaintiff challenged the three independent grounds relied upon by the circuit court in sustaining the Commonwealth's plea in bar and granting summary judgment. Among other things, Plaintiff argued that he exhausted his administrative remedies under the Virginia Tort Claims Act, and therefore, sovereign immunity did not bar his civil action. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the initial grievance and all later appeals are properly submitted when the inmate timely places them into the prison mailing system, and therefore, the circuit court erred in concluding that grievance appeals are submitted for purposes of exhaustion when they are received by the DOC; and (2) the circuit court erred in granting summary judgment on the issues of primary and contributory negligence. View "AlBritton v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law