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 granting summary judgment to Liosha Miles on the issue of whether each of the two insurance policies in this case provided separate tranches of insurance of uninsured motorist (UM) coverage and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage, holding that the circuit court erred.Given her disagreement with GEICO Advantage Insurance Company and GEICO Choice Insurance Company (collectively, GEICO), Miles filed this action seeking a declaration that each policy at issue contained separate $50,000 limits for UM and UIM coverage and that GEICO owed her addition amounts for her UIM claims related to a single automobile accident caused by the negligence of two different drivers other than herself. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Miles. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) UIM coverage is a constituent part of UM coverage; and (2) consequently, the circuit court erred in concluding that Va. Code 38.2-2206(A) required each policy to provide Miles with separate UM and UIM coverage limits for injuries arising from a single accident. View "GEICO Advantage Insurance Co. v. Miles" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the circuit court dismissing Appellant's claims against the Rappahannock Area Community Services Board (RACSB) based on its determination that RACSB was a municipal corporation entitled to sovereign immunity, holding that RACSB is not a municipal corporation.Appellant received psychological therapy through RACSB at its facilities when he was between six to eight years old. Appellant brought this action against the estate of Scott Henry and RACSB, alleging that Henry, a therapist employed by RACSB, molested him during his counseling sessions. RACSB filed a plea in bar, claiming that it was entitled to sovereign immunity as either an "arm" of the Commonwealth or as a municipal corporation performing a governmental function. The circuit court granted the plea in bar, concluding that RACSB was a municipal corporation that was performing a governmental function by providing mental health treatment to Defendant. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that RACSB was not a municipal corporation because it lacked the fundamental characteristics of such an entity. View "Fines v. Rappahannock Area Community Services Bd." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting Defendant's plea in bar to Plaintiff's negligence claim on the ground that he was protected by derivative sovereign immunity and granting Defendant's demurrer to Plaintiff's gross negligence claim because it was insufficiently pleaded, holding that there was no legal error in either of these decisions.Langston Patterson was an inmate in the Danville Adult Detention Center (DADC) when he suffered cardiac arrest and later died. The personal representative of his estate sued Defendant, the DADC physician, claiming that Defendant committed medical malpractice by failing to provide the necessary and appropriate care to Patterson. The circuit court granted Defendant's plea in bar to Plaintiff's negligence claim and Defendant's demurrer to Plaintiff's gross negligence claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was no error of law or any irrationality in the fact-finding of the circuit court; and (2) Defendant's claim for gross negligence failed as a matter of law. View "Patterson v. City of Danville" on Justia Law

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In this personal injury case, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court sustaining Defendant's plea in bar and dismissing this case with prejudice, holding that the date of Plaintiff's second filing did not relate back to the date of her first filing and was therefore barred by the statute of limitations.After Plaintiff learned that she had erred in naming Defendant in her initial pleading Plaintiff non-suited the case. One month later, Plaintiff filed the present action, correctly naming Defendant. Defendant filed a plea in bar, arguing that the present action was filed over two years after the cause of action accrued and was thus time-barred. Plaintiff objected, arguing that the error in naming Defendant was a misnomer subject to correction. The court sustained the plea in bar, concluding that Plaintiff's original filing did not relate back to the date of the original filing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff's second filing was barred by the statute of limitations. View "Edwards v. Omni International Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court ruling that an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) was covered under a homeowner's insurance policy as a "farm type vehicle," holding that the circuit court erred.Diamond Jones was injured while riding as a passenger on the back of an ATV driven by the daughter of Jennifer and Richard Rekowski. Jones filed a negligence action against the Rekowskis, who were insured by a homeowner's policy issued by Erie Insurance Exchange, and then filed this action seeking a judgment that Erie was obligated to pay the insurance claim. The circuit court concluded that the policy covered the accident. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the ATV involved in the accident was not a "farm type" vehicle; and (2) therefore, the ATV was excluded from coverage by the homeowner's insurance policy. View "Erie Insurance Exchange v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court determining what portion of a settlement was subject to the Commonwealth's Medicaid lien, holding that there was no error.Appellant was seriously injured in a car accident. Because the Commonwealth's Medicaid program paid for a portion of Appellant's medical care the Commonwealth was entitled to a lien on the proceeds of an ensuing settlement between Appellant and the driver who caused the accident. At issue was what portion of the settlement was subject to the Medicaid lien. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court's judgment was proper under the deferential standard. View "Farah v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the circuit court ruling that Marion Life Saving Crew, Inc. (MLSC) and its paramedics were entitled to statutory immunity pursuant to Va. Code 8.01-255(A)(5), holding that the circuit court erred in ruling that MLSC was immune from liability.Plaintiff, the administrator of the Estate of Calvin Harmon Shoots, brought this wrongful death complaint alleging that Defendants' grossly negligent conduct was the direct and proximate cause of the premature death of Shoots. The circuit court ruled (1) the paramedics were clearly negligent but that they were absolutely immune from liability under section 8.01-225(A)(5); and (2) MLSC was immune because the paramedics were immune from liability. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court correctly ruled that the paramedics were immune from liability; but (2) the paramedics' immunity from civil liability was not dispositive of whether section 8.01-225 applied to MLSC, and therefore, the circuit court erred in ruling that MLSC was immune because the paramedics were also immune. View "Stoots v. Marion Life Saving Crew, Inc." on Justia Law

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