News, Articles & Events
In this section McElroy, Hodges, Caldwell & Thiessen provides updates regarding our firm's news, attorney articles and commentary, and upcoming events. The following material is general information and is not legal advice or a legal opinion. CASE RESULTS DEPEND UPON A VARIETY OF FACTORS UNIQUE TO EACH CASE. INDIVIDUAL OR CUMULATIVE RESULTS DO NOT GUARANTEE OR PREDICT A SIMILAR RESULT IN ANY FUTURE CASE.
Jim Hodges Obtains Defense Verdict on Liability in Bifurcated Jury Trial in Buchanan County Posted on September 21, 2012
The case arose from a two-car automobile accident on Route 460, a major four-lane highway near Vansant, Virginia. The plaintiff claimed the defendant’s stopping an automobile in the highway to ask for directions caused the accident and involved willful and wanton negligence. It was undisputed that the defendant was stopped in the highway. Plaintiff claimed injuries to her neck and face, including a broken nose requiring reconstructive surgery.
Upon Jim Hodges' suggestion, and as agreed to by the plaintiff’s attorney and the presiding judge, the trial was bifurcated so as to present the case in two phases: a liability stage and a damages phase. Mr. Hodges drafted the following instruction that was read to the jury at the beginning of the case:
Opening Instruction Regarding Bifurcation of the Issues of Liability and Damages
This trial arises out of a motor vehicle accident involving two vehicles – one being driven by the plaintiff and the other by the defendant. The plaintiff is claiming to have been injured as a result of the accident, and in turn she is claiming to be entitled to recover a monetary amount from the defendant for the damages that she is claiming as a result of the accident. A trial such as this involves two separate determinations by you the jury.
During the first stage of the trial, you will only hear and receive evidence regarding, and the Court and the attorneys will only be addressing you regarding, the various facts and circumstances surrounding the occurrence of the accident. At the conclusion of this first stage you will be asked to determine whether or not based on the applicable law the plaintiff is entitled to recover from the defendant.
If you determine that the plaintiff is not entitled to recover from the defendant, the trial will end at that point.
However, if you determine that the plaintiff is entitled to recover from the defendant, the trial will continue into a second stage. Should that be the case, during the second stage of the trial you will then hear and receive evidence regarding, and the Court and the attorneys will be addressing you regarding, the injuries and damages the plaintiff is claiming as a result of the accident, after which you will be asked to determine based on the applicable law the amount which the plaintiff is entitled to recover from the defendant.
Thus the case initially addressed only the liability issues.
After a full one-day trial presenting evidence and arguing liability issues, the jury deliberated for approximately one hour and returned a verdict in favor of Mr. Hodges' client. Before sending the case to the jury, the judge found that as a matter of law the plaintiff had not presented evidence of willful and wanton negligence, but rather at most ordinary or gross negligence.
While the jury did not identify the basis of its verdict, it is possible the jury determined that even if the defendant had been negligent in stopping in the road way, that the plaintiff had also been guilty of contributory negligence in failing to have seen the defendant’s vehicle in time and/or in failing to keep her vehicle under proper control, so as to have avoided the accident.
Eric Thiessen Appointed to the Virginia Model Jury Instructions Committee Posted on September 10, 2012
In May 2012 attorney Eric Thiessen was appointed to the Virginia Model Jury Instructions (VMJI) Committee. The Virginia Supreme Court appoints the VMJI Committee to review and edit Virginia’s Criminal and Civil Model Jury Instructions. The VMJI are model or “pattern” instructions that judges and lawyers utilize in the majority of jury trial cases in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The VMJI Committee’s function is to insure that the model jury instructions are up-to-date and accurately reflect current Virginia law.
The VMJI Committee is composed of ten voting members—five judges and five attorneys—who review, research, and develop the existing jury instructions and add new ones where appropriate. The Committee meets formally twice a year to update the instructions and their annotations (the accompanying legal notes) based upon changes in the law enacted by the Virginia General Assembly, Supreme Court of Virginia and Virginia Court of Appeals’ decisions, and other relevant changes.
The Virginia Model Jury Instructions are published in four loose-leaf volumes, two for criminal instructions and two for civil instructions. They are available through direct order from LexisNexis and may be reviewed at most law libraries and courthouses in Virginia.
Eric Thiessen Joins Board of Directors of the Washington County, Virginia Chamber of Commerce Posted on May 31, 2012
The Washington County Chamber of Commerce recently selected attorney Eric Thiessen to join its Board of Directors. The Board consists of business owners and leaders who direct the Chamber's activities. Board members are appointed to three-year terms and are eligible to serve two consecutive terms.
The Washington County Chamber of Commerce has over 500 members ranging from large companies to small start-up ventures. The Chamber promotes economic growth, assists its members, coordinates business charitable activities and volunteerism, and is the chief voice of the business community in Washington County, Virginia. The Chamber also works in conjunction with the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Virginia’s state-wide equivalent organization.
Dan Caldwell Obtains Favorable Jury Verdict in Russell County Posted on September 15, 2011
On August 16, 2011, attorney Daniel Caldwell represented the defendant in a one-day jury trial in Russell County. The defendant lost control of her vehicle and struck the plaintiff’s vehicle in the plaintiff’s lane. The defendant admitted liability and the case was tried on damages only.
The plaintiff sustained a Lisfranc fracture of the right foot consisting of three fractures each at the base of the first, second and third metatarsals. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Robert Teasdall of Wake Forest University performed open reduction/internal fixation and the plaintiff was non-weight bearing for six months. At maximum medical improvement, the plaintiff was rated with a 30% permanent partial impairment of the right foot. He was unable to play sports, jog or walk long distances without swelling and pain. Dr. Teasdall testified that his condition is permanent.
The plaintiff’s special damages totaled $60,630.06, including $46,959.13 in medical bills and $9,746.25 in lost wages. The plaintiff sued for $1,000,000.00 in compensatory damages.
The jury deliberated for over one hour and delivered a verdict for the plaintiff of $92,000.00.
Eric Thiessen Serves as Faculty in Summer Virginia State Bar Professionalism Seminar Posted on August 19, 2011
Attorney Eric Thiessen was one of the 11 faculty members at the most recent Virginia State Bar Professionalism course in Roanoke, Virginia on August 18, 2011. Thiessen led newly-admitted lawyers in workshops designed to highlight, review and explain ethical issues that may arise in the practice of law. Prospective faculty members are selected by a committee within the bar and requested to participate by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia.
The Harry L. Carrico Professionalism Course, named after retired Chief Justice Harry L. Carrico, is a one-day course that all new members of the Virginia State Bar are required to complete within a year of becoming admitted. The course is designed to help new lawyers avoid ethics complaints and to raise the level of professionalism within the Virginia State Bar. The course is taught several times during the year in various regions across the Commonwealth.