Articles Posted in Virginia Supreme Court

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Plaintiffs were former employees by Verizon Virginia, Inc. Plaintiffs sued Verizon and the Communication Workers of America, AFL-CIO District 2 after Plaintiffs accepted an “Enhanced Income Security Plan” based on the assurances that they would not be terminated but were nonetheless terminated. Defendants filed notices of removal to the federal district court, arguing that Plaintiffs’ state-law claims were completely preempted by section 301(a) of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA). The district court concluded that Plaintiffs’ state-law claims were not completely preempted and there was no federal jurisdiction. On remand, the circuit court agreed with Defendants on the complete preemption issue and dismissed the case. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court erred by dismissing Plaintiffs’ claims for lack of jurisdiction, even if they were completely preempted; and (2) Plaintiffs’ claims were not completely preempted. View "Anthony v. Verizon Va., Inc." on Justia Law

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Decedent was fatally injured when a train struck the dump truck Decedent was operating. RGR, LLC operated a business offloading and reloading lumber adjacent to the railroad tracks. Decedent’s Estate filed a wrongful death action against RGR and others, alleging that Defendants created a hazardous condition by stacking lumber near the railroad tracks, which blocked the view of Decedent so that he could not see the approaching train in time to avoid the collision. The jury returned a verdict for the Estate in the amount of $2.5 million. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s judgment and entered final judgment for RGR, holding that the evidence established that Decedent was contributorily negligent as a matter of law because he did not look to see if a train was approaching, and his failure to do so was a proximate cause of the accident. View "RGR, LLC v. Settle" on Justia Law

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After Tonia Begley died, Robert Bartee and Wiley Begley qualified as co-administrators of Begley’s estate. Wiley Begley subsequently died. Thereafter, Bartee filed a wrongful death lawsuit against an emergency department physician. The trial court dismissed the action, concluding that Bartee lacked standing to sue alone. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Bartee had standing to file the action under the doctrine of survivorship because the power of appointment given to Bartee and Wiley Begley as co-administrators of the estate to prosecute a wrongful death action could be exercised by Bartee as the sole remaining survivor. Remanded. View "Bartee v. Vitocruz" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suits against Defendants, alleging that she was injured by Defendants’ course of conduct while she was incarcerated in the Richmond City Jail. Plaintiff was not incarcerated when she filed her lawsuits. Plaintiff asserted state law claims and later amended her complaint to assert federal claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The circuit court (1) sustained Defendants’ pleas in bar to Plaintiff’s state law causes of action based on the statute of limitations in Va. Code Ann. 8.01-243.2, and (2) sustained Defendants’ special pleas and affirmative defense of the statute of limitations to the amended complaint, concluding that the section 1983 claims did not relate back to the original filings of the state law claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the statute of limitations in section 8.01-243.2 applies when the plaintiff is no longer incarcerated at the time she files her action relating to the conditions of her confinement, and thus, the circuit court did not err in finding that Plaintiff’s state law claims were time barred; and (2) the circuit court did not err in not granting leave for Plaintiff to file a second amended complaint. View "Lucas v. Woody" on Justia Law

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Ubaldo Rodriguez was an employee the general contractor hired by Leesburg Business Park, LLC (LBP) to construct warehouse buildings on a parcel of undeveloped land owned by LBP. Ubaldo suffered fatal injuries in the course of employment. Cecilia Rodriguez, Ubaldo’s widow and the administrator of his estate, filed a wrongful death action against LBP. LBP filed a plea in bar, which the circuit court granted on the grounds that Cecilia’s claim was barred because Ubaldo was the statutory co-employee of LBP. The Supreme Court reversed. On remand, LBP moved to reconsider its plea in bar, arguing that it was Ubaldo’s statutory employer and that Cecilia’s recovery was limited to Workers’ Compensation benefits only. The circuit court sustained the plea in bar and dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Ubaldo’s work at the time of the accident was not part of LBP’s “trade, business, or occupation,” and therefore, LBP was not Ubaldo’s statutory employer at the time of the accident under Va. Code Ann. 65.2-302(A). Remanded. View "Rodriguez v. Leesburg Bus. Park, LLC " on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed an action against Defendants, alleging claims for tortious interference with a contract, tortious interference with business expectancy, and business conspiracy. The district court (1) dismissed the business conspiracy claim for failure to allege an unlawful act or purpose, and (2) dismissed Plaintiff’s remaining two tort claims as barred by the two-year statute of limitations in Va. Code Ann. 8.01-248, thus rejecting Plaintiff’s contention that his tortious interference claims constituted an injury to his property, which would be subject to a five-year statute of limitations under Va. Code Ann. 8.01-243(B). Plaintiff appealed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fourth Circuit entered an order of certification requesting the Virginia Supreme Court to answer two questions of law. The Supreme Court answered by holding (1) causes of action for tortious interference with a contract and tortious interference with business expectancy qualify as the requisite unlawful act to proceed on a business conspiracy claim under Va. Code Ann. 18.2-499 and -500; and (2) the five-year statute of limitations in section 8.01-243(B) applies to claims of tortious interference with a contract and tortious interference with business expectancy because both claims involve injury to property rights. View "Dunlap v. Cottman Transmissions Sys., LLC" on Justia Law

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Victoria Coalson and Michael Stemke (together, Plaintiffs) were injured in an accident caused by Victor Canchola, who was intoxicated at the time of the accident. Plaintiffs each filed lawsuits against Canchola. A jury awarded Coalson $5,600 in compensatory damages and Stemke $14,000 in compensatory damages against Canchola. Plaintiffs were each awarded $100,000 each in punitive damages. Canchola filed a motion for remittitur of both punitive damages awards, arguing that the awards were excessive under Virginia law and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The circuit court concluded that Coalson’s award was arbitrarily made and remitted Coalson’s punitive damages to $50,000. Coalson appealed. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the jury verdict awarding Coalson $100,000 in punitive damages, holding that the circuit court erred in granting Canchola’s motion for remittitur because Coalson’s punitive damages award was not excessive under Virginia law, nor did it offend Canchola’s due process rights. View "Coalson v. Canchola" on Justia Law

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The Byrd Theatre Foundation, a non-profit corporation, owned the Byrd Theatre, a historic landmark that housed a Wurlitzer theater pipe organ installed in 1928. David Barnett was injured when he was performing repairs to the organ and a wooden plank he stepped on gave way, causing him to fall four feet. Barnett sued the Foundation. Prior to trial, the Foundation filed a plea of charitable immunity, asserting that Barnett was a beneficiary of the Foundation at the time of his accident. The circuit court concluded that Barnett was not the Foundation’s beneficiary at the time of his accident. After a trial, the jury rendered a verdict against the Foundation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying the Foundation’s plea of charitable immunity, as Barnett was not in a “beneficial relationship” with the charity for purposes of charitable immunity. View "Byrd Theatre Found. v. Barnett" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an assistant principal, filed an action against a local newspaper and and the author of the article at issue in this case, alleging libel, libel per se, and libel per quod, asserting that the article published by the newspaper damaged his reputation by falsely implying that he had “engaged in unethical conduct by obtaining preferential treatment for his son.” Defendants filed a demurrer denying that the article created such an implication. The circuit court overruled the demurrer. After a trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff. Thereafter, the circuit court granted Defendants’ motions to strike, entered a defense verdict, and dismissed the action with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) as a matter of law, the article was not reasonably capable of the defamatory meaning Plaintiff ascribed to it; and (2) accordingly, the circuit court erred by overruling Defendants’ demurrer, but the error was supplanted by the court’s final judgment in favor of Defendants. View "Webb v. Virginian-Pilot Media Cos., LLC" on Justia Law

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Landowner filed a complaint against Western Virginia Water Authority (the Authority) after the Authority’s sewer line burst on his property and caused extensive damage, including the collapse of a ten-foot high retaining wall running along the rear of the property. The Authority filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that operating and maintaining the sewer line was a governmental function and, therefore, the doctrine of sovereign immunity precluded liability. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred in holding that the Authority was entitled to sovereign immunity because the maintenance and operation of the sanitary sewer system was a proprietary function. Remanded. View "Robertson v. W. Va. Water Auth." on Justia Law