Mayer Brown’s Federal Appellate Practice has a useful checklist of questions to ask when evaluating potential issues for appeal:

  1. Was the issue properly preserved with an objection or timely argument below? If not, you’ll likely be facing the plain-error standard in federal court, or the ends-of-justice exception in state court.
  2. Did the mistake materially affect

I’m still trying to wrap my head around SCOVA’s recent opinion in Lucas v. Riverhill Poultry, Inc.

Lucas seems to say that a plaintiff who fails to move the trial court to reconsider an interlocutory ruling has waived the issue for appeal.

That strikes me as patently wrong–and not in an academic way, but in a way that will cause real-world problems.

So I’m going to try to work my way through this. Follow along and tell me what I’m missing.

Lucas follows a defense verdict in a motor-vehicle-accident case. A farm-use truck owned by Riverhill Poultry ran off I-81, killing its two occupants, Lucas and Hilliard. Lucas was found outside the vehicle. Hilliard was found in its cab with his hand on the steering wheel. Hilliard worked for Riverhill, and Lucas was his “friend and neighbor.”

Lucas’s personal representative sued both Riverhill and Hilliard’s personal representative. She argued that Hilliard was driving the truck, while the defendants insisted that Lucas was the driver. (Based on these two paragraphs alone, I have . . . questions? . . . about this theory of the case. But the defense lawyers involved are both very good–and both straight shooters–so who knows.)

The plaintiff’s theory of the case was that Hilliard fell asleep at the wheel. She wanted to support this with evidence that he had a sleeping disorder and, at the time of his death, had drugs in his system that could cause drowsiness. All that seems reasonable enough.
Continue Reading Lucas v. Riverhill Poultry, Inc.: SCOVA Announces Brutal New Waiver Rule

Join me for a moment in considering Myers v. Commonwealth. Myers is a recent SCOVA opinion reversing a conviction for carrying a concealed weapon in a zippered backpack on the floor of the passenger seat of his car. The relevant statute, Code § 18.2-308, generally bars carrying a concealed weapon but carves out several exceptions.

The exception relevant here, subsection C(8), provides that the statute does not apply to “[a]ny person who may lawfully possess a firearm and is carrying a handgun while in a personal, private motor vehicle or vessel and such handgun is secured in a container or compartment in the vehicle or vessel.”

So the question presented in Myers was whether a handgun in a zippered backpack was “secured.”
Continue Reading Justice Kelsey’s Dictionaries

Last week, the Supreme Court of Virginia answered one of the great open questions in Virginia tort law when it clarified the availability of attorney’s fees under Prospect Development Co. v. Bershader, 258 Va. 75, 92 (1999).

A little background: Virginia follows the American Rule, which provides that without a statute or contract to the contrary, the prevailing party generally cannot recover attorney’s fees from the losing party. Historically, Virginia has recognized some exceptions, like false-imprisonment cases or situations “where a breach of contract has forced the plaintiff to maintain or defend a suit with a third person.” In 1999, the Supreme Court of Virginia added to this list with Bershader, holding that “in a fraud suit, a chancellor, in the exercise of his discretion, may award attorney’s fees to a defrauded party. When deciding whether to award attorney’s fees, the chancellor must consider the circumstances surrounding the fraudulent acts and the nature of the relief granted to the defrauded party.” Bershader‘s facts were pretty bad, as the chancellor found that the defendants had “engaged in callous, deliberate, deceitful acts that the chancellor described as a pattern of misconduct” that misled the plaintiffs and others. The chancellor felt that if he did not award attorney’s fees, the plaintiffs would have won a hollow victory.

That’s all fine as far as it goes, but it left open at least two questions: (1) Are attorney’s fees available only in equity, and (2) are they available only when the defendant has engaged in egregious misconduct?
Continue Reading SCOVA Clarifies Availability of Attorney’s Fees Under Prospect Development Co. v. Bershader

As I’m working my way through my Good Will Hunting library-card master’s program,* I had the chance to revisit Crito. This is a great dialogue! It’s only about 15 pages long. Socrates is in prison awaiting execution. His friend Crito shows up and tries to talk him into escaping into exile. Socrates is having none of it.

And the leads to this amazing exchange:
Continue Reading Crito: Persuade the Laws or Obey Them