Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Virginia

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In this complaint alleging breach of a deed of trust the Supreme Court reversed and vacated the judgments of the circuit court granting Bayview Loan Servicing, LLC's plea in bar of res judicata and dismissing Gloria Lane's amended complaint as to all defendants, holding that Lane's amended complaint was not barred by either claim preclusion or issue preclusion. On appeal, Lane argued that the circuit court erred in sustaining Bayview's plea in bar because Bayview failed to prove the prerequisites for the application of res judicata. The Supreme Court agreed, holding (1) an attorney does not share the same legal interest as his or her client merely by virtue of his or her representation of that client; (2) a prior judgment and rulings obtained in an earlier injunction action had no preclusive effect upon any claims or issues asserted in Lane's amended complaint; and (3) therefore, the decisions of the circuit court granting Bayview's plea in bar of res judicata were in error. View "Lane v. Bayview Loan Servicing" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court denying Appellant's motion to set aside a jury verdict in favor of Appellee, holding that the circuit court erred in finding that Appellant waived its statute of limitations argument when it did not refile a plea in bar after Appellee filed a second amended complaint. In moving to set aside the verdict Appellant argued that the circuit court erred when it denied Appellant's proposed jury instructions relating to the statute of limitations defense. The circuit court denied Appellant's motion, admitting that it erred in ruling that it had previously decided Appellant's plea in bar of the statute of limitations but then concluding that Appellant waived its statute of limitations argument when it did not refile a plea in bar after Appellee filed a second amended complaint. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that the circuit court erred in not permitting Appellant to present its statute of limitations defense to the jury. View "Ferguson Enterprises, Inc. v. F.H. Furr Plumbing" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court in this action, holding that the circuit court properly denied a motion to dismiss based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens but erred in dismissing the case based on forum selection clauses. RMBS Recovery Holdings I, LLC and others (collectively, Funds) filed suit against HSBC Bank USA, National Association (HSBC) asserting that HSBC served as an indenture trustee of three trusts in which the Funds had invested and that the trusts were filled with defective mortgage loans. Based on HSBC's failure to act to have sponsors of the trusts repurchase the deficient loans or to file suit against the sponsors, the Funds claimed breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and other causes of action. The circuit court denied HSBC's motion to dismiss for forum non conveniens but granted HSBC's motion to dismiss based upon forum selection clauses in confidentiality and indemnification agreements between the parties. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that HSBC's delay in asserting the forum selection clauses, while actively continuing litigation, resulted in a waiver of the right to rely upon that contractual provision. View "RMBS Recovery Holdings I, LLC v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting Defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, holding that the facts did not establish personal jurisdiction under the basis presented to the court, the “persistent course of conduct” clause of Virginia’s long arm statute, Va. Code 8.01-328.1(A)(4). Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Loudoun County against Defendant, alleging that Defendant had illegal used asserts from accounts belonging to others to fund certain litigation. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction by special appearance. The circuit court indicated that section 8.01-328.1(A)(4) constituted the only viable ground for personal jurisdiction over Defendant and that the facts did not support a finding that Defendant engaged in a “persistent course of conduct” in Virginia. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in ruling that Defendant did not engage in a persistent course of conduct in the forum jurisdiction and was not therefore subject to the circuit court’s in personam jurisdiction. View "Mercer v. MacKinnon" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court denying Appellant’s petition for a writ of mandamus asking the court to compel the City of Virginia Beach to limit the scope of the redaction the City provided in response to Appellant’s request for documents under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (VFOIA), holding that the circuit court’s application of the attorney-client and work-production exceptions was excessively broad. Appellant made a request under VFOIA asking for records of all legal fees an expert invoices relating to all of the City’s expenses in litigating against him in federal court. After the City provided extensively redacted records Appellant filed his petition for writ of mandamus. The circuit court denied the petition, concluding that the attorney-client exception and the work-product exception justified the City’s redactions. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a further in camera review and for disclosure of unreacted billing records, holding that the circuit court allowed the City to withhold some entries from disclosure when those records plainly did not fall within the VFOIA exceptions for work-product and attorney-client privilege. View "Bergano v. City of Virginia Beach" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff’s suit alleging breach of contract claims against Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. pursuant to the applicable statute of limitations, holding that because Plaintiff did not file his suit within five years of the date of accrual, the statute of limitations barred his claims. After a foreclosure sale of the property at issue, Plaintiff filed this complaint alleging that Wells Fargo breached a mortgage loan agreement by failing to give him a contractually required opportunity to cure his default and by improperly accelerating the balance due after his default. The circuit court concluded that the debt acceleration had triggered the accrual of the breach of contract claims and that this breach had occurred more than five years before Plaintiff filed suit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff’s breach of contract claims were barred by the statute of limitations. View "Kerns v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a general appearance after the entry of a final judgment that is void ab initio because of the absence of personal jurisdiction does not, by itself, convert the prior void judgment into a valid one. A landlord obtained a default judgment against a commercial tenant and its guarantor for unpaid rent. The judgment was void as to the guarantor because the landlord failed properly to serve the complaint on him. The circuit court, however, found that the guarantor had entered a general appearance during post-judgment enforcement proceedings and thereby waived any objection to the validity of the default judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in denying the guarantor’s motion to vacate the default judgment because the judgment was void as to the guarantor. View "McCulley v. Brooks & Co." on Justia Law

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This case provided the Supreme Court an opportunity to provide guidance on what happens if one of multiple losing parties wishes to appeal from a general district court (GDC) judgment involving consolidated claims by several parties. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s award of sanctions against Landlord and award of damages in favor of Tenants in this dispute over holdover rent and property damages. Landlord filed a warrant in debt against Tenants. Tenants filed a counterclaim. The GDC ruled against both parties and dismissed all claims. Landlord appealed to the circuit court but later withdrew its appeal. The circuit court awarded sanctions against Landlord and awarded damages in favor of Tenants on their unappealed counterclaim without hearing evidence on the matter. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court abused its discretion by applying a rationale for a sanctions award that finds no support in either the text of Va. Code 8.01-271.1 or this court’s opinions applying it; and (2) the circuit court erred in adjudicating Tenants’ counterclaim. View "Robert & Bertha Robinson Family, LLC v. Allen" on Justia Law

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This case provided the Supreme Court an opportunity to provide guidance on what happens if one of multiple losing parties wishes to appeal from a general district court (GDC) judgment involving consolidated claims by several parties. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s award of sanctions against Landlord and award of damages in favor of Tenants in this dispute over holdover rent and property damages. Landlord filed a warrant in debt against Tenants. Tenants filed a counterclaim. The GDC ruled against both parties and dismissed all claims. Landlord appealed to the circuit court but later withdrew its appeal. The circuit court awarded sanctions against Landlord and awarded damages in favor of Tenants on their unappealed counterclaim without hearing evidence on the matter. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court abused its discretion by applying a rationale for a sanctions award that finds no support in either the text of Va. Code 8.01-271.1 or this court’s opinions applying it; and (2) the circuit court erred in adjudicating Tenants’ counterclaim. View "Robert & Bertha Robinson Family, LLC v. Allen" on Justia Law

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In 2003, Rickman was convicted of five counts of aggravated sexual battery, two of forcible sodomy, one of abduction of a minor, one of object sexual penetration, one of taking indecent liberties with a minor, and one of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, arising from Rickman’s abuse of his biological and step-children over several years. He was sentenced to 75 years of imprisonment with 60 years suspended. In 2015, the Commonwealth sought to have Rickman civilly committed under the Sexually Violent Predators Act, Code 37.2-900 to -921 (SVPA), which calls for a hearing within 90 days to determine whether probable cause exists. The respondent may waive a hearing and either party may request a continuance. The deadline for Rickman's probable-cause hearing was November 26. The parties exchanged emails to find an available date for the assistant attorney general, the Commonwealth’s expert, Rickman’s counsel, and the court. They settled on January 8, 2016. In an email to the assistant attorney general and court docket clerk, Rickman’s counsel acknowledged that she was available that day, but “[would] need to note an objection. Neither party sought a continuance. After November 26, Rickman unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the SVPA petition. The circuit court civilly committed Rickman. The Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed. The requirement, even if violated, does not require dismissal of the SVPA petition. The options are orders: granting a conditional, temporary release, expediting the proceeding, and disallowing evidence at the hearing. The court should make its discretionary decision by balancing any prejudice to the respondent, the length of and reasons for the delay, and any bad faith. View "Rickman v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law