Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Virginia Supreme Court
VanBuren v. Grubb
Nurse was fired by Doctor, her supervisor, after she refused his sexual advances. Nurse sued Doctor and her Employer, asserting claims for gender discrimination against Employer and wrongful discharge against Doctor and Employer. Defendants moved to dismiss. The U.S. district court granted the motion as to Doctor, concluding that wrongful discharge claims by an employee are cognizable only against the employer and not against supervisors or co-employees in their individual capacity. On appeal, the U.S. court of appeals certified to the Virginia Supreme Court the question of whether Nurse's wrongful discharge claim was cognizable against Doctor. The Supreme Court concluded that Virginia recognizes a common law tort claim of wrongful discharge in violation of established public policy against an individual who was not the plaintiff's actual employer but who was the actor in violation of public policy, as a supervisor or manager, and who participated in the wrongful firing of the plaintiff. View "VanBuren v. Grubb" on Justia Law
Gibbs v. Newport News Shipbuildng & Drydock Co.
This appeal from an order dismissing an action for wrongful death presented the question whether the decedent, who was serving on active duty with the armed forces of the United States at the time of his injury, was covered by the Virginia Workers' Compensation Act. If his injury, which was the subject of this action, came within the purview of the Act, an award under the Act would have been his estate's exclusive remedy, barring this action. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the decedent never acquired the right to seek compensation under the Act, and therefore, the circuit court erred in dismissing the action. View "Gibbs v. Newport News Shipbuildng & Drydock Co." on Justia Law
Preferred Sys. Solutions, Inc. v. GP Consulting, LLC
These companion appeals arose out of a dispute between a government contractor, Preferred Systems Solutions, Inc. (PSS) and one of its subcontractors, GP Consulting, LLC (GP). PSS sued GP following GP's termination of its contract with PSS and its commencement of a subsequent contract with a PSS competitor. PSS alleged breach of contract, misappropriation of trade secrets, and tortious interference with contract, seeking injunctive as well as monetary relief. PSS was ultimately awarded $172,396 in compensatory damages based on the circuit court's finding that GP breached the noncompete clause in the parties' contract. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in (1) awarding damages to PSS for lost profits as a result of GP's breach of the noncompete clause; and (2) refusing to grant PSS injunctive relief, in concluding that PSS failed to prove tortious interference, and in dismissing PSS' trade secret claim. View "Preferred Sys. Solutions, Inc. v. GP Consulting, LLC" on Justia Law
Omega Protein, Inc. v. Forrest
In this personal injury action, Plaintiff sued Employer under the Jones Act for an injury to his back sustained in the course of his employment with Employer as a crew member aboard a commercial fishing vessel. Plaintiff's ultimate negligence liability theory at trial was that Employer breached its duty of care by not obtaining an MRI as part of his pre-employment physical. The trial court awarded damages to Plaintiff upon a jury verdict. The Supreme Court reversed and entered final judgment in favor of Employer, holding that, as a matter of law, there was no evidence of causation presented in the trial of Plaintiff's negligence claim against Employer under the Jones Act. View "Omega Protein, Inc. v. Forrest" on Justia Law
McKinney v. Va. Surgical Assocs., P.C.
Plaintiff in this case was the widow of the Decedent, and Defendant was Virginia Surgical Associates. After discovery, Plaintiff took a voluntary nonsuit of her wrongful death action. Later, Plaintiff filed in the same court, against the same defendant, the present action for personal injuries suffered by Decedent arising out of the same alleged negligence, as a survival action. The survival action was filed more than two years after Defendant's alleged negligence but less than six months after Plaintiff's nonsuit of her action for wrongful death. The circuit court sustained Defendant's plea in bar based on the two-year statute of limitations applicable to actions for personal injury and dismissed the case. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in holding that the survival action was a different cause of action than the wrongful death action and it was therefore not saved by the tolling provision of Va. Code Ann. 8.01-229(E)(3). Remanded. View "McKinney v. Va. Surgical Assocs., P.C." on Justia Law
Kurpiel v. Hicks
Plaintiffs filed a complaint against Defendants, alleging common law trespass. Plaintiffs argued that by not developing their land in a reasonable manner, Defendants directed and caused storm water to flow upon Plaintiffs' property so as to cause damage to the property. The trial court sustained Defendants' demurrer with prejudice, finding that Plaintiffs failed to allege facts sufficient to support a cause of action for trespass. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred in sustaining Defendants' demurrer, as Plaintiffs' amended complaint alleged sufficient facts to state a cause of action for common law trespass based upon a violation of the modified common law rule applicable to surface water. Remanded. View "Kurpiel v. Hicks" on Justia Law
John Crane, Inc. v. Hardick
Plaintiffs, Decedent's wife and estate, filed suit under general maritime law against John Crane, Inc. (JCI) seeking compensatory and punitive damages, alleging that Decedent, a former seaman, was exposed to asbestos contained in products manufactured by JCI and that he contracted mesothelioma as a result of such exposure. Plaintiffs' third amended complaint included revived personal injury survival claims - which sought damages for Decedent's pre-death pain and suffering - and Plaintiffs' wrongful death claims. A jury awarded $2 million in damages for Decedent's pre-death pain and suffering. The Supreme Court vacated the award. Plaintiffs petitioned for a rehearing, which the Court granted. The Court then reinstated the award and modified its opinion, holding that because the Jones Act permits recovery for the losses suffered during a decedent seaman's lifetime in a survival action, including pre-death pain and suffering, Decedent's estate may recover for his pre-death pain and suffering under general maritime law. View "John Crane, Inc. v. Hardick" on Justia Law
Inova Health Care Servs. v. Kebaish
At issue in this appeal was whether the circuit court erred in allowing Plaintiff to take a nonsuit as a matter of right pursuant to Va. Code Ann. 8.01-380(B) based on its determination that Plaintiff's prior voluntary dismissal in federal court was not a nonsuit under section 8.01-380. In Virginia, a plaintiff may take only one nonsuit as a matter of right. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in finding that Plaintiff was permitted to take a nonsuit as a matter of right pursuant to section 8.01-380(B), holding (1) Va. Code Ann. 8.01-229(E)(3) does not confirm or suggest that a voluntary dismissal taken pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1)(A)(i) is a nonsuit for purposes of section 8.01-380; and (2) Plaintiff's prior voluntary dismissal in federal court was not substantially equivalent to Virginia's nonsuit in this regard. View "Inova Health Care Servs. v. Kebaish" on Justia Law
Hale v. Maersk Line Ltd.
Seaman filed this action to recover maintenance and cure and compensatory and punitive damages from his former employer (Employer), claiming that he suffered PTSD and depression as a result of being gang-raped by uniformed Korean police officers while he was on shore leave from Employer's ship docked in Korea. The jury awarded Seaman $20,000,000 in compensatory damages and $5,000,000 in punitive damages. The circuit court granted Employer's motion for partial summary judgment precluding Seaman's denial of maintenance and cure, set aside the punitive damages award, and remitted the compensatory damages award to $2,000,000. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial on all issues relating to the seaworthiness and Jones Act claims regarding Employer's actions after Seaman returned to the ship, and Seaman's claim for maintenance and cure benefits, holding (1) the circuit court erred by not ordering a new trial after concluding that the maintenance and cure claim for compensatory and punitive damages should not have been submitted to the jury; and (2) the circuit court erred in refusing the instruction proffered by Employer quoting the circuit court's pre-trial ruling on the Jones Act and seaworthiness claims, and the refusal was not harmless. View "Hale v. Maersk Line Ltd." on Justia Law
Steward v. Holland Family Props., LLC
Rosa Steward leased a home from Holland Family Properties. Rosa's son Dontral suffered lead poisoning as a result of his exposure to high levels of lead paint, which caused severe physical and mental impairments. Dontral, through his mother (Steward), filed a complaint against Holland and Jean Cross, the owner of property Dontral often visited. Both properties contained lead-based paint. Steward claimed that Defendants were liable for his injuries based on theories of negligence per se and common law negligence. The circuit court dismissed both counts on demurrer. At issue on appeal was whether Defendants, landlords subject to the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (VRLTA), had a duty in tort to the tenants of leased properties to comply with building and housing codes concerning public health and safety. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a tort duty was not imposed on these landlords by the common law, the leases executed in this case, or the VRLTA.