Justia Virginia Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the portion of the judgment of the court of appeals applying the law of the case doctrine to this appeal of an award of workers' compensation benefits but affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals upholding the Workers Compensation Commission's award of benefits to Plaintiff, holding that the evidence supported the award.Plaintiff's claim was initially denied on the basis that, although Plaintiff had clearly suffered an injury, he failed to establish an identifiable incident or sudden precipitating event that caused the injury. The Commission reversed the Deputy Commissioner's ruling and entered an award of benefits. The court of appeals ultimately affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the court of appeals erred in its application of the law of the case doctrine; and (2) the evidence supported the Commission's award of benefits to Plaintiff. View "City of Charlottesville v. Sclafani" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the State Corporation Commission finding that a pumped storage hydroelectric facility (or pumped storage) generates "renewable energy" under the former definition in Va. Code 56-576 and that the amended definition would not apply to contracts executed before the amendment's effective date, holding that there was no error.The Commission concluded that pumped storage satisfied the statutory definition of renewable energy in effect at the time that the service provider executed its contracts and declined to find that the amended definition would apply retroactively to contracts executed before the amendment's effective date. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Commission did not err in its interpretation of the statute or its finding that pumped storage satisfied the former definition of renewable energy; and (2) the Commission did not err in refusing retroactively to apply the amended statutory definition of renewable energy to the service provider's contracts that were executed before the amendment took effect. View "Virginia Electric & Power Co. v. State Corporation Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Appellants' challenges to certain amendments to the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance and the imposition of a Transient Occupancy Tax, holding that the circuit court did not err.Appellants owned or possessed homes within Fairfax County. In 2018, the Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County amended the Zoning Ordinance (the STL Amendment) redefining a dwelling and adding definitions for "transient occupancy" and "short-term lodging." The Board also amended the County Code to impose a transient occupancy tax of two percent of the cost of the short-term lodging (the TOT Amendment). Appellants brought a declaratory judgment action challenging the validity of the STL Amendment and the TOT Amendment. The trial court dismissed Appellants' claims with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in dismissing Appellants' challenges to the amendments. View "Norton v. Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County" 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 the judgment of the circuit court determining that the Historic Alexandria Foundation lacked standing to pursue the claims asserted in this case, holding that there was no error in the circuit court's judgment.Vowell, LLC filed applications to obtain certain permits for the renovation of property located in the Old and Historic District of the City of Alexandria. The Old and Historic Alexandria District Board of Architectural Review (the BAR) approved Vowell's applications, and the City Council affirmed the BAR's decision. The Foundation appealed the City's Council decision. The circuit court dismissed the matter with prejudice, concluding that the petition did not establish that the Foundation was an aggrieved party with standing to pursue the appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Foundation lacked standing because the allegations of the petition failed to establish that the Foundation suffered particularized harm that differed from that suffered by the public in general. View "Historic Alexandria Foundation v. City of Alexandria" on Justia Law

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In this complaint brought over the actions of City of Charlottesville regarding Lee Park, the Supreme Court reversed and vacated the judgment, orders, and all forms of relief granted by the circuit court to Plaintiffs, holding that the circuit court erred in concluding that the City's actions were prohibited by Va. Code 15.2-1812.In 2017, the City council approved resolutions to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee (Lee Statute) in Lee Park, to rename and redesign Lee Park, and to support the renaming, redesign, and transformation of Jackson Park. The City subsequently approved a resolution to remove a statue of Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson in Jackson park. Plaintiffs filed a complaint alleging that the City's actions violated section 15.2-1812. The circuit court subsequently entered several orders and ultimately enjoined the City from removing the statues and awarded Plaintiffs attorneys' fees. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 15.2-1812 did not apply to the statues. View "City of Charlottesville v. Payne" on Justia Law

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In this appeal brought by the landowner in a condemnation proceeding the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court in all respects, holding that the circuit court did not err.After a trial, the circuit court entered a final order confirming the award entered by the Commissioner of Highways of $107,131 for the take and setting aside the award for damages to the residue. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) did not abuse its discretion in refusing to admit ten-year-old site plans into evidence; and (2) did not err in deciding to strike the testimony of the owner of the property concerning damage to the residue of the property. As to Appellant's remaining assignment of error, the Supreme Court held that the doctrine of invited error foreclosed relief on the claim that the trial court "put the parties on terms." View "Palmyra Associates, LLC v. Commissioner of Highways" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court concluding that the Fairfax County Police Department's automated license plate recognition (ALPR) satisfied the definition of an "information system" under the Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act (Data Act), Va. Code 2.2-3800 through -3809, holding that the ALPR system does not constitute an "information system" within the meaning of the Data Act.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the ALPR system did not satisfy the statutory definition of an "information system" because it did not contain "the name, personal number, or other identifying particulars of a data subject," and therefore, the Police Department's passive use of the ALPR system was lawful under the Data Act; and (2) the resolution of this case favorably to the Police Department foreclosed the recovery of attorneys' fees. View "Neal v. Fairfax County Police" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court determining that the Board of County Supervisors of Prince William County, Virginia had the authority to dissolve the corporate status of Dumfries-Triangle Rescue Squad, Inc. (DTRS), holding that the circuit court erred in concluding that the Board had the power to dissolve the corporate status of DTRS .The Board filed a complaint for declaratory judgment asserting that the Board had the authority to dissolve DTRS's corporate status under Code 32.1-111.4:7(D). The circuit court determined that DTRS was subject to the corporate dissolution authority of the Board pursuant to section 32.1-111.4:7(D) and appointed a receiver to wind up DTRS's corporate affairs, as requested by the Board. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because DTRS was not incorporated pursuant to section 32.1-111.4:7, the Board could not rely on that authority to dissolve its corporate status; and (2) DTRS was not the type of entity that was subject to dissolution under that section. View "Dumfries-Triangle Rescue Squad v. Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the Workers' Compensation Commission finding that Claimant suffered a compensable injury to her right shoulder, holding that the court of appeals erred in applying the legal standard for determining whether Claimant suffered a compensable "injury by accident" to her shoulder.Claimant, a math teacher, slipped on a puddle on her classroom floor and fell on her right side. Claimant filed claims for an award of benefits by the Commission, claiming that the fall injured her right shoulder. The Commission ruled that Claimant established a compensable injury by accident to her shoulder. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals' judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the court of appeals erred in applying the standard for determining whether Claimant had suffered an injury by accident to her shoulder. View "Alexandria City Public Schools v. Handel" on Justia Law