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Bill: Allow damages for loss of consortium.

Byline: Peter Vieth

A Virginia lawyer-legislator wants the state to allow a cause of action for loss of consortium. Virginia has long refused to allow a tort plaintiff to recover damages for loss of intimacy with a spouse or related damages. Virginia Code 55-36 expressly states that a husband may not maintain an action for a wifes injury, expenses or loss of services or consortium. House Bill 323, introduced Jan. 4 by Del. Jeffrey L. Campbell, R-Marion, would create a cause of action for loss of consortium in the injury of a spouse, minor child or parent. Damages would include loss of services, loss of society and companionship and lost wages due to caring for the injured person. In the case of a spouse, damages could include loss of sexual relations. The bill provides that actions for loss of consortium could be brought independently or together with the injured partys cause of action. The bill had not yet been assigned to committee as the Assembly convened on Jan. . Campbell is an attorney with a solo practice in Marion. He was not immediately available for comment. The 201 General Assembly session opened Jan. in Richmond. This year features the so-called long session, lasting until March. UIM bad faith Del. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, hopes to change the law announced in a 2017 Virginia Supreme Court ruling that an uninsured motorist carrier does not have a duty to settle a case prior to trial. Senate Bill 17 provides that if an insurance company denies, refuses or fails to pay its insured, or refuses a reasonable settlement demand within policy limits for a UM or UIM claim within a reasonable time after being presented with a demand for such benefits and it is subsequently found that such denial, refusal or failure was not in good faith then the insurance company shall be liable to the insured for the full amount of the judgment and reasonable attorney fees, expenses and interest. The bill addresses the outcome of Manu v. GEICO Casualty Co.(VLW 017-6-032). In that case, the justices agreed that an allegation that a UM carrier violated a good faith duty to pay its limits prior to judgement did not state a cognizable cause of action. The bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. Duty to protect from third parties A Newport News delegate says Virginia should recognize a duty of business property owners and landlords to protect guests and tenants from foreseeable criminal actions of third parties. Del. Michael P. Mullin, D-Newport News, proposes a new statute creating a duty to take reasonable precautions to protect against injury caused by the criminal conduct of a third party if the danger of injury is known or reasonably foreseeable. The duty would apply to owners, operators and managers of business properties and residential rental properties of five or more units and to their private security services. Mullins legislation is House Bill 209. Current Virginia law sets a relatively high hurdle for claims based on criminal acts of third parties. The Supreme Court rejected claims of victims of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, but it allowed a hotel guest to recover where the hotel operator assured the guest that the premises were safe despite receiving information about local criminal activity. Charges by doctors Personal injury attorneys would welcome a proposal of Del. Greg Habeeb, R-Salem. His House Bill 35 would limit what doctors can charge plaintiffs lawyers for appearing at a meeting, deposition or trial. A health care provider could charge only a reasonable fee on an hourly basis for actual time spent preparing for or attending the meeting, deposition or trial. Such fee shall not be more than the amount of actual lost revenue incurred by such health care provider, the legislation reads. Medicaid lien limits Plaintiffs lawyers would get help in settling cases with large Medicaid liens under a proposal from Sen. John S. Edwards, D-Roanoke. Under Senate Bill 159, the state would be entitled to a lien only against the portion of recovery attributable to medical expenses of the injured or deceased accident victim. The states recovery would be further reduced by a pro rata share of the plaintiffs attorney fees, costs and expenses. GAL reforms As a Supreme Court panel studies ways to improve performance of court-appointed guardians ad litem for children, a Winchester lawyer is offering reform proposals. Del. Chris Collins, R-Winchester, would add paperwork requirements for GALs, including submitting a summary of the guardians investigation and a certification that the guardian has complied with standards. Where a court directs the GAL to prepare a written report, the report is to be shared with the parties before trial or a hearing. Collins legislation is House Bill 277. A companion bill, HB 27, would give judges the authority to adjust the costs of a GALs services for good cause shown or for failure to substantially comply with the standards. Access to court records Two bills would address the lack of a searchable online database of statewide court records. House Bill 4, proposed by Mullin, would require that the state case management system be open to the public for inspection and searchable across all localities. House Bill 70, offered by Habeeb Jan. 9, would require court administrators to provide an online case information system of nonconfidential information for criminal cases by July 1, 2019. The bill also establishes rules for requesting court records from individual court clerks. Sentence reduction for substantial assistance Mullin, a Suffolk prosecutor, suggests a statute allowing a criminal sentence to be reduced if the convicted defendant provides substantial assistance in the prosecution of another person engaged in an act of violence or drug offenses. Sentence reduction would require a motion by a prosecutor. Some of the language of House Bill 203 is taken from Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Grand larceny threshold As of Jan. , 15 different bills had been introduced to raise the threshold for grand larceny from the current $200 level. Only two were filed by Republicans. Both Sens. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke, and Bryce Reeves, R-Fredericksburg, suggest raising the felony threshold to $500. Similar past efforts to address so-called felony creep have foundered in the House. JIRC hearings When a judge is brought up on formal ethics charges, the state constitution says the judge gets a hearing in open court before the Supreme Court of Virginia. The court has never allowed taking of evidence in such a judicial discipline hearing, but House Bill 203 could change that. The bill clarifies that judicial misconduct hearings are to be evidentiary hearings and both the judge and the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission are entitled to present evidence and argument during such hearings. The proposal comes from Del. Jason Miyares, R-Virginia Beach. Boyd-Graves bills Three bills are identified as recommendations from the Boyd-Graves Conference. House Bill 12 would require a statement of facts to accompany any request for a rule to show cause for violation of a court order. House Bill 23 would require that only a court clerk could issue a foreign subpoena pursuant to the Uniform Interstate Depositions and Discovery Act. The change would remove ambiguity as to whether attorney-issued subpoenas might be authorized. House Bill 24 would remove an ambiguous and possibly misleading statute regarding attorney fees that may be taxed by a court.

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Title Annotation:Virginia
Author:Vieth, Peter
Publication:Virginia Lawyers Weekly
Date:Jan 15, 2018
Words:1233
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