Justia Virginia Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court in this property dispute, holding that the evidence did not support the judgment in connection with Kevin and Meredith Horn's claim of a prescriptive easement to dock a boat on James and Hong Webbs' property.The Horns claimed a prescriptive easement to store small watercraft on the Webbs' land and further claimed a prescriptive easement to lock a boat on the Webbs' property. The Webbs brought this complaint alleging trespass and nuisance and seeking a declaratory judgment of their rights. The Horns counterclaimed that they had a prescriptive easement to both dock the boat and to store the watercraft. The circuit court ruled in favor of the Webbs and awarded them compensatory and punitive damages. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court did not err in rejecting the Horns' claim of a prescriptive easement to store smaller watercraft; (2) the Horns established the existence of a prescriptive easement to dock a boat; and (3) nothing in the record established malice on the part of the Horns in filing their lawsuit, and therefore, the award of punitive damages was improper. View "Horn v. Webb" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing this case brought by several homeowners against the Board of Supervisors of Hanover County, holding that the circuit court erred.Plaintiffs brought this complaint argument that the Board violated Virginia law by approving rezoning and special-exception requests authorizing the nearby construction of a large distribution and warehousing facility. The Supreme Court granted Defendants' demurrers on the grounds that Plaintiffs did not have standing to assert their claims and that some of the claims were speculative and not ripe for adjudication. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court (1) erred in finding that Plaintiffs' pleadings did not allege a sufficient factual basis for standing; and (2) erred when it dismissed three claims on the alternative ground that those counts asserted speculative claims not ripe for adjudication. View "Morgan v. Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court entering judgment upon the jury's verdict in favor of the estate of Jeffrey Tyree on a battery count but for the defense on a gross negligence count, holding that the circuit court erred in declining to grant the motion to strike filed by Detective Bradley Colas.Colas, a police officer, shot and killed Tyree. Tyree's estate brought this action against Colas and another police officer, Officer Nigal Tuft-Williams, alleging gross negligence and battery. During trial, the trial court granted Tuft-Williams' motion to strike and denied Colas' motions to strike. After the jury found for the estate on the battery count Colas appealed, challenging the denial of his motion to strike. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the circuit court erred in declining to grant Colas' motion to strike. View "Colas v. Tyree" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Appellant's petition seeking to expunge a felony driving while intoxicated (DWI) charge from his record, holding that the circuit court did not err.Appellant was arrested and charged with felony DWI. When it was determined that Appellant did not have a prior felony DWI conviction the arrest warrant was subsequently amended to charge Appellant with a misdemeanor DWI. Appellant was found guilty of the misdemeanor DWI. While his appeal was pending, Appellant filed a petition seeking to expunge the felony DWI charge from his record. The trial court denied the petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the amendment to the arrest warrant did not render the felony DWI charge "otherwise dismissed" for the purposes of Va. Code 19.2-392.2. View "Forness v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court striking Arch Insurance Company's conversion and unjust enrichment claims, holding that the circuit court did not err in concluding that Arch was incapable of demonstrating a priority right to the disputed funds at issue in this case as a matter of law.FVCbank provided Dominion Mechanical Contractors, Inc. with a revolving line of credit. Arch, a surety company, issued contract surety bonds for some of Dominion's projects. Due to Dominion's later financial troubles, FVCbank froze Dominion's accounts. Arch and Dominion sued, claiming conversion and unjust enrichment. The circuit court granted FVCbank's motion to strike Arch's claims, finding that because FVCbank had a priority interest in Dominion's accounts, there was no legal claim for unjust enrichment or conversion. The circuit court affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) correctly concluded that FVCbank's interest in Dominion's deposit accounts took priority over Arch's interest as a matter of law; and (2) properly dismissed the claims with prejudice. View "Arch Insurance Co. v. FVCbank" on Justia Law

Posted in: Banking, Contracts
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals upholding Defendant's conviction for carrying a concealed weapon while intoxicated under Va. Code 18.2-308.012, holding that, under the facts of this case, Defendant did not "carry" the handgun, as contemplated by the statute.A police officer performed a traffic stop of a vehicle seen driving "erratically." Defendant, the driver, provided the officer With a valid weapons permit after informing the officer that a gun was next to him in a zipped bag on his front passenger seat. Defendant was arrested for driving under the influence and subsequently found guilty of carrying a concealed weapon while intoxicated, driving under the influence, and impersonating a police officer. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction under section 18.2-308.012, holding (1) "carry" within the meaning of section 18.2-308.012 is limited to physically carrying the handgun on one's person such that it moves when he moves; and (2) Defendant did not "carry" the handgun under the statute. View "Morgan v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court holding that International Paper Co. had established, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the County of Isle of Wight's tax scheme violated the requirement of the Virginia Constitution that taxation be uniform, holding that the circuit court did not err.In 2017, the County Board of Supervisors adopted a resolution authorizing an "economic development retention grant program" that would benefit certain taxpayers. International Paper filed a refund action alleging that the County's tax and retention grant scheme violated the uniformity requirement of the Virginia Constitution. The circuit court granted judgment in favor of International Paper, concluding that the County's tax scheme created an unconstitutional non-uniform tax. View "County of Isle of Wight v. International Paper Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting a "First Amended Complaint in Interpleader with Accompanying Prayer for Declaratory Relief" filed by Allstate Insurance Company and apportioning the interpleaded funds, holding that there was no error.Hartford Underwriters Insurance Company and The Shoe Department brought this appeal, arguing that the circuit court erred in its construction and application of Va. Code 65.2-309 and 65.2-311 and Williams v. Capital Hospice & Property & Casualty Insurance Co., 66 Va. App. 161 (2016) to this case. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the circuit court did not err by failing to award the available Allstate coverage "to Hartford in full" or, alternatively, by failing to "permit [the requested] intracompany arbitration to proceed because there was no issue to be resolved in the requested arbitration; and (2) the circuit court provided the requisite "verdict or settlement" from which competing claims could be satisfied, and there was no error in the circuit court's apportionment of the funds. View "Hartford Underwriters Insurance Co. v. Allstate Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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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 affirmed the order of the State Corporation Commission (SCC) that approved a petition filed by the Virginia Electric and Power Company (VEPCO) to obtain a rate-adjustment clause pursuant to Va. Code 56-585.1(A)(5)(e), holding that, contrary to the arguments brought by Applalachian Voices on appeal, the SCC applied the proper legal standard governing such requests.VEPCO made its request to recover projected costs of purchasing allowances through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cap-and-trade market regulating carbon dioxide emissions by electric utilities. On appeal, Appalachian Voices, a nonprofit environmental organization, argued that the SCC failed to apply the law when it approved VEPCO's petition. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the SCC did not misunderstand or fail o apply the legal standard governing petitions filed pursuant to Va. Code 56-585.1(A)(5)(e). View "Appalachian Voices v. State Corp. Comm'n" on Justia Law