Justia Virginia Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Petitioners' amended complaint against iTech AG, LLC and Robbins Law Group, PLLC (collectively, Appellees) alleging malicious abuse of process, slander of title, tortious interference with contractual relations, and civil conspiracy arising out of the filing of a lis pendens, holding that the circuit court erred in sustaining Appellees' demurrers.In their demurrers to Petitioners' complaint, Appellees argued that the filing of a lis pendens is entitle to absolute privilege and that the complaint dd not plead valid claims for slander of title, tortious interference with contractual relations, or civil conspiracy. The circuit court sustained the demurrers on the basis that the information contained in a memorandum of lis pendens is subject to absolute privilege. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the information contained in the lis pendens was not sufficiently "relevant and pertinent to the matter under inquiry" for absolute privilege to apply in this case. View "Givago Growth, LLC v. iTech AG, LLC" on Justia 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 reversed the circuit court's dismissal of Plaintiffs' malicious prosecution claim and affirmed the circuit court's dismissal of Plaintiffs' abuse of process claim, holding that the claim for abuse of process failed as a matter of law.Mathews County initiated criminal proceedings against Plaintiffs alleging that Plaintiffs added an expansion of their residence and that the expansion encroached on neighboring property. The warrants were later dismissed or nolle prossed. Plaintiffs then filed a complaint against the County Administrator and two County employees alleging malicious prosecution and abuse of process.The circuit court granted the County employees' demurrer and dismissed the case with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the "thing decided" doctrine does not apply to a claim of malicious prosecution or abuse of process; (2) Plaintiffs' allegations of malicious prosecution were sufficient to withstand demurrer; and (3) Plaintiffs' claim of abuse of process failed as a matter of law because Plaintiffs did not allege that any particular process was abused. View "Eubank v. Thomas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting a plea in bar and dismissing a complaint alleging that an employer operating a residential program for at-risk youth had negligently failed to protect an employee who had been murdered by one of the residents, holding that the court correctly held that the Virginia Workers' Compensation Act provided the exclusive remedy for the employee's death.Plaintiff, the estate of the murdered employee, filed a negligence claim against Defendant, the employer, claiming that the employer had negligently created an unsafe work environment for the employee. Defendant responded by filing a plea in bar, arguing that the exclusivity provision of the Virginia Workers' Compensation Act, Va. Code 65.2-307(A) precluded the negligence and wrongful death claims. The court granted the plea in bar and dismissed the action with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court correctly held that the employee's murder had arisen out of the conditions of her employment and that the exclusivity provision of the Virginia Workers' Compensation Act applied. View "Lopez v. Intercept Youth Services, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court sustaining Virginia Electric and Power Company's (VEPCO) plea in bar regarding conflict preemption and dismissing Plaintiffs' complaints alleging common law personal injury, holding that conflict preemption barred Plaintiffs' claims.After VEPCO installed smart meters on Plaintiffs' home Plaintiffs fell ill with symptoms of unknown origin or cause. Plaintiffs sued VEPCO for common law injuries. The circuit court granted VEPCO's plea in bar and dismissed the complaints, finding that the claims were barred by conflict preemption. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in dismissing Plaintiffs' claims as preempted by federal law. View "Kinsey v. Virginia Electric & Power Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court granting Defendants' motion to strike as to all of Plaintiff's claims, holding that the circuit court erred in granting Defendants' motion to strike Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim.Plaintiff was prosecuted for shoplifting at a Kroger supermarket, but the case was dismissed when it became clear that Plaintiff had been misidentified. Plaintiff filed a complaint against Kroger and one of its managers (collectively, Defendants) asserting claims of malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and defamation. The circuit court granted Defendants' motions to strike as to all of Plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court erred in granting Defendants' motion to strike Plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim because it ignored evidence that was favorable to Plaintiff; and (2) the circuit court did not err in granting Defendants' motion to strike Plaintiff's remaining claims. View "Dill v. Kroger Limited Partnership I" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court entering judgment on the jury's verdict for Defendants in this wrongful death action, holding that there was no abuse of discretion in the circuit court's evidentiary rulings.This case arising from an unexplained single-vehicle accident in which both occupants died. At issue during trial was which of the two occupants was the driver. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err (1) in excluding portions of the medical examiner's autopsy report and Plaintiff's experts' opinions regarding the identity of the driver and Gerald Hilliard's alleged sleep disorder; and (2) in refusing Plaintiff's proffered jury instruction on falling asleep at the wheel. View "Lucas v. Riverhill Poultry, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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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 in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Jane Doe's amended complaint alleging that, while she was a minor, she was sexually molested by the retired but still active pastor of her church, holding that the circuit court erred in dismissing several of Doe's claims.Doe's amended complaint named as defendants various individual and institutional churches and alleged negligent hiring or retention, negligent failure to warn and protect, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and other claims. The circuit court dismissed the case in its entirety. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the circuit court (1) erred in dismissing the negligent hiring or retention counts to the extent they were based on the church hiring or retaining the pastor as an employee or agent following his retirement as pastor; (2) erred in dismissing the vicarious liability claim and the claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress; and (3) did not err in dismissing the remaining claims. View "Doe v. Baker" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court awarding compensatory and punitive damages arising from Appellants' intentional statutory torts of racial harassment and stalking, holding that the evidence was sufficient to support the award.William Ellis, a black man, worked for John Powell, a white man, and his company, Northern Virginia Kitchen, Bath & Basement, Inc. (NVKBB) as an independent contractor. A dispute arose when Ellis worked at the home of a certain homeowner, referred to as Ms. C. NVKBB filed a complaint against Ms. C and Ellis, alleging, inter alia, defamation. The circuit court granted partial summary judgment against Powell for violating Va. Code 8.01-42.1 and -42.3. Thereafter, the circuit court returned a verdict in favor of Ellis. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in denying NVKBB and Powell's motions to strike and to set aside the jury's verdict; and (2) there was sufficient evidence to support the award of compensatory damages. View "Northern Virginia Kitchen, Bath & Basement v. Ellis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury