Virginia Venue: Not as Easy as it Used to Be

Virginia code amendments since 2004 limit Plaintiff “venue-shopping” as they align venue options with the common sense view that a lawsuit should be filed where the underlying action occurred.

By: Jim Snyder

If you ask a non-lawyer where the common sense venue would be for bringing a lawsuit, most would tell you the court in the city or county where the action occurred. But in Virginia, there have long been other options. Historically, one focuses on the business activities of a defendant.

Plaintiff attorneys frequently file in traditionally plaintiff-friendly verdicts, regardless of the appropriateness of the forum. If the accident did not happen in the chosen forum and the defendant does not live in the chosen forum, the fall back for plaintiffs is the defendant’s alleged “substantial business activity.” By attacking, what is often, a tenuous link between a case and the forum and the lack of substantial business activity, we can transfer the case into a more conservative venue, immediately driving down the value of the claim.

Until 2004, Virginia Code §8.01-262 provided that a permissible venue in which to file suit was where the defendant regularly conducted affairs or business activity. In addition to where a defendant worked, the most obvious choice here, this led to such inquiries of a defendant as to where they shopped, went to church, visited friends, passed through on the interstate, volunteered or socialized. As a practical matter, the choice a plaintiff had available for forums in which to file suit were greatly expanded through unrelated, often inconsequential, activities.

In 2004, the Code was amended, to change “regularly conducts affairs or business activity” to “regularly conducts substantial business activity.” The signal from the General Assembly was clear – require a greater connection between the defendant and the forum where suit

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Traumatic Brain Injury: Beating Back Over-inflated Claims

By: Jim Snyder

TBIs have become the modern day whiplash. Increasingly, we see claimed head injuries and alleged traumatic brain injuries as often as classic soft tissue injuries. It used to be, when we received a rear-end case to defend, we knew the claim would involve upper back and neck sprains/strains. Now, when a case lands in our office, chances are good the plaintiff is going to make some claim of brain dysfunction as a result of the accident. Whether it is a severe collision with obvious head trauma or a parking lot bump where the plaintiff barely nods, we know TBI will likely be an issue somewhere down the road.

During a two month stretch this past summer, our team aggressively attacked and resolved four such cases (see our infographic above). Each case was grossly over-inflated and the defense needed to be aggressive. Used collectively, these three strategies dramatically

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When Arbitrators Exceed their Authority Under the FAA

By: Brennan C. Morrissett

Arbitration awards are often described as ironclad, with arbitrators’ findings generally not susceptible to challenge.  Historically, and as a matter of public policy, arbitral power is intentionally limited to only those matters the parties have specifically contracted to subject to arbitration.  This means an arbitrator has no power to rule on issues except for those expressly assigned to them by contract by the parties.  Challenges to arbitrators’ failure to observe this fundamental limitation led to several recent United States Supreme Court “exceeded authority” cases – one of four limited bases on which an arbitrator’s finding can be challenged.  These rulings give some much needed

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Virginia's UM/UIM Statute Amended to Clarify 2015 Amendment

 

The Virginia UM/UIM statute, Va. Code §38.2-2206, has yet again been amended by the legislature. SB1293 was signed into law by the Governor and became effective July 1, 2019. This bill clarifies the 2015 amendment to Virginia Code §38.2-2206, which allowed liability carriers to tender their limits and shift the duty to defend its insured to the UM/UIM carrier.

This bill solves several problems with the 2015 iteration of §38.2-2206. First, in Section K, it states that if a release explicitly indicates it is being executed pursuant to §38.2-2206, any release language inconsistent with the code section is void. This code update should encourage attorneys for the plaintiffs to sign a properly worded release.

Second, the amendment clarifies the nature of the relationship between the tortfeasor and the UIM carrier’s counsel. Subsection K plainly states there is no attorney-client relationship

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Defending Your Negligent Entrustment Case

By: Megan Watson

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Litigation Obtained Citizenship Oath for MAVNI Army Specialist Waiting Years

Litigation is often the only way forward for immigrants. That was what U.S. Army Specialist Junfei Ge concluded as he waited nearly three years for the “expedited” naturalization he was promised by the U.S. government when he enlisted under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program.

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Help Me Help You: 3 Things Your Attorney Needs to Successfully Defend Your Insured

By: Jim Snyder

When a new case first comes in, certain pieces of information facilitate our initial investigation. Of course, when a lawsuit is the first notice of loss, everyone is starting the defense with little to no information to pass along. However, in most instances, the client has received some essential information before the claim becomes a lawsuit and finds its way to us.

Immediate access to these three things helps us attack the case:

1) Accurate contact information for the named insured and the tortfeasor, if different. This would include at least a phone number and a physical address. Most files arrive with the name and address of the named insured, but being able to pick

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Defendants Win with a Willful Misconduct Seatbelt Defense

By Jessica Hacker Trivizas

Amanda T. Belliveau represented the employer and carrier in a recent win on a willful misconduct defense for failure to wear a seatbelt.  

In Mizelle v. Holiday Ice, Inc. , JCN VA00001515696 (June 18, 2019), the claimant testified that he has been aware of Virginia’s law requiring drivers to use a seat belt since he began driving at the age of 16. On the date of his accident, he got into the employer’s truck to make a delivery and started driving without putting his seat belt on. Though he knew the law required him to put on his seat belt, he admitted that he had not put on his seat belt, and testified that he intended to put on his seat belt during the trip. He drove for less than five minutes before he

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Virginia's March Toward Adopting the Federal Spoliation Rules

From The Journal of Civil Litigation, Published Quarterly by the Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys, VOL. XXXI, NO. 1, Spring 2019. It appears here with permission.

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Material Misrepresentation on an Employment Application as a Defense to Workers' Compensation Claims

A Resource to Utilize in Workers' Comp Defense

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