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Contrary to the conclusions of the lower courts in this divorce case, Richard Levick’s marriage to Deborah MacDougall was not voidable or void ab initio, and therefore, the circuit court had authority to distribute the marital assets consistent with the marital agreement and to continue its adjudication of the divorce proceeding. During a divorce proceeding ten years after the marriage of the parties, Levick asserted for the first time that his marriage to MacDougall was void ab initio, and therefore, he could repudiate a marital agreement requiring him to pay spousal support and to distribute the marital assets. The circuit court agreed and ruled that the marriage was void ab initio. The court of appeals reversed in part, concluding that the marriage was merely voidable, not void ab initio. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Levick failed to rebut the strong presumption favoring the validity of his marriage. View "Levick v. MacDougall" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court sustaining a demurrer filed by the Commissioner of Highways in his capacity as chief executive officer of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) in this action filed by Plaintiff seeking to compel the Commissioner to reconvey property pursuant to Va. Code 33.2-1005(A). The VDOT acquired the property in 1994 in advance of a transportation project. A 1993 appraisal valued the land at $286,110. In 2014, Plaintiff informed the VDOT that he was exercising the right under section 33.2-1005(A) to require VDOT to reconvey the land “for its original purchase price” of $286,110, as the transportation project had not commenced within twenty years. The circuit court concluded that it did not have the authority to insert a purchase price of $286,110 based on the appraisal where the wording of the general assembly was “original purchase price.” The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that an appraisal valuation is not synonymous with “original purchase price” as used in section 33.2-1005(A). View "Kalergis v. Virginia Commissioner of Highways" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded the judgment of the circuit court dismissing La Bella Dona Skin Care, Inc.’s (LBD) civil conspiracy claims, granting summary judgment on LBD’s claim for fraudulent conveyance, and applying a clear and convincing standard of proof to LBD’s mere continuation theory of successor liability. LBD filed this complaint against eleven defendants seeking damages and injunctive relief as a result of Defendants’ involvement in a series of allegedly fraudulent conveyances designed to avoid an outstanding judgment in favor of LBD. The court held that the circuit court (1) did not err when it dismissed LBD’s civil conspiracy claims on demurrer where a fraudulent conveyance under Va. Code 55-80 cannot serve as the predicate unlawful act needed to support a claim for statutory or common law conspiracy; (2) erred in dismissing LBD’s fraudulent conveyance claim on summary judgment where a prima facie case of fraudulent conveyance may be established when the recipient is a third party creditor with a higher security interest; and (3) erred by applying a clear and convincing standard of proof to LBD’s mere continuation theory of successor liability. View "La Bella Dona Skin Care, Inc. v. Belle Femme Enterprises" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals, which vacated Defendant’s sentence for DUI, third offense, and remanded the case to the trial court for sentencing on DUI, second offense. The court of appeals determined that the Commonwealth was collaterally estopped from using a valid DUI conviction as a predicate offense for sentencing enhancement because, in an unrelated case, a general district court previously ruled that the Commonwealth could not use the same DUI conviction as a predicate offense for sentencing enhancement. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and reinstated the trial court’s order of conviction on DUI, third or subsequent offense, holding that the court of appeals erred in concluding that the doctrine of collateral estoppel applied to preclude the Commonwealth from using the DUI conviction at issue as a predicate offense. View "Commonwealth v. Leonard" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court insofar as it imposed a sentence upon Defendant exceeding the punishment authorized by the General Assembly in Va. Code 18.2-53.1. Graves was convicted of using a firearm in the commission of a felony, in violation of Va. Code 18.2-53.1, among other crimes. The circuit court sentenced Defendant to five years’ imprisonment with two years suspended for the crime of using a firearm in the commission of a felony. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court sentenced him in excess of the statutory maximum. The Supreme Court agreed and vacated the two-year suspended sentence and remanded the case for entry of a new sentencing order, holding that the sentence exceeded the punishment authorized by the General Assembly in section 18.2-53.1. View "Graves v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court concluding that McKinley Chiropractic Center, P.C. (McKinley) was entitled to judgment against Erie Insurance Company (Erie). Devonta Dodson was involved in a motor vehicle collision with Joann Hutson. Erie insured Hutson with liability coverage under an automobile insurance company. Dodson, who sought chiropractic care for her injuries arising from the collision, executed a document assigning to McKinley all insurance and/or litigation proceeds to which she may be entitled and all causes of action she might have against Erie. Dodson subsequently accepted $7,300 from Erie in return for Dodson’s agreement to release both Hutson and Erie from causes of action arising from the claimed legal liability of Hutson and Erie arising out of the accident. McKinley subsequently filed a warrant in debt against Erie. The district court rendered judgment for the chiropractic services provided to Dodson. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, as a matter of law, McKinley did not have a right to sue Erie. View "Erie Insurance Co. v. McKinley Chiropractic Center, P.C." on Justia Law

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In these consolidated appeals, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the State Corporation Commission upholding the constitutionality of Va. Code 56-585.1:1, which suspended the Commission’s biennial base rate reviews for Appalachian Power Company (APCO) and Virginia Electric and Power Company, d/b/a Dominion Virginia Power (Dominion Power) until the years 2020 and 2021, respectively. Appellants - Old Dominion Committee for Fair Utility Rates, VML/VACO APCO Steering Committee and Karen Torrent - appealed. In affirming, the Supreme Court held that section 56-585.1:1 is constitutional under Va. Const. art. IX, 2 because article IX, section 2 does not prohibit the general assembly from suspending the Commission’s biennial base rate reviews. View "Old Dominion Committee for Fair Utility Rates v. State Corp. Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court approving modifications to an easement by necessity crossing Joanna Palmer’s property. The circuit court approved the modifications after finding that they were reasonably necessary for the beneficial use of property owned by R. A. Yancey Lumber Corporation (Yancey). On appeal, Palmer argued that the circuit court erroneously granted Yancey the right to modify its easement by necessity because the modifications will unlawfully increase the width of an established easement by necessity. Alternatively, Palmer argued that the court erred by granting Yancey the right to modify the easement in order to use tractor-trailers extending over a road because this will unreasonably increase the burden on the Palmer property. The Supreme Court held (1) under the “reasonable necessity rule,” the width of an existing easement by necessity may be expanded without the consent of the servient landowner, but modifications to such easements must not create unreasonable burdens on the servient estate; and (2) the circuit court’s grant to Yancey the right to make modifications to widen its easement by necessity for use by tractor-trailers was neither plainly wrong, nor without evidence to support it. View "Palmer v. R. A. Yancey Lumber Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals rejecting Defendant’s argument that the evidence was insufficient to prove she committed the offense of using a cell phone for “purposes of procuring or promoting” one of her eleven-year-old students for activity that would violate Va. Code 18.2-370 (taking indecent liberties with children). Defendant, an elementary school teacher, argued on appeal that the Commonwealth’s evidence was insufficient to prove she committed the offense. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) no third-party communication is required for a violation of Va. Code 18.2-374.3(B); and (2) a rational fact-finder could have determined beyond a reasonable doubt that, in violation of section 18.2-374.3(B), the purpose of Defendant’s communication was to move forward with a scheme of taking indecent liberties with the victim as proscribed under section 18.2-370. View "Dietz v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law