Virginia: Wrongful Death – a Lawyer’s Server

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On February 26, 2015, the Virginia Supreme Court handed down Brown v. Jacobs, No. 140270. It upheld the dismissal with prejudice without leave to amend of a wrongful death claim against a lawyer by a legal process server’s widow in Rockingham Circuit Court. Id. at 13-14.

“Because [Plaintiff] failed to allege facts sufficient to establish a special relationship in the amended complaint, she failed to establish the ‘threshold requirement’ necessary to show that [the lawyer] had a duty to warn the decedent [process server];” twice citing Mr. Waterman’s case, Burns v. Gagnon, 283 Va. 657 (2012). Id. at 7-8, 11. The Virginia Supreme Court in Brown explained that it never recognized “attorney/private investigator,” or even all “employers/independent contractors,” as a special relationship. Id. at 8-11.

Also, Brown found the Court did not abuse its discretion and err in denying Plaintiff leave to file her proffered second amended complaint. Id. at 13. The “amplified” allegations therein still were “insufficient as a matter of law to establish that a special relationship existed between [the lawyer and the deceased process server].”