Insurance coverage disputes are among the 20 cases, about half of them criminal, for which the Supreme Court of Virginia has recently granted petitions for appeal.
One of the coverage cases, The AES Corp. v. Steadfast Insurance Corp., Record No. 100764, is from Arlington and stems from a California case filed by Native Americans in Alaska alleging that global warming created by such major energy producers as AES has destroyed their village and way of life.
AES is attempting to bring its comprehensive general liability insurer into the fray, but the trial judge says AES hasn’t alleged an “occurrence” that triggers a duty to defend and indemnify.
The other coverage dispute is from Roanoke, Dabney v. Augusta Mutual Insurance Co. Inc., Record No. 100841, and involves the effort of an elderly woman to track down homeowner’s insurance that would cover the injuries she suffered when she fell after pit bulls converged on her. She alleges that the trial judge didn’t instruct the jury properly on whether the insured had properly notified the carrier of the incident.
Perhaps the most interesting criminal case, Hernandez v. Commonwealth, Record No. 092524, is yet another effort to get the court to address an issue it has said it has never had properly before it: whether trial judges have the inherent authority to defer judgment and ultimately dismiss a charge if a defendant gets in no further trouble.
In this case from Alexandria, the defense attorney asked the judge to defer a finding of guilt on a charge of assault on a police officer, and she responded that she had no authority to do so.