25 Sep Virginia: Jury Trial – a Lawyer’s Remedy
In addition to the common law of Virginia dictating joint and several liability for the whole amount for all joint tortfeasors, the Code of Virginia dictates the same thing. Va. Code Ann. §8.01-443. A jury has no authority to dictate separate versus joint and several liability as the legal consequence of its factual damages finding. See, e.g., Pulliam v. Coastal Emergency Servs. of Richmond, Inc., 257 Va. 1, 10-16 (1999); Etheridge v. Med Ctr. Hosps., 237 Va. 87, 95-98 (1989).
In Etheridge the Virginia Supreme Court delineated that the jury’s sole function as fact-finder “extends to the assessment of damages,” not to “the legal consequences of its assessment,” which party rights and “remedy is a matter of law, not a matter of fact”.
The resolution of disputed facts continues to be a jury’s sole function.
The province of the jury is to settle questions of fact and when the facts are
ascertained the law determines the rights of the parties. * * *
Without question the jury’s fact-finding function extends to the
assessment of damages. Once the jury has ascertained the facts and assessed
the damages, however, the constitutional mandate is satisfied.
The [Code of Virginia] does nothing more than establish the outer
limits of a remedy provided by the General Assembly. A remedy is a matter
of law, not a matter of fact. A trial court applies the remedy’s limitation
only after the jury has fulfilled its fact-finding mission. * * * *