Justia Virginia Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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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 affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the circuit court refusing to instruct the jury "with the model instruction regarding a claim-of-right defense," holding that the claim-of-right defense did not apply under these circumstances.Defendant was convicted of first degree felony murder, robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. At trial, Defendant asserted a claim-of-right defense, arguing that he lacked the requisite criminal intent to be convicted of robbery or the other offenses that relied on the robbery charge. The circuit court, however, refused to give the model jury instruction regarding the claim-of-right defense. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err when it refused to instruct the jury regarding the claim-of-right defense. View "Pinedo v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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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 reversed the trial court finding in favor of Landlord against all of defendants except two on Landlord's suit against two tenants and seven other parties for fraudulent and voluntary conveyances and against a single defendant for conversion, holding that the trial court misapplied Virginia law and made factually insupportable findings.In its letter opinion, the trial court made each of the defendants which the court had found liable jointly and severally liable with in personam judgments for the unpaid rent, Landlord's attorney fees, and sanctions. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the trial court's in personal, joint and several judgments in this case must be reversed as legally erroneous and factually insupportable; and (2) the trial court erred in finding the single defendant liable for conversion. View "Grayson v. Westwood Buildings L.P." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing Appellant's appeal of her condition of driving on a suspended license, fifth offense, on the basis that her notice of appeal was fatally defective, holding that Appellant's notice of appeal was adequate.After oral argument on the merits, the court of appeals sua sponte raised the inconsistency between Appellant's notice of appeal, which identified the Commonwealth of Virginia as the prosecuting authority, and the circuit court's sentencing order, which named Albermarle County as the prosecuting authority. On remand, the circuit court entered an order nunc pro tunc that retained Albemarle County as the prosecuting authority. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal as "fatally defective." The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) while the notice of appeal incorrectly named the Commonwealth rather than Albemarle County, that defect was not fatal and was subject to waiver; and (2) because Albemarle County entered a general appearance, any defect associated with a failure to notify the County was waived. View "Nicholson v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court in these appeals regarding two brothers' disputes concerning the administration of their deceased mother's estate, holding that the circuit court did not err in removing both brother from their fiduciary roles and replacing them with a disinterested third party.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in removing the brothers as co-executors on the basis that the brothers were, to the detriment of the estate, deadlocked concerning the administration of the estate; (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying the brothers compensation, legal fees, and costs; and (3) there was no reversible error regarding the presence of a third brother in the courtroom during the trial. View "Galiotos v. Galiotos" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming Defendant's misdemeanor conviction for attempting to purchase a firearm while subject to a protective order, holding that the admission of certain evidence did not violate Defendant's confrontation right.At issue was whether a return of service on a preliminary protective order, which included the serving deputy's signature and the time and date of service, was testimonial evidence subject to exclusion under the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The court of appeals concluded that the signing and dating of the return of service was a ministerial duty on the part of the deputy sheriff that was functionally distinct from the delivery of live testimony. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the return of service was intended to serve a primarily administrative purpose, not to create an out-of-court substitute for trial testimony, and therefore, the admission of the evidence did not violate Defendant's constitutional right to confrontation. View "Logan v. Commonwealth" 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