Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff’s suit alleging breach of contract claims against Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. pursuant to the applicable statute of limitations, holding that because Plaintiff did not file his suit within five years of the date of accrual, the statute of limitations barred his claims. After a foreclosure sale of the property at issue, Plaintiff filed this complaint alleging that Wells Fargo breached a mortgage loan agreement by failing to give him a contractually required opportunity to cure his default and by improperly accelerating the balance due after his default. The circuit court concluded that the debt acceleration had triggered the accrual of the breach of contract claims and that this breach had occurred more than five years before Plaintiff filed suit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff’s breach of contract claims were barred by the statute of limitations. View "Kerns v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a general appearance after the entry of a final judgment that is void ab initio because of the absence of personal jurisdiction does not, by itself, convert the prior void judgment into a valid one. A landlord obtained a default judgment against a commercial tenant and its guarantor for unpaid rent. The judgment was void as to the guarantor because the landlord failed properly to serve the complaint on him. The circuit court, however, found that the guarantor had entered a general appearance during post-judgment enforcement proceedings and thereby waived any objection to the validity of the default judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in denying the guarantor’s motion to vacate the default judgment because the judgment was void as to the guarantor. View "McCulley v. Brooks & Co." on Justia Law

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This case provided the Supreme Court an opportunity to provide guidance on what happens if one of multiple losing parties wishes to appeal from a general district court (GDC) judgment involving consolidated claims by several parties. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s award of sanctions against Landlord and award of damages in favor of Tenants in this dispute over holdover rent and property damages. Landlord filed a warrant in debt against Tenants. Tenants filed a counterclaim. The GDC ruled against both parties and dismissed all claims. Landlord appealed to the circuit court but later withdrew its appeal. The circuit court awarded sanctions against Landlord and awarded damages in favor of Tenants on their unappealed counterclaim without hearing evidence on the matter. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court abused its discretion by applying a rationale for a sanctions award that finds no support in either the text of Va. Code 8.01-271.1 or this court’s opinions applying it; and (2) the circuit court erred in adjudicating Tenants’ counterclaim. View "Robert & Bertha Robinson Family, LLC v. Allen" on Justia Law

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This case provided the Supreme Court an opportunity to provide guidance on what happens if one of multiple losing parties wishes to appeal from a general district court (GDC) judgment involving consolidated claims by several parties. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s award of sanctions against Landlord and award of damages in favor of Tenants in this dispute over holdover rent and property damages. Landlord filed a warrant in debt against Tenants. Tenants filed a counterclaim. The GDC ruled against both parties and dismissed all claims. Landlord appealed to the circuit court but later withdrew its appeal. The circuit court awarded sanctions against Landlord and awarded damages in favor of Tenants on their unappealed counterclaim without hearing evidence on the matter. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court abused its discretion by applying a rationale for a sanctions award that finds no support in either the text of Va. Code 8.01-271.1 or this court’s opinions applying it; and (2) the circuit court erred in adjudicating Tenants’ counterclaim. View "Robert & Bertha Robinson Family, LLC v. Allen" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Rickman was convicted of five counts of aggravated sexual battery, two of forcible sodomy, one of abduction of a minor, one of object sexual penetration, one of taking indecent liberties with a minor, and one of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, arising from Rickman’s abuse of his biological and step-children over several years. He was sentenced to 75 years of imprisonment with 60 years suspended. In 2015, the Commonwealth sought to have Rickman civilly committed under the Sexually Violent Predators Act, Code 37.2-900 to -921 (SVPA), which calls for a hearing within 90 days to determine whether probable cause exists. The respondent may waive a hearing and either party may request a continuance. The deadline for Rickman's probable-cause hearing was November 26. The parties exchanged emails to find an available date for the assistant attorney general, the Commonwealth’s expert, Rickman’s counsel, and the court. They settled on January 8, 2016. In an email to the assistant attorney general and court docket clerk, Rickman’s counsel acknowledged that she was available that day, but “[would] need to note an objection. Neither party sought a continuance. After November 26, Rickman unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the SVPA petition. The circuit court civilly committed Rickman. The Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed. The requirement, even if violated, does not require dismissal of the SVPA petition. The options are orders: granting a conditional, temporary release, expediting the proceeding, and disallowing evidence at the hearing. The court should make its discretionary decision by balancing any prejudice to the respondent, the length of and reasons for the delay, and any bad faith. View "Rickman v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Ahmed alleged that as an inmate at Greensville Correctional Center, he suffered an injury to his head and neck on September 10, 2013, when the telephone he was using fell from the wall and struck him. Ahmed filed informal complaints on the same day against the Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC). DOC responded on September 27. Ahmed filed grievances on September 30, which the DOC ruled to be “[u]nfounded” on October 22. On October 24, Ahmed filed an appeal, triggering a “Level II” review under the Inmate Grievance Procedure. DOC affirmed on October 30, informing Ahmed that “Level II is the last level of appeal” and that he has “exhausted all administrative remedies.” Ahmed filed notice of a tort claim against the Commonwealth on September 22, 2014, with his required affidavit verifying that he had exhausted administrative remedies. Ahmed filed a complaint on February 24, 2016. The circuit court dismissed, finding that Ahmed’s notice of claim was not filed within one year (VTCA 8.01-195.7). The Supreme Court of Virginia reversed. Code section 8.01-195.3(7) states that “[t]he time for filing the notice of tort claim shall be tolled during the pendency of the grievance procedure." The grievance process continued until October 30, 2013. View "Ahmed v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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A court may raise judicial estoppel on its own motion in an appropriate case, and therefore, the doctrine is not waived if not pled by the parties. After Plaintiff initiated Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings, he filed a defamation claim against Defendants. Plaintiff subsequently completed the payments required by the Chapter 13 plan, and the bankruptcy court ordered the discharge of his remaining unsecured debts. Defendants moved for summary judgment and then filed a reply brief to Plaintiff’s brief in opposition to the motion, arguing that Plaintiff was judicially estopped from prosecuting his defamation claim because he failed to timely disclose it to the bankruptcy court. The circuit court granted the motion, concluding that the doctrine of judicial estoppel prohibited Plaintiff from prosecuting his defamation claim after taking the position in the bankruptcy court that it did not exist. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the doctrine of judicial estoppel was not waived by Defendants for their failure to raise it in their pleadings; and (2) Plaintiff identified no reversible error in the circuit court’s application of judicial estoppel. View "Eilber v. Floor Care Specialists, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court dismissing Plaintiff’s action seeking to recover attorney fees she incurred in defending a prior action. The trial court concluded that Rule 3:25 precluded Plaintiff from requesting attorney fees because she failed to request such fees in the underlying litigation. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) Rule 3:25(B) required Plaintiff to make a demand for attorney fees in the underlying litigation; and (2) because Plaintiff did not make such a demand, under the express language of Rule 3:25(C), Plaintiff waived any claim for such fees. View "Graham v. Community Management Corp." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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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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Boasso American Corporation appealed an adverse decision by the Zoning Administrator for the City of Chesapeake to the Board of Zoning Appeals. The Board affirmed. Boasso then filed a petition for writ of certiorari. The Zoning Administrator moved to dismiss on the ground that Boasso had failed to name or serve the City Council for the City of Chesapeake, a necessary party by statute. Boasso then sought leave to amend to include the City Council and the City Attorney. The Acting City Clerk, on behalf of the Mayor, moved to quash service of process and filed a plea in bar arguing that Boasso’s failure to name or serve the City Council within thirty days of the Board’s decision was fatal to the petition. The circuit court dismissed Boasso’s petition with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a litigant who appeals the judgment of a board of zoning appeals under Va. Code 15.2-2314 must identify the governing body as a necessary party in the petition and must do so within thirty days of the board’s final decision; and (2) if those requirements are not met, the circuit court lacks the discretion to permit amendment of the petition and, if asked, must dismiss the case for lack of a necessary party. View "Boasso America Corp. v. Zoning Administrator of the City of Chesapeake" on Justia Law