Claire C. Carr Named to 2020 Best Lawyers List

August 15, 2019 — KPM LAW is pleased to announce that Claire C. Carr been included in the 2020 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America©.  Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Claire, AV-rated by Martindale-Hubbell, has served as the managing partner of KPM’s Workers’ Compensation department since 1999. As such, she has defended claims on behalf of large national corporations, insurance carriers, and others. She has performed insurance defense litigation in approximately 75 jury trials and since 2000 has practiced exclusively in workers’ compensation defense. Claire tailors every defense to the unique needs of her clients and is celebrated for her exceptional commitment to those claims adjusters and supervisors, safety managers and risk managers with whom she partners. Best Lawyers has published their list for over three decades, earning the respect of the profession, the media, and the public as the most reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals. Its first international list was published in 2006 and since then has grown to provide lists in over 75 countries. Best Lawyers was founded in 1981 with the purpose of highlighting the extraordinary accomplishments of those in the legal profession. After three decades, we are proud to continue to serve as the most reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals worldwide,” says CEO Phillip Greer. Lawyers included on The Best Lawyers in America list are divided by geographic region and practice areas. They are reviewed by their peers on the basis of professional expertise, and undergo an authentication process to make sure they are in current practice and...

Responding Offensively to Lawsuits

Written by Brian Clarry, Esq. Edited by Bill Pfund, Esq. Perhaps it is my bias as a civil defense attorney, but in many of the motor vehicle accident cases I handle, after reviewing the facts and speaking with the insured, I’m almost offended that the plaintiff brought a lawsuit in the first place. And regularly the insured defendant is incensed that they are being sued at all, especially if fault is questionable or the plaintiff did not appear injured at the scene. Consider the case of a car crash with a murky fact set in which liability is a toss-up, or even one in which negligence of the plaintiff is slightly more likely. While plaintiff may indeed have suffered property damage and personal injury, often the insured defendant also sustained property damage and in some cases even their own personal injury, however minor. In that case, the insured defendant has as much of a right to sue and recover from plaintiff. The counterclaim is the ideal tool to respond offensively when sued, but it is underutilized in the insurance defense industry. What’s striking is the breadth of Virginia Supreme Court Rule 3:9, which provides: A defendant may, at that defendant’s option, plead as a counterclaim any cause of action that the defendant has against the plaintiff or all plaintiffs jointly, whether or not it grows out of any transaction mentioned in the complaint, whether or not it is for liquidated damages, whether it is in tort or contract, and whether or not the amount demanded in the counterclaim is greater than the amount demanded in the complaint.[1] Granted, there...

DOL Adopts New Standard To Determine Compensable Time for Truck Drivers

OVERVIEW On July 22, 2019, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued an opinion letter—FLSA2019-10—to address whether the time a truck driver spends in a sleeper berth is compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This opinion letter withdraws the DOL’s previous opinion that employers could only exclude up to eight hours during a trip that was at least 24 hours long. The opinion letter also adopts an “on-duty” test as the most appropriate way to determine whether sleeper berth time is compensable. ACTION STEPS This DOL shift on the test it uses to determine whether sleeper berth time is compensable may have a significant effect on timekeeping policies and compensation practices. Motor carriers and other institutions that employ truck drivers should review their policies and procedures to ensure that they are compensating their drivers as required by the FLSA. Background—The Old Test Until FLSA2019-10 was issued, the DOL considered that the appropriate way to determine whether sleeper berth time was compensable was to determine whether this time was non-working traveling time. Previous DOL guidance suggested that the time spent in a sleeper berth was not compensable if: The employee was not working while riding; The employee was allowed to sleep in adequate facilities furnished by the employer (such as a sleeper berth); and Sleeper berth periods were sufficiently long to allow the employee to use his or her time for the intended purpose. However, in subsequent guidance, the DOL interpreted travel time regulations to mean that employers could only exclude up to eight hours of sleeping time in a trip that is at least 24 hours long and...

UPDATE: Just When You Thought You Knew Everything About Pay and Quit Pursuant 38.2-2206 Here Comes the General Assembly Again!

Written by Daniel Royce, Esq. Edited by Bill Pfund, Esq. In 2015, the Virginia General Assembly enacted significant changes to two statutes pertaining to settlement of underinsured motorist claims and subrogation rights of underinsured motorist carriers. The revisions specifically impacted Virginia Code Section 38.2-2206 and added a new statute at 8.01-66.1:1.  The stated purpose of these changes was to expedite uninsured and underinsured motorist payments.  These changes went into effect for policies issued or renewed on or after January 1, 2016. In short, the 2016 revision represented a sea change in how UIM claims would be handled with significant changes impacting both liability and underinsured motorist carriers in the following ways: The liability carrier became able to tender policy limits in exchange for complete settlement and release of the defendant/tortfeasor and the liability carrier. Acceptance of the liability carrier’s limits by the injured party extinguished the primary liability carrier’s duty to defend. The duty being extinguished upon payment of the liability limits (not merely acceptance of the offer). A settlement under these provisions extinguished the UIM carrier’s right of subrogation against underinsured defendant, and Upon being released, the defendant/tortfeasor has statutory duties to reasonably cooperate with the UIM carrier in its defense of the case. 2016 Changes to Virginia Code 38.2-2206 The statute governing uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is located in Virginia Code Section 38.2-2206. Prior to the 2016 revision, the liability carrier was permitted to pay limits in cases where the injured person had UIM coverage. However, such payment did not secure release of the liability carrier or it’s insured. Significantly, the liability carrier retained the duty...

Summary Judgment Is Becoming More Viable in Virginia

Written by Kate Adams, Esq. Edited by Bill Pfund, Esq.  Summary judgment in Virginia state courts, unfortunately, has been akin to finding a four leaf clover, we all know it exists but it is rarely ever granted. However, with the passage of Senate Bill 1486 and a recent decision from Judge David Bernhard of Fairfax Circuit Court, the constraints regarding the type of evidence a court may consider when hearing such motions  is expanding, making summary judgment more attainable. As reported in the KPM April 2019 Newsletter, Senate Bill 1486 has passed and went into effect on July 1, 2019 which expands the provisions of Virginia Code §8.01-420 and provides that “discovery depositions under Rule 4:5 and affidavits may be used in support of or opposition to a motion for summary judgment in any action when the only parties to the action are business entities and the amount at issue is $50,000 or more.” Although this change is narrowly tailored to business entities and cases where the amount at issue is over $50,000, this may pave the way for more opportunities to obtain summary judgment in Virginia. A May 24, 2019 ruling by Judge Bernhard addressed the type of evidence a court can consider when ruling on a motion for summary judgment. In HCP Properties-Fair Oaks of Fairfax VA LLC v. County of Fairfax, Judge Bernhard considered “whether a party can use a deposition of a Corporate Designee of an adverse party in support of its “Plea in Bar” seeking the dismissal of an action, in light of the stricture of Virginia Code §8.01-420 on the use of depositions...

Virginia’s Sovereign Immunity Doctrine, Emergency Vehicles, and Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Written by Andy Webb, Esq. Edited by Gary Reinhardt, Esq. What is Sovereign Immunity? The doctrine of sovereign immunity is “a government’s immunity from being sued in its own courts without its consent.”  Black’s Law Dictionary, 4th Pocket Ed.: “Sovereign Immunity”.  The doctrine is as old as American law itself.  Like many of the initial common law doctrines in America’s jurisprudence, the doctrine of sovereign immunity grew out of British law.  The famous 18th century English legal scholar, William Blackstone, described the reasoning behind the doctrine when he said “the law also ascribes to the king in his political capacity, absolute perfection. . . The king can do no wrong . . . The king moreover, is not only incapable of doing wrong, but even of thinking wrong.”  1 William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Law of England 245 (1809) (emphasis in original). Over the generations, the absolute immunity ascribed to the king by Blackstone has slowly eroded.  For example, the Virginia General Assembly waived sovereign immunity in certain situations when it passed the Virginia Tort Claim Act—Va. Code Ann. §8.01-195.3—which allows citizens to directly sue the Commonwealth.  Despite the gradual erosion of the doctrine, “sovereign immunity is ‘alive and well’ in Virginia.”  Messina v. Burden, 228 Va. 301 (1984). Governmental Employees and Sovereign Immunity As noted by the Virginia Supreme Court, “The Commonwealth of Virginia functions only through its elected and appointed officials and its employees” and “[i]f because of the threat of litigation . . . they cannot act, or refuse to act, the state [itself] also ceases to act.”  James v. Jane, 221 Va. 43 (1980).  This...