17 May Virginia: Wrongful Death – a Lawyer’s Instruction
On April 14, 2016, in the Fairfax wrongful death appeal of Gerald F. Ragland, Jr. and Andrew J. Narod v. Gyoengyver Soggin, Administrator of the Estate of Evan M. Soggin, Deceased, two Leclair Ryan attorneys were able to avoid the monetary sanctions imposed on them for alleged “defuse misconduct” in the form of submitting erroneous jury instructions. The Virginia Supreme Court held that frustrating “inadvertent mistake” was not sanctionable under Va. Code §8.01-271.1 or under Va. Code §18.2-456. Id. at 7-10.
Significantly, however, the Ragland wrongful death opinion emphasized that §8.01-271.1 “governs oral motions made by an attorney or party in any court in the Commonwealth”. Id. at 9 (emphasis added). Further, Ragland equated jury instructions to oral motions: “Submitting a jury instruction to a trial court and asking that a particular instruction be given to a jury is the equivalent of making an oral motion to the court.” Id.