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Virginia’s Go To Lawyers – Medical Malpractice: Edward J McNelis III

Edward J McNelis III

Edward J McNelis III
Shareholder, Sands Anderson


JD, The College of William & Mary
BS, summa cum laude, The Pennsylvania State University

Best known for:

I defend all health care providers in medical malpractice and Section 1983 litigation. I have a subspecialty in Section 1983 litigation involving medical care and regularly teach CLEs in this area of healthcare litigation. I also have extensive experience defending state-employed medical care providers and the nuances, such as sovereign immunity, that apply to the defense of such providers. I have defended and tried a significant number of anesthesia, emergency medicine, and plastic surgery cases over the years, but I consider myself to be a general medical malpractice defense lawyer.

Signature case / representation:

I was one of the defense lawyers in the two civil lawsuits arising out of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech (Pryde/Peterson v. Commonwealth of Virginia, et. al.). I was successful in getting all of the mental health professionals who treated or evaluated the assailant dismissed from the case.

Satisfying aspect of practice:

I really enjoy the challenge of trying to master the complex medicine that is inherent in many medical malpractice cases. You really have to learn medicine on top of law to be successful in medical malpractice and I love that. I also really enjoy seeing clients vindicated at trial. Trials are stressful and require tremendous preparation, but it’s always worth it when the doctor sitting next to you for the past week of trial hears, “We the jury find for the defendant!”

Working with clients:

I try to be reassuring and realistic. I think there is a balance between those two approaches that always needs to be struck.


You never are as good as you think you are when you win, and you are never as bad as you think you are when you lose.


I know the plaintiff’s bar is always seeking to have our medical malpractice cap rescinded. I also practice in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Colorado and North Carolina — states that all have non-economic caps, but no economic damages cap. While we may join the majority of states in that regard via legislation passed by the Virginia Assembly, I would caution my colleagues on the other side of the “v” to be careful what you wish for.