By: Janeen Koch

Each year, Virginia Lawyers Weekly compiles a list of the million-dollar-plus jury verdicts that are reported to them by attorneys across the Commonwealth. In 2022, there were 18 such verdicts with the highest being an award of $15 million from  a Charlottesville jury.

Historically, Charlottesville and Fairfax County have been fairly conservative venues. However, two of the top ten verdicts were from Charlottesville and two were from Fairfax County. It seems that aggravating circumstances, such as intoxication and intentional acts, as well as medical malpractice cases, tend to garner large verdicts. Note that currently in Virginia, there is a $2.5 million cap on medical malpractice cases.

Following are summaries of the top 10 verdicts of 2022:

1. Name of Case: Love v. Huguely

Court: Charlottesville Circuit Court

Attorneys: Paul Bekman, Baltimore, Maryland; Jeffrey Stedman And Irvin Cantor, Richmond; Kevin Biniazan, Virginia Bean

Verdict: $10 million

Huguely and Love were both lacrosse players at the University of Virginia and had dated for two years. The relationship was abusive and Love ended their relationship in April of 2010. On May 2, 2010, after a day of heavy drinking, Huguely entered Love’s off-campus apartment, kicked open her locked bedroom door, violently shook her and assaulted her. When Love’s roommate arrived home early the next morning, she found Love unresponsive. Medical examiners determined that Love died from blunt force trauma to her head. Huguely was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 23 years in prison.

2. Name of Case: Industrial Development Authority for the County of Warren and Town of Front Royal, a/k/a the Warren County EDA McDonald, et al.

Type of Case: Common law and statutory conspiracy, fraud, conversion

Court: Warren County Circuit Court

Attorneys: Cullen Seltzer, Lee Byrd, Dan Siegel, Karissa Keseorg and Jesse Bausch

Verdict: $12 million

The Warren County Economic Development Authority alleged that from approximately 2014 to approximately 2018, the EDA’s former executive director, Jennifer McDonald, on her own and acting with others, unlawfully diverted more than $21 million from the Warren EDA. EDA asserted ultra vires claims as well as claims of fraud, conspiracy, statutory conspiracy, unjust enrichment, conversion, and punitive damages.

3. Type of case: Personal injury

Court: Charlottesville Circuit Court

Attorneys: Kevin Biniazan, Virginia Beach; Scott Perry, Arlington

Verdict: $10 million

The plaintiff, a 15-year-old student of a private coeducational and college preparatory day and boarding school, suffered severe and debilitating injuries while engaged in a service project and in the care and supervision of the school. While working on the project, the plaintiff lost his footing and was impaled by a partially cut bamboo cane. The defendants filed pleas in bar asserting charitable immunity but the court overruled the pleas in bar.

4. Type of case: Medical malpractice

Court: Fairfax County Circuit Court

Attorneys: Thomas G. Smith and Michael J. Shevlin, Fairfax

Verdict: $6.7 million

Plaintiff, 31 years old, fell down her stairs and fractured the humerus bone in her non- dominant arm. She went to the emergency room, the fracture was diagnosed and she was referred to a general orthopaedic surgeon, for surgical repair. On initial examination by the surgeon, the plaintiff had no radial nerve function. The surgeon performed an open reduction internal fixation of the displaced fracture. When there was no return of radial nerve function, she sought a second opinion from a peripheral nerve surgeon. That   surgeon discovered that her nerve had been completely cut in two and given the time that had passed, she was unlikely to get a favorable result from a nerve graft. Consequently,  she was left with a significant partial disability of her hand.

5. Name of case: Oliver v. Cohen

Type of case: Defamation

Court: Virginia Beach Circuit Court

Attorneys: Jeremiah A. Denton III and Christopher W. Palermo-Re, Virginia Beach

Verdict: $5 million

Deona Branch Oliver, 62, a Virginia Beach resident with deep family roots in the  community, ran for city council in November 2018. Local political activist James Haskel Cohen, 59, who formerly had been a long-time supporter of  Oliver,  published  a scandalous accusation on a popular local Facebook group suggesting Oliver had sex with a gym trainer in a public bathroom within the hearing of the man’s family, while the man   was hospitalized for heart surgery. During her testimony, Oliver (and the alleged correspondent) denied the hospital sex had occurred and Oliver spoke about the devastating impact Cohen’s statement had on her reputation and emotional state. After a year and a half of litigation, defendant offered to settle for $100,000. Plaintiff did not counter. Defendant increased his offer to $250,000 a few days before trial. Plaintiff did  not counter.

6. Name of case: Vera v. Algie

Type of case: Auto accident

Court: Fairfax County Circuit Court

Attorney: Brian Glass, Fairfax

Verdict: $4.24 million

The defendant went for dinner and drinks at MGM Casino in National Harbor. After three hours of drinking, he drove 17 miles home to Fairfax. Less than a mile from his house, he lost control of his car and entered the plaintiff’s lane of travel, causing a horrific crash. When tested, his blood alcohol concentration was 0.15 mg/DL. The plaintiff, a 28-year-old woman, suffered tears to her colon and ileum, which required resection in emergency surgery. She underwent 10 surgeries during her 33-day hospital stay ultimately requiring    a colostomy. The defendant testified at trial that he had consumed only two drinks at the casino over the course of three hours and argued that his speed, rather than his intoxication, was what caused him to lose control of the car and was the sole proximate cause of the crash. The plaintiff’s toxicology expert told the jury that it would have  required 9-11 drinks to elevate the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.15. The jury returned a verdict for $3.24 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in  punitive damages.

7. Tie- Name of case: James A. Boley Jr., Administrator of the Estate of Robert Lee Boley, Deceased v. Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc. Arleathia Peck, Emmanuel Bynum

Type of case: Wrongful death, civil rights

Court: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division

Attorneys: Mark J. Krudys and Danny Zemel, Richmond

Verdict: $4 million

Plaintiff alleged that Robert Boley, an inmate at the Deerfield Men’s Work Center, sought care for acute chest pain, but was disregarded by correctional and medical staff. Boley   was found dead the following morning. An autopsy report determined that Boley died of a “ruptured aortic aneurysm due to hypertensive and  atherosclerotic  cardiovascular disease.”

7. Tie- Name of case: Wolfe v. Lim, M.D. and Atlantic Brain & Spine, LLC

Type of case: Medical malpractice

Court: Fairfax County Circuit Court

Attorneys: Anthony M. “Tony” Russell, Roanoke; Les S. Bowers, Charlottesville

Verdict: $4 million

David Wolfe, a 58-year-old male, presented to Dr. Jae Lim with mid-thoracic pain and bilateral leg weakness with associated balance issues and difficulty standing and walking. An MRI revealed a T9-10 disc herniation which had caused compressive thoracic myelopathy. Dr. Lim recommended surgical intervention. Dr. Lim improperly performed  the surgery resulting in Wolfe suffering permanent damage to his spinal cord.

9. Name of case: Taylor Harlow

Type of case: Personal injury

Court: Chesterfield Circuit Court

Attorneys: Bill Shields and Jennifer Wilkie, Richmond; Corine Bailey, Petersburg

Verdict: $2.5 million

The plaintiff fell on a defective step and then down a flight of stairs, rupturing the membrane between her vagina and rectum.

10. Name of case: Williams v. Billeter

Type of case: Motor vehicle tort

Court: Norfolk Circuit Court

Attorney: Griffin M. O’Hanlon, Norfolk

Verdict: 2,465,259.33

The plaintiff was a front-seat passenger in a vehicle traveling on Interstate 64 in Norfolk when the defendant crossed the center median and struck plaintiff’s vehicle head-on. The plaintiff’s left ankle was shattered as a result of the impact. Surgeons stabilized the fractures with an external fixator that subsequently lost fixation and required revision. The plaintiff was discharged from the hospital approximately two weeks later. He thereafter developed osteomyelitis, a bone infection, at the insertion sites of the external fixator screws. The plaintiff underwent several operative procedures for the placement of   antibiotic beads to treat the infection, as well as a month-long admission at a    rehabilitation center for intravenous treatment of the infection. The plaintiff’s medical  expert opined that the left ankle injury supported a permanent, 100% impairment rating   of the plaintiff’s left lower extremity. Approximately $415,000 in past medical bills were presented at trial, along with a contested claim for a future cervical surgery at a cost of approximately $130,000.

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