2017 General Assembly Update
What follows is a summary of recent legislation from the 2017 General Assembly. This summary was actually prepared by Senator Scott A. Surovell who also is the sponsor of many of these items of legislation.
Recent Legislation Dealing With Civil Litigation
HB 1609 Nurse practitioner as expert witness; scope of activities.
Nurse practitioner as expert witness; scope of activities. References the specific Code section outlining the scope of a nurse practitioner’s activities in the context of the current provision that authorizes a nurse practitioner to testify as an expert witness within the scope of his activities.
HB 1617 Legal malpractice; estate planning.
Legal malpractice; estate planning. Provides that the statute of limitations for legal malpractice related to estate planning is five (5) years if the legal representation was based on a written contract and three years if the legal representation was based on an unwritten contract. The bill provides that the accrual date for such an action is the date of completion of the representation. The bill further provides that a person who is not party to the representation shall have standing to maintain such an action only if there is a written agreement between the individual who is the subject of the estate planning and the defendant that expressly grants standing to such person. This bill is in response to Thorsen v. Richmond Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 786 S.E.2d 453 (Va. 2016) and is identical to SB 1140
HB 1641 Insurance policy limits; disclosure, homeowners or personal injury liability insurance
Insurance policy limits; disclosure, homeowners or personal injury liability insurance. Allows an injured person, the personal representative of a decedent or an attorney representing either to request the disclosure of the liability limits of a homeowner’s insurance policy or personal injury liability insurance policy prior to filing a civil action for personal injuries or wrongful death from injuries sustained at the residence of another person. The party requesting this information shall provide the insurer with (i) the date the injury was sustained (ii) the address of the residence at which the injury was sustained; (iii) the name of the owner of the residence; (iv) the claim number, if available; (v) for personal injury actions the injured person’s medical records, medical bills and wage-loss documentation pertaining to the injury; and (vi) for wrongful death actions (a) the decedent’s death certificate; (b) the certificate of qualification of the personal representative of the decedent’s estate; (c) the names and relationships of the statutory beneficiaries of the decedent; (d) medical bills, if any; and (e) a description of the source, amount and payment history of the claimed income loss for each beneficiary. The bill provides that in personal injury actions, the insurer only has to disclose liability limits if the amount of the injured person’s medical bills and wage losses equals or exceeds $12,500. The bill also provides that disclosure of a policy’s limits shall not constitute an admission that the alleged injury is subject to the policy. This bill is a recommendation of the Boyd-Graves Conference.
HB 1816 Demurrers; amended pleadings
Demurrers; amended pleadings. Requires that an amended pleading filed after a demurrer to an earlier pleading has been sustained incorporate or refer to the earlier pleading being amended in order to preserve the right to stand on the earlier pleading. This bill is a recommendation of the Boyd-Graves Conference.
SB 867 Lien against person whose negligence causes injury; emergency medical services agency. Lien against person whose negligence causes injury; emergency medical services agency. Clarifies that whenever any person sustains personal injuries caused by the alleged negligence of another and receives emergency medical services and transportation provided by an emergency medical services vehicle, the emergency medical services provider or agency shall have a lien for the amount of a just and responsible charge for the services rendered, not to exceed $200 for each emergency medical services provider or agency, on the claim of such injured person or of his personal representative against the person, firm or corporation whose negligence is alleged to have caused such injuries.
SB 1102 FOIA; records of completed unattended death investigations, definition, mandatory disclosure. Virginia Freedom of Information Act; completed unattended death investigation; mandatory disclosure. Requires that records of completed unattended death investigations be released to the parent or spouse of the decedent or, if there is no living parent or spouse, to the most immediate family member of the decedent, provided the person is not a person of interest or a suspect. The bill also defines “unattended death” and “immediate family member”.
SB 1210 Unlawful creation of image of another; civil action.
Civil action for unlawful creation of image of another or unlawful dissemination or sale of images of another. Creates a civil cause of action against an individual who knowingly and intentionally (i) creates any videographic or still image of any nonconsenting person who is nude, clad in undergarments, or in a state of undress or (ii) captures an image of a person’s intimate parts or undergarments when those captured parts or undergarments would not otherwise be visible to the general public. The bill also creates a civil cause of action against an individual who maliciously disseminates or sells any videographic or still image that depicts another person who is nude or in a state of undress where such person knows that he is not licensed or authorized to disseminate or sell such videographic or still image. The bill provides that compensatory damages, punitive damages and reasonable attorney fees and costs may be awarded.
SB 1341 Government records; digital certification.
Digital certification of government records. Provides for the Secretary of the Commonwealth in cooperation with the Virginia Information Technologies Agency to develop standards for the use of digital signatures by government agencies on electronic records generated by such agencies. The bill further provides that such agencies may provide copies of digital records via a website or upon request and may charge a fee of $5 for each digitally certified copy of an electronic record. Any digitally certified record submitted to a court in the Commonwealth shall be deemed to be authenticated by the custodian of the record. The bill defines “agency” to include all state agencies and local government entities including constitutional officers except court clerks.
SB 1342 District courts; jurisdictional limit does not include any attorney fees. District courts; attorney fees. Provides that the jurisdictional limit for general district courts does not include any attorney fees. The bill requires that the amount of an appeal bond required for appeals from a district court include any amount awarded for attorney fees in the case.
SB 1498 Intoxicated drivers; punitive damages for persons injured. Punitive damages for persons injured by intoxicated drivers; evidence. Extends to blood tests performed by the Department of Forensic Science pursuant to a search warrant the rebuttable presumption in civil cases for punitive damages for injuries caused by intoxicated drivers that provides that a person’s blood alcohol level demonstrated by a test performed pursuant to the implied consent statute is at least as high as the driver’s blood alcohol level at the time of the accident. The bill further establishes a rebuttable presumption applicable in a civil case for punitive damages for injuries caused by an intoxicated driver that a person who has consumed alcohol knew or should have known that his ability to drive was or would be impaired by such consumption.
For more information on matters relating to civil litigation see the other pages on this site and also see the Virginia Division of Legislative Services at http://dls.virginia.gov.