Some Good News: Virginia Tort Reform
After the betrayal of our Republican controlled General Assembly, which passed 6 billion dollars in new taxes for their transportation bill, we were pleased to find out that the GA passed some good, commonsense tort reform and property rights bills during their 2013 session.
Summary Judgment Reform
Allows pretrial depositions to be used in a summary judgment motion to throw out frivolous lawsuits.
Allows judges to prevent a business from being sued in a different venue from where the incident occurred, when there is no connection between the accident and the location the lawsuit was filed. Some plaintiffs change the venue because the court in a different area might award a higher dollar verdict.
Service of Process Reform
You can have a lawsuit filed against you and not know it. Virginia law permits plaintiffs to wait up to one full year before notifying the defendant that they’ve filed a lawsuit against them. This bill shortens that to 6 months.
Allows courts to award attorneys’ fees if a plaintiff drops a case within 14 days of trial.
Virginia law permits a plaintiff to drop a lawsuit at any time before a judge or jury goes into deliberations, and then refile the case. This can be extremely costly to the person being sued, and allows a plaintiff a “do-over” when they don’t like how the trial is going.
Property Rights/Trespass Reform
Virginia common law protects property owners from being sued by trespassers who injure themselves while illegally on their property. This bill codifies Virginia common law to protect private property rights and landowners. This is in response to the American Law Institute (looked to by courts when developing legal rules and standards), which issued a Third Restatement of Torts calling on property owners to provide reasonable care to illegal trespassers.