|2013 General Assembly Session:
The 2013 Regular Session of the Virginia General Assembly convened on Jan. 9 and will run through Feb. 23.
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Virginia Lawyers Weekly will bring you the latest news you need from the 2013 General Assembly session. Bookmark this page as your go-to reference guide for the issues impacting law practice and up-to-the-minute news.
Tort reform deal leaves both sides claiming progress
A Virginia tort reform package has been launched from a House of Delegates subcommittee after trial lawyers and business groups hammered out a compromise on five key bills.
Separately, the bills may look like so much tinkering around the edges of tort reform. But taken together, they recalibrate personal injury practice in Virginia. Given the “global” deal forged among political players and lawmakers, the package is expected to win approval from the full House. Its fate in the Senate is less clear.
There’s been “a lot of heavy lifting,” said Del. Sal Iaquinto, R-Virginia Beach, in introducing the package to the House Courts of Justice civil subcommittee Jan. 23. He commended representatives of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Medical Society of Virginia, among others, for their hard work to reach an agreement.
Del. Greg Habeeb, R-Salem, previewed highlights of the reform package:
- Depositions may be used for summary judgment in very limited circumstances – only to test punitive damages claims in non-DUI cases, for intentional torts or really bad negligence cases.
- Requests for admission can be based on information derived from depositions
- New restrictions on permissive venue would prevent forum-shopping for lawsuits against big businesses
- Defendants would have an easier standard of proof to recover expenses after a plaintiff’s last-minute nonsuit
- Landowners would enjoy added protection in suits by injured trespassers
- Judges may privately examine a plaintiff’s certification of a med-mal expert, for good cause shown
The centerpiece of the package is a pair of proposals that amount to a crack in the 40-year wall barring the use of depositions for summary judgment motions in Virginia civil practice. One proposal would allow depositions for summary judgment on claims for punitive damages in non-DUI cases.
Another measure would allow requests for admission derived from deposition testimony to be used for summary judgment.
“That will clearly help in those instances where you have a truly baseless claim,” Robert W. Shinn, a lobbyist for the Virginia Alliance for Tort Reform, told Virginia Lawyers Weekly.
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