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Justice Stephen R. McCullough

May 10, 2021

Negligent hiring suit reinstated

The Supreme Court of Virginia has reversed the early dismissal of a lawsuit against two church bodies accused of negligent hiring and retention of a pastor who – after his official retirement – allegedly molested a 13-year-old girl. The lawsuit alleged the Church of God organizations were on notice of a “progressive pattern” of sexual […]

May 7, 2021

Some claims reinstated in alleged abuse case

Where a retired but still active pastor alleged molested a child who belonged to a local church, the circuit court incorrectly dismissed her claims against the state and national churches for negligent hiring and retention, vicarious liability and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The circuit court correctly dismissed claims against all defendants for willful and […]

Apr 16, 2021

Cluster development plans must be reviewed

Where most of the real estate on which appellees wished to build a cluster development was outside of an area designated for water and sewer extensions, appellees must submit their plan for planning commission review. The statute exempting cluster developments from planning commission review requires the real estate to be “located within” an area designated […]

Apr 5, 2021

High court revives suit over target shooting

In a victory for Virginia trial lawyers, the Supreme Court of Virginia has reinstated a lawsuit over an accidental death from an ill-planned target shooting session. The court said landowners may owe a duty to control the actions of an invited guest who was allowed to shoot in the direction of a neighbor’s house. The […]

Apr 1, 2021

Claim stated in fatal target-shooting case

Where a shooting victim’s estate alleged that the shooter’s grandparents gave him permission to shoot targets on their property toward the house where the victim was visiting, the trial court erred by sustaining defendants’ demurrer on the basis that they did not owe the victim a duty. Further the Virginia Recreational Land Use Act does […]

Mar 5, 2021

Man must pay fees in fraud decision

A man found to have committed fraud on a vulnerable neighbor must pay more than $100,000 in attorneys’ fees to the victim of the fraud, the Supreme Court of Virginia has ruled. The case amplifies a landmark ruling from 1999, in which the court strayed from the American Rule that makes litigants responsible for their […]

Mar 4, 2021

Prior sexual predator expert reports excluded

Appellant’s failure to cooperate with an expert, who would determine whether he was a sexually violent predator, justified the trial court’s decision to bar two prior evaluations by another expert who determined he was not. Background Appellant Ferrara was given a 15-year active sentence after he was convicted of forcible sodomy of his daughters. Before […]

Mar 4, 2021

Attorney’s fees correctly awarded in fraud case

Where appellees prevailed on their claim that appellants acquired a valuable firearm collection by fraud, appellants were properly ordered to pay more than $108,000 in attorney’s fees. Background Ernest Elsea had several health problems that caused cognitive deficits and hearing and vision problems. He had “had limited education and below average intellectual abilities. These circumstances [&h[...]

Dec 30, 2020

Unapproved site plan excluded in taking case

Where the highway commissioner sought to take property for a road improvement project, the trial court properly excluded a landowner’s testimony and an unapproved 10-year-old site plan to establish compensation for the taking. Background Palmyra Associates owned a 44-acre unimproved wooded lot that it intended to develop. Palmyra had an unapproved site plan that was […]

Dec 21, 2020

High court refines test for successive prosecution law

After accepting two criminal appeals in order to clarify the test for applying a statutory bar to successive prosecution, the Supreme Court of Virginia split on both the proper test and the way the majority applied its test. The result is that two defendants convicted of illicit firearm possession had their convictions affirmed, even though […]

Dec 18, 2020

Oyster farmers cannot bring inverse condemnation claim

Where petitioners lease oyster grounds from the commonwealth, the circuit court correctly dismissed their inverse condemnation claim, which alleged that municipal sewage discharges polluted the water in which they raise oysters. Overview Petitioners lease publicly owned bottomland in the Nansemond River to raise oysters. They filed an inverse condemnation claim against the city of Suffolk [&hellip[...]

Dec 10, 2020

Concealed weapon, felon in possession convictions upheld

Where appellants were previously convicted of carrying a concealed weapon, Code § 19.2-294 does not prevent their subsequent prosecutions and convictions for being felons in possession of a firearm. Overview In separate prosecutions, Evans and Conway were each convicted of illegally carrying a concealed weapon.  A patrol officer noticed what proved to be a handgun […]

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