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Long time, no sue

They must be cleaning out the back of the file cabinets at the Virginia attorney general’s office.

The state recently brought suit against two hapless drivers in Suffolk General District Court for guardrail damage from accidents that took place a dozen or more years ago.

With the help of a legal aid lawyer, one driver managed to beat the state’s claim from a 2000 crash, although the statute of limitations was no defense. Another driver ended up with a $342 judgment for 2003 guardrail damage.

Even though state law was changed last year to put a five-year limitation on actions for damage to state property, the law was not made retroactive, a state lawyer argued Aug. 19 in the case of Scott Boone.

Judge Alfred W. Bates III rejected Boone’s statute of limitations defense and his plea of laches, the Suffolk News-Herald reported.

Boone then argued the state failed to prove negligence, causation and the extent of damages.

An officer testified Boone said he was going 70 miles per hour when he hit the rail in the accident 15 years ago. Boone contended he was run off the road by a speeding tractor-trailer.

Boone’s lawyer, Anna Jane Zarndt with the Virginia Legal Aid Society, argued the officer’s testimony was not conclusive as to Boone being the sole cause of the damage.

The officer estimated the damage at $300, but the state was claiming a repair bill of $2,806.50. Zarndt said the state had no explanation for that number.

“The commonwealth had 16 years to prepare this case. I feel like they could have come up with an itemization,” Zarndt said.

“I don’t know that the plaintiff has met its burden satisfactorily,” the judge said, dismissing the case against Boone.

A second driver involved in a 2003 crash was not so lucky. Michael Edney acknowledged he spun on ice and rolled into a guardrail, but denied he caused any damage. Bates found in favor of the state and ordered Edney to pay a $342 repair bill.

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