Justia Virginia Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Ebenezer Manu filed a complaint against GEICO Casualty Company alleging that GEICO violated Va. Code Ann. 8.01-66.1 for its bad faith conduct in adjusting his uninsured motorist bodily injury claim. Specifically, Manu alleged that GEICO, his uninsured motorist (UM) carrier, violated its duty of good faith by refusing to pay its UM policy limits prior to Manu obtaining a judgment against the uninsured tortfeasor. GEICO filed a demurrer. The circuit court ultimately granted GEICO’s motion to compel and dismissed the complaint with prejudice, concluding that section 8.01-66.1(D)(1) did not provide Manu a remedy against GEICO. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 8.01-66.1(D)(1) does not create a duty for UM carriers to settle a case prior to trial but, rather, creates a remedy for the conduct of UM carriers that refuse in bad faith to pay once the insured has obtained judgment; and (2) accordingly, Manu’s complaint failed to state a cognizable claim. View "Manu v. GEICO Casualty Co." on Justia Law
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After his employment as the Town of Warrenton’s Building Official ended, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint against the Town requesting a writ of mandamus to reappoint him as “the executive official in charge of the Warrenton building division” as a remedy for the Town’s alleged violation of a local regulation. The Town filed a demurrer, contending that Plaintiff did not allege facts demonstrating that he was ever permanently appointed as the Town’s Building Official. The circuit court sustained the demurrer, concluding that the alleged facts did not demonstrate that the Town had made a “permanent appointment” of Plaintiff as Building Official. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff alleged sufficient facts to survive a demurrer and to permit the reasonable inference that he was permanently appointed as the Building Official for the Town. Remanded. View "Hale v. Town of Warrenton" on Justia Law

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Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company (together, Nationwide) brought a claim for declaratory judgment requesting that the trial court determine the priority of five separate insurance policies provided by Nationwide and Erie Insurance Exchange (Erie). The trial court determined the priority of coverage as (1) Nationwide Business Auto Policy, $1 million; (2) Nationwide Commercial General Liability Policy, $1 million; (3) Nationwide Commercial Umbrella Policy, $1 million; (4) Erie Commercial Auto Policy, $1 million; and (5) Erie Business Catastrophe Liability Policy, $5 million. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the order of priorities for the applicable insurance policies in this case was (1) Erie Auto Policy; (2) Nationwide Auto Policy; (3) Nationwide Umbrella Policy and Erie Umbrella Policy, pro rata. View "Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Co. v. Erie Insurance Exchange" on Justia Law
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Plaintiffs bought this lawsuit against the Fairfax County School Board seeking declaratory judgment and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief for the allegedly unlawful expansion of the school board’s non-discrimination and student code of conduct policies. Plaintiffs included Jack Doe, a student at a public high school, who brought suit by and through his parents as next friends, and Andrea Lafferty, a citizen, taxpayer, and resident of Fairfax County. Jack Doe’s parents were citizens, taxpayers, and residents of Fairfax County. The Board filed a motion to dismiss and demurrer, arguing that Plaintiffs lacked standing. The circuit court dismissed without leave to amend, concluding (1) Andrea Lafferty and the Does individually lacked taxpayer standing, and (2) Jack Doe lacked standing because his disappointment with or anxiety or confusion over the school board’s action did not constitute a case or controversy or an adjudication of a right. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the parties failed to allege an actual controversy sufficient to bring a declaratory judgment, and therefore, they likewise may not recover the injunctive relief requested therein. View "Lafferty v. School Board of Fairfax County" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with unreasonable refusal to submit a breath sample under Va. Code 18.2-268.3. At trial, Defendant argued that the Commonwealth failed to prove that he was operating a motor vehicle on a “highway” as defined by Va. Code 46.2-100. The trial court denied the motion. Ultimately, the trial court determined that Defendant had unreasonably refused to submit a breath sample and ordered that his license to drive be suspended for twelve months. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the roadway upon which Defendant was operating his motor vehicle did not meet the statutory definition of highway under section 46.2-100, and therefore, the implied consent statute had no applicability and Defendant was not required to submit a breath sample. View "Kim v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law
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A declaration of protective covenants and restrictions (Declaration) for a Subdivision created a Committee, an unincorporated association, to have full authority to enforce the Declaration. In 2014, an amendment of the Declaration was recorded in the name of the lot owners and the Subdivision’s home owners association (Association) asserting that the Declaration could be amended by two-thirds of the lot owners. The amendment was signed by all the lot owners except Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs filed a complaint asserting that the Declaration could be amended only with the unanimous consent of all the lot owners. Thereafter, another amendment was signed by all the lot owners except Plaintiffs asserting that the Association was created by the Declaration. Plaintiffs amended their complaint to seek a declaratory judgment that both amendments were invalid. The circuit court ruled in favor of Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the circuit court (1) erred in ruling that the Declaration did not create a property owners’ association within the meaning of the Virginia Property Owners’ Association Act; (2) erred in ruling that the amendments may not be adopted by a two-thirds majority vote; and (3) did not err in finding that the Association was not a property owners’ association within the meaning of the Act. View "Shepherd v. Conde" on Justia Law

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Mariam Toraish, as the administrator of her deceased five-year-old son Adam’s estate, instituted a medical malpractice action against James J. Lee, M.D. and his practice. Lee had performed a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery upon Adam, who died that same day from cardiac arrhythmia. Toraish’s complaint alleged that Adam was at a high risk for postoperative respiratory compromise and that Dr. Lee violated the applicable standard of care by failing to order that he be monitored overnight following surgery. During trial, the trial court allowed the expert testimony of Simeon Boyd, M.D., a board-certified pediatric geneticist, who opined that Adam highly likely died of “cardiac arrest due to Brugada syndrome.” The jury returned a verdict in favor of Dr. Lee and his practice. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Dr. Boyd’s testimony should not have been admitted because it was based upon an assumption that had no basis in fact. Remanded for a new trial. View "Toraish v. Lee" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of carjacking and use of a firearm in the commission of carjacking, along with robbery, attempted robbery, attempted malicious wounding, and three other counts of using a firearm in the commission of these felonies. The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions, holding (1) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to strike the Commonwealth’s evidence as insufficient to sustain the carjacking and related firearm convictions; and (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing Defendant’s proffered jury instruction on carjacking. View "Hilton v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law
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Marshall Auto & Truck Center, Inc. executed a promissory note in favor of Middleburg Bank. Charles Chamberlain executed a guaranty of that Note. Marshall failed to make payments to Middleburg, and the Bank withdrew funds from Chamberlain’s account to satisfy Marshall’s obligations under the Note. Chamberlain filed a complaint against Marshall claiming that, pursuant to Va. Code 49-27, he was entitled to judgment against Marshall upon Marshall’s default and seizure of collateral by the Bank. Marshall argued that Code 49-27 did not apply because Chamberlain executed the Guaranty as a gift. The circuit court ruled that Chamberlain recover nothing from Marshall. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because there was no evidence in the record that Chamberlain made a gift or waived his statutory rights under section 49-27, he was entitled to judgment. Remanded. View "Chamberlain v. Marshall Auto & Truck Center, Inc." on Justia Law
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Martha Lambert filed a warrant in debt asserting that the Sea Oats Condominium Association failed to pay $500 to repair an exterior door to her condominium. Lambert sought $500 in damages and an award of attorney’s fees. The general district court entered judgment for the Association. The circuit court awarded judgment to Lambert. The court then entered a corrected final order awarding Lambert $500 in damages and $375 in attorney’s fees. Lambert appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred by awarding her only $375 in attorney’s fees. The Association asserted that the circuit court erred by awarding Lambert attorney’s fees at all. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court abused its discretion by failing to consider relevant factors in its attorney’s fees award that should have been given significant weight; and (2) a party seeking an award of attorney’s fees need not prove the reasonableness of the award in its prima facie case. Remanded. View "Lambert v. Sea Oats Condominium Ass'n" on Justia Law