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Chapter 9: Research hypotheticals

This chapter contains a number of legal research hypotheticals, along with suggested answers. The VLW Web site is a great place to start your legal research – often you’ll remember a case you saw or a story; a quick Google search of the material in our Archives will help you hone that memory or focus on a particular case or issue.

If you’re a subscriber, you’ll find the full-text of any opinion we feature available for free. Click here to register for online benefits.

And we’ve included links to a number of resources so you can use the VLW site as a jumping-off point to find the answers to the research questions that arise in your cases.

Questions

1. An insurance company is jerking me and my client around. I think I might have a claim for bad faith. How can I determine what judges in Virginia think is bad faith and who has ever handled a case like that before?Suggested Answer to 1.

A basic Archives search can help to answer this question.

At the top of the VLW home page, in the upper right corner, you’ll find a gray-screened box with the words, “Search powered by Google.” Type in “bad faith” and “insurance company.”

You will get 104 matches.

These 104 entries represent stories, case digests or Verdict & Settlement Reports that have appeared in Virginia Lawyers Weekly that contain those two terms.

By reviewing any one of the matches, you can determine if the facts of your case are similar, and if the entry will be helpful to you in evaluating whether you have a claim. You can add additional terms, such as a location or judge’s name, to narrow your search.

In this instance, the questioner also seeks to find other lawyers who have handled a bad faith claim against an insurer. The information block at the bottom of each case digest lists the names of counsel in a case (if the court provided the names).

If the entry was a Verdict & Settlement Report, the name of the submitting attorney(s) would be in the text.

2. I remember a case I saw in the last month or two. The plaintiffs in a real estate dispute got hit for sanctions for not providing discovery to explain why they were suing. I think it was in Fairfax. Suggested answer to 2:

A quick Archives search will answer this one as well. But if you enter the terms “sanctions” and “discovery” and “real estate,” you’ll get 205 matches.

The Google Search function within the VLW Archives includes the ability to provide a date limitation on a search.

Using the calendar boxes, limit your search to cases from Jan. 1, 2008, to the current date. You’ll get eight matches.

The first one, with the subject headers “Attorneys – Discovery Sanctions – Real Estate Contract,” is the case of Skibinski v. Lunger, from Arlington Circuit Court in January of this year. The court sanctioned the plaintiff buyers of a home for their failure to respond to discovery requests seeking the basis for their claim the sellers knew of defects in the house.

By the way, the VLW Web site includes a resource that will help with those “I remember a case a few months ago” research requests.

Under the “Research” tab on the top navigation bar is an entry for “Important Opinions.” Click on that entry.

Each month, we compile all the most significant cases and provide a short blurb about the case and a link to the full-text PDF opinion that is available for free if you are a subscriber to the paper.

Case entries are referenced by month. You can use your browser’s find function to help locate a particular term on this page.

In this instance, the Skibinski case is the first entry in January. Clicking on the highlighted case name will take you to the full-text PDF.

3. I don’t handle many cases in Richmond, but I have a matter before Judge T.J. Markow. What can I expect from him?Suggested answer to 3.

Enter the term “Markow” into the Search box.

Judge Markow has been on the bench since the 1980s and he has reported many opinions to VLW. His name will appear in over 500 entries.

You can narrow your search to only “Opinion Digests” by clicking the button in the Search box.

Now you have 290 entries, which will include cases he himself decided and cases of his that were appealed to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court of Virginia. (We provide the name of the judge below when possible for appellate decisions.).

You can review all these entries or use additional search terms to narrow your search to determine if Judge Markow previously has decided a case with any facts similar to yours.

4. I just had a case walk in the door involving a manufactured home. I seem to recall you’ve reported the dispute over whether the home is part of the land or is goods under the Uniform Commercial Code. And wasn’t there a change in the law? How I can get started on that?Suggested answer to 4.

Do a quick Archives search using the term “manufactured home.” You’ll get a number of matches, including a match to a story we featured in January 2008 about a bill that had been filed, House Bill 660. Under that measure, manufactured homes and house trailers would become part of the real estate once their wheels were removed. The bill was the response to a Fairfax case decided last fall, when a judge found that a manufactured home was “goods” under the UCC.

When our story ran, the bill was pending.

To find out what happened later in the session, go to the “Research” tab, where there is a link to “State Government.”

Clicking on this item will take you to the official Virginia state site, which has a link on the far right to the Legislative Branch.

Follow the links to the General Assembly, then to the Legislative Infor-mation System, where the Assembly maintains a useful bill-tracking service.

Under “Bills and Resolutions,” you can find the history of any bill, including in this case, HB 660.

HB 660 was passed unanimously by both houses of the Assembly in February and approved by Gov. Kaine in March. It will be effective July 1; you now can determine how that will impact your case, if at all.

5. I’m pursuing a car-wreck case for a client and the defense lawyer just advised me that he will use Dr. N. Fayne Edwards as a financial expert. What kind of cases has Edwards appeared in before and how often?Suggested Answer to 5.

Go to the Archives.

Enter the search terms “Fayne Edwards.”

Click the “Verdicts and Settlements” button in the search box. Hit enter.

You will get 71 matches, representing 71 different cases in which Dr. Edwards has served as an expert.

You can review these 71 entries, if desired, to see what kinds of cases they were and if he is mentioned as providing any particular testimony.

6. We’ve got a new client who just moved here from Louisville. She needs to know the statute of limitations for a legal malpractice lawsuit in Kentucky.Suggested Answer to 6.

Click on the “Research” tab on the top navigation bar and go to “Other Resources.”

Under the “State Courts,” the final entry is “Other Jurisdictions.” Click on it.

The VLW Web site provides links to cases and statutes for all other states and the District of Columbia.

Click on “Kentucky Revised Statutes,” listed under Kentucky.

The KRS are browsable by title.

Title XXXVI is “Statutory Actions and Limitations.”

Chapter 413 covers “Limitation of Actions.”

Section 413.245 covers “Actions for Professional Service Malpractice,” and it states the statute of limitations for such actions in Kentucky is one year. Lawyers do not appear to be among the groups referenced in Section 413.140, cited in this section.

7. My former divorce client just called to tell me that his wife is making plans to move to Maryland with their three children. I need to research the law on one spouse trying to move out of state.Suggested answer to 7.

The Virginia Lawyers Weekly Archives will be a good place to start your research on this topic, as there have been a numerous decisions over the past several years on the issue of a father’s or mother’s move.

Start by entering “father” and “move” or “mother” and “move” as search terms in the Search box at the top corner of the home page.

These searches will uncover a number of cases and stories on the issue.

You might notice a repeated term as a header, “Mom’s Move.” You may well want to enter another search, “mom” and “move” to see if you get any additional matches.

8. My client just got served with papers filed by a lawyer named Steven R. Minor with the firm of Elliott, Lawson & Minor in Bristol. I don’t know this guy. How can I get some information about him and his practice?Suggested answer to 8.

There are several ways to research a particular lawyer and his or her practice on the VLW Web site.

A. Start your research by using the name “Steven R. Minor” as a search term in the Archives. You can see the cases in which he has been involved.

B. In “Other Resources” under the “Research” tab, we have provided links to a number of lawyer directories, such as Martindale-Hubbell. You can then look up his name and firm that way.

C. Finally, under the “Research” tab, there is an entry for “Virginia Law Firms.” Click on it and you’ll find a listing of the Web sites of more than 220 law firms across the commonwealth. Under the “E” listings, there is a link to the Elliott, Lawson & Minor Web site.

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