VADA year in review, membership renewals, new CLE program on experts, and more.

VADA Defense Line December 2019

From the VADA President

Great Attendance at the 2019 Young Lawyers Boot Camp! 

Our recent event, the Young Lawyers Boot Camp, held on December 13, was a huge success! We had 30 new attorneys intently listening to our speakers who provided practical tips designed to improve legal knowledge, skills and professionalism. If you didn't attend, here's a small peek at what you missed - click here for Anna Zick's presentation on the General Course of a General District Court file, which she shared during her presentation on this topic at the Boot Camp. 

We extend thanks to all of our speakers who include Tate C. Love, John E. Peterson, Jr., The Hon. Robert S. Brewbaker, Jr. (Ret.), Taylor Brewer, Anna Zick, and Donald E. Morris. We are also appreciative of our panel of judges, The Hon. William Glover, The Hon. Kimberly Irving, and The Hon. Randall Johnson, Jr., who provided insightful judicial advice to the new lawyer. This included tips for both courtroom presentation and legal writing. With regard to legal writing, Judge Glover encouraged dispensing with superfluous adjectives such as the other side’s case is “ridiculous”, “absurd”, “disingenuous” or “you’re amazed” about the weakness of your opposition’s argument. Keep your feelings to yourself – the court doesn’t want to know. Judge Johnson recommended keeping your argument short and simple. With regard to courtroom presentation, let the court know the relief you seek at the beginning and end of your argument; start off your argument at trial with the right tone “May it please the court” and don’t let an acrimonious relationship with the other attorney turn you into a whiner or act like two kids fighting in the sandbox. Judge Irving strongly recommended that all lawyers know the rules of evidence! 

Special thanks also to our sponsors of this event to include Barrister Digital Solutions, Exponent, The McCammon Group, MetaData Forensics, Planet Depos, Purdy Financial, and Superior Document Services. The event ended with a Networking Happy Hour at the Tobacco Company.

We are also looking forward to the New Year and some new events designed to sharpen your litigation skills and health, as further elaborated in the sections below on The Wellness Initiative and our new CLE, Advanced Expert Workshop, for the more experienced practitioner.  We are also working on providing Virtual Learning Lunches by telephone conference in our continued effort to provide assistance to our Young Lawyers with skillful practice tips. Stay tuned!

Melissa H. Katz
VADA President, 2019-20

Getting Ready for the New Year!

Legislative Issues

Shortly after the New Year begins, our Virginia General Assembly will convene on January 8, 2020. As VADA did last year, our lobbyists (Alexander Macaulay and Lindsay Walton) will monitor bills of significant interest to our members and we will keep you updated. If you have any questions or concerns on legislative issues, please contact our Legislative Chair, Stephen Marshall or VADA Executive Director, Sherma Mather. Click here for more information regarding the General Assembly timeline.

Membership Renewals

Be On the Lookout

Dues Notices will be emailed out Jan 1, 2020. Watch your inbox for the invoice! Payment can be made immediately via credit card, or print out the invoice and pay by check. Checks should be sent to:

1915 Huguenot Road, Ste 301
Richmond, VA 23235

The Wellness Initiative

Who’s ready for a little friendly competition with the VTLA with the extra bonus of benefiting ourselves and helping our community? That’s right – a competition! We are excited to announce that the first 5k race between the VADA and VTLA is set on Saturday, March 21, 2020, in Richmond. Both organizations are gold sponsors of the 2020 HCA Va. Sports Med 5K, which is in its third year. This race also raises money for the charitable cause of “Feed More Richmond”, an organization providing food to the homeless. The news is even better since you don’t have to run to participate! Whether you walk, jog, run, or race – you can still take part in the fun, camaraderie, and community spirit (and of course, the opportunity to claim some bragging rights over the VTLA). Please sign up under the VADA team here. The VADA team can also be comprised of staff and family members! VADA can win in multiple ways to include having the largest team, best race times, and largest group contribution to the race charitable cause of “Feed More Richmond.” After the race, there will be live music and other festivities!

The Wellness Initiative is designed to promote fitness and well-being in our legal community. The benefits of exercise in our demanding profession include decreasing stress, improving mood, and increasing longevity. There is no time like the present to prioritize your health. So, dust off those running/walking shoes and inspire your firm and family by SIGNING UP to participate in this fun event. This also complements all those 2020 New Year Resolutions! Google the “from Couch to 5k programs” to get moving and/or check out this link.

VADA Year in Review

2018-2019 was very busy at VADA.  We had 10+ meetings, welcomed our Local Government section, celebrated many award winners and much more. Check out the pictures in our VADA Year in Review to see all this and more! 

The Learning Corner

In the recent case of Spruill v. Garcia, Record No. 181002, in which a disappointed plaintiff (Spruill) appealed a zero damages verdict in her favor arising out of a minor car accident, the Virginia Supreme Court held that while the trial court improperly admitted some of Spruill’s medical records into evidence for all purposes, it was harmless error. The Court held that such evidence was either cumulative or “had slight effect”, if any, on the jury’s verdict, and the verdict was affirmed. This case provides a helpful review regarding the relevant Virginia statutes and Virginia Rules of Evidence on authentication.

In Spruill, the appellant raised two reasons to support her claim of admissibility error. First, she contended that the custodian statement for the subject records was not an affidavit made under oath or an unsworn declaration made under penalty of perjury. The Court agreed that the statutory authentication requirements of Va. Code Section 8.01-391(d) were not met. Spruill also contended that the defendant/appellee failed to provide a foundation for the records to satisfy the business records exception to the hearsay rule. See Va. R. Evid. 2:803(6). The proponent of a business record can meet these requirements by live testimony, sworn affidavit or an unsworn declaration under penalty of perjury or through a combination. See Va. Code Sections 8.01-390.3(A); Va. R. Evid. 2:902(6)(a). The statement signed by the custodian did not satisfy Va. R. Evid. 2:803(6). Additionally, Va. Code Section 8.01-390.3(B) requires the business record proponent to provide “notice and [a] copy of the record and certification . . . no later than 15 days in advance of the trial or hearing” in order to give the opposing party time to object to the certification and thereby require authentication and foundation testimony for the business record through a witness. See also Va. R. Evid. 2:902(6)(b)(same). While the appellee did not meet the evidentiary requirements and the medical records were admitted in error, much of the information contained within these medical records was admitted through the cross examination of Spruill’s medical expert, without objection. Therefore, the Court concluded harmless error.

New CLE Program

On March 13, 2020, the VADA will offer a CLE program and new educational opportunity for the more experienced practitioner, although young lawyers are also encouraged to sign up. The Advanced Expert Workshop on Cross-Examination will be held at the University of Richmond Law School from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. (up to 5 CLE credit hours) followed by a reception. The agenda is focused on effective cross examination of a variety of experts, preparing your experts for cross examination, and practical tips to combat some vexing expert discovery issues. The agenda includes, with more speakers and topics to be announced, the following:

  • Stop Harassing My Experts! How to Defend Experts from Onerous Financial Disclosure Requests and How to Prepare your Expert for Cross Examination on Financial Interest and/or Bias. (Tate C. Love, TimberlakeSmith)
  • When to Use Vocational Rehabilitation and Life Care Planner experts and Effective Cross Examination (Sean Workowski, Frith Anderson & Peake and Susan Wirt, MSN, Wirt & Associates).
  • Cutting the Malarkey in Premises Liability and Construction Cases: How to identify when plaintiff’s liability experts erroneously claim violations of inapplicable codes and voluntary standards, what to do, and how to effectively use your own liability expert. (Nicholas J. Lawrence, Bancroft, McGavin, Horvath & Judkins, P.C.).
  • Effective Use of Accident Reconstruction Experts in Virginia (David Drash, Teumer & Drash, Matt Dwyer, President, Accident Technology, Inc., and H. Robert Yates, O'Hagan Meyer )
  • Expert War Stories and Tips on Effective Cross Examination of Engineering Experts (panel Discussion with Expert Engineers).

Sign up here for this event.


January 24: VADA Board Meeting

February 27: Capitol Region Networking Reception

March 13: Advanced Expert Workshop

March 21: HCA VA Sports Med 5K

April 23: Southwest Region Networking Reception

May 13-15: Spring Sections Seminar
The Hotel Madison in Harrisonburg

October 14-16: Annual Meeting

Member Spotlight

This father of three and longtime VADA member has tempered his law practice with trips to the Final Four, The Masters, and the World Series, all in 2019. He encourages new attorneys to be citizen lawyers, by seeking out enjoyable opportunities to serve and give back to their communities. To learn more about this month’s VADA Spotlighted Member, click here.

Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys
1915 Huguenot Road, Ste 301

Richmond, VA  23235