RICHMOND, Va. (Legal Newsline) - The Virginia Supreme Court overturned
a circuit court ruling that favored a law firm that failed to timely
file a lawsuit for personal injury for its client, sending the case
back to trial.
Leo Williams, who retained The Joynes & Gaidies Law Group, P.C. in
October 2003, was struck from behind while his vehicle was stuck in
traffic by Virginian Alan Brown's vehicle, which had been struck by
Patrick Kiker, a Maryland citizen, who was driving a truck owned by
Millstone Enterprises, Inc.
Williams, as a result of the accident, herniated a disc in his back,
which required surgery, and injured his neck and spine, incurring, he
alleges, over $100,000 in medical expenses. Williams, unable to work
for 16 months, also alleges he lost more than $200,000 in income and
A motion was filed on June 1, 2005, by Joynes on Williams' behalf
against Brown, Kiker, and Millstone in the Circuit Court of the City
of Virginia Beach. Joynes notified Williams two months later that the
lawsuit had not been filed within Virginia's two-year time limit for
personal injury actions and advised Williams that he could still file
in Maryland against Kiker and Millstone as that state has a three year
statute of limitations. Brown, a native of Virginia, is not subject to
the suit in Maryland.
Joynes informed Williams that he might have a malpractice case against
them, and Williams filed such a case in January 2006 "for the neglect
and careless actions" of Joynes in failing to file a timely Virginia
action." Williams filed the malpractice action following being
informed by Maryland lawyers that "there were too many problems with
bringing the case in Maryland."
Joynes filed for a summary judgment, asserting that Williams' decision
not to file a Maryland lawsuit severed any causal link between Joynes'
negligence and the loss of Williams' personal injury action.
The circuit court issued a letter of opinion holding that Joynes was
entitled to partial summary judgment as Williams conceded he could
have filed timely action in Maryland, calling his inaction "an
intervening act that sever[ed] any connection between the negligent
act of the defendants and the loss claimed by [Williams]." The circuit
court did hold that Williams was entitled to recover expenses from
seeking legal advice in Maryland as a result of Joynes' negligence.
The state supreme court has held that the Circuit Court erred in
granting the summary judgment as Joynes was negligent in filing a
Virginia action in a timely manner which lead to the need for the
The court also noted that as Brown was not subject to
the Maryland suit, the link of proximate causation could not be fully
severed. The state supreme court reversed the circuit court's judgment
and partial summary judgment in favor of Joynes and remanded the case
for trial on merits.