Register now for the Capitol Region Happy Hour 2/27 and New Advanced Expert Witness Workshop 3/13, General Assembly Update,  VADA Influential Women of Law, and more... 

VADA Defense Line January 2020

President's Welcome

As we move through the next two months, we will be tracking certain bills which are of interest to VADA.  Our lobbyists, James Macauley and Lindsay Sessa, are keeping us current as to the status of such bills.  See our Legislative Update below for specific information.

March will be an exciting month as we are unrolling a new VADA program in response to members requesting more programming options for the more experienced practitioner.  On March 13 we offer an Advanced Expert Witness Workshop featuring a fine array of speakers and experts.  For more information and agenda, visit the meeting webpage

March also features our Wellness Initiative which not only involves competition with the VTLA, a chance to get moving, but also an opportunity to serve the community. See the article below for more info and get moving!

Melissa H. Katz
VADA President, 2019-20

Priority Bills

  •  HB 127 - Miyares - Intentional or negligent infliction of injury or death; bystander claims for emotional distress.
  • HB 1359 - Leftwich - Jurisdiction of civil claims; amending amount of claim, concurrent jurisdiction.
  • SB 285 - Deeds - Intentional or negligent infliction of injury or death; bystander claims for emotional distress.
  • SB 663 - Surovell - Practice of medicine and other healing arts; provision of litigation assistance.
  • Judicial Council

  • HB 1378 - Leftwich - Pleadings, motions, and other papers; signature defects.
  • SB 229 - Petersen - Pleadings, motions, and other papers; signature defects. 
Boyd Graves
  • HB 651 - Hope - Recoupment; actions that qualify.
  • HB 792 - Simon - Appeals of right in general district court; order or judgment altering prior final orders.
  • HB 834 - Sullivan - Order of publication; electronic notice.
  • HB 1346 - Bourne - Attorney fees; control of court.
  • SB 529 - Edwards - Admissibility of statements of a deceased or incompetent party; hearsay exception.
  • SB 771 - Stanley - Interlocutory appeals; immunity. 
  • HB 759 - VanValkenburg - Strategic lawsuits against public participation; special motion to dismiss, stay of discovery. 
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist
Insurance Policies and Coverage
  • SB 27 - Petersen - Uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance policies; bad faith. 

Our lobbyists are also monitoring a list of other bills for VADA, to include those pertaining to workers compensation. Those bills can be found by going to the VADA folder in Lobbyist-in-a-box (“LIAB”), please see the directions for getting into LIAB below. If there is a bill in the LIAB folder that you feel should be a priority bill or if you are interested in giving testimony before the General Assembly on bills of concern, please contact our VADA Legislative Chair, Stephen Marshall at

How to access VADA’s Lobbyist-In-A-Box page:

1) Go to Virginia's legislative information system.

2) Go to the top right hand corner and click "Login." You will be taken to a new screen to put in your log in information. User ID: MACBUR Password: macbur

3) After you have logged in, you will be sent to a page that says “Login successful,” click the word “continue.” This will take you back to the legislative information system home page.

4) On the home page you will see a list of links in the middle starting with “Bills & Resolutions.” The tenth link down is to Lobbyist-in-a-Box. Click that link.

5) Then click on the folder labeled “VADA.” All of VADA’s bills will be in this folder.

2020 Capitol Region
VADA & ACC Networking Reception
February 27 at 5:30

Registration is now open! Join the VADA and Richmond in-house colleagues from Association of Corporate Counsel National Capital Region Chapter for a fun night of food, beer and vintage arcade games at SLINGSHOT in Scott’s Addition. The event is free, but an RSVP is appreciated. 

Advanced Expert Witness Workshop
March 13, 1:00 - 6:00 PM
University of Richmond School of Law

While this new program is designed for the more experienced practitioner, new lawyers will also find the program rewarding as the workshop tackles issues involving multiple types of experts which surface in personal injury and property damage cases.  We have an excellent panel of speakers and experts lined up to share valuable knowledge, insight, trial practice pointers and personal experience regarding handling some difficult issues involving expert witnesses. Registration is open and we encourage you to sign up as soon as possible before the registration price increases February 22.

Visit the meeting website to see the jam-packed agenda which includes a first-class reception where you can share war stories, network, and/or enjoy some camaraderie with your colleagues and our sponsors.

Congratulations to VADA members Margaret Hardy, Kate McCauley, and Elizabeth Skilling for being named by Virginia Lawyers Weekly to the 2020 Class of Influential Women of Law! Margaret, Kate, and Elizabeth will be celebrated with this year's other honorees at a reception and awards program at The John Marshall in downtown Richmond on February 18. Congratulations, again, Margaret, Kate, and Elizabeth on an honor well deserved!

Wellness Initiative

Interested in serving your community, getting in shape, competing against the VTLA and/or simply having fun with your colleagues, family and friends? Then sign up for the 3rd Annual HCA VA Sports Med 5k. All runners, joggers and walkers are welcome! Sign up on the VADA TEAM for only $20.00, before the registration fee goes up on January 31!

The race is on Saturday, March 21, 2020 in Richmond, with a start time of 9:30 a.m. VADA and VTLA are gold sponsors of this race and part of the Wellness Initiative to get attorneys moving. The race further benefits and serves the community as all proceeds from this event will benefit FeedMore Richmond, a charity dedicated to providing food to the homeless.

Enjoy live music, good food, and conversation after the race is over. For more information go to the race website. Make sure you sign up on the VADA team since we get points if our team is bigger than the VTLA’s team. Click here for an event flyer to post in your office. 

Fact or Fiction - Can You Trust Your Fire Investigator’s Report?

by Stuart Morrison, PE, IAAI-CFI & Jack Kennedy, IAAI-CFI

Having the right expert with the right expertise is paramount in the development of a scientifically supported fire cause determination.

An example of where this comes into play could be a kitchen fire that is believed to have been caused by unattended cooking due to reports that the occupants were cooking prior to the fire.

All initial indications seem to support the theory, witness statements back up the findings, and the physical evidence lines up. Everything appears to be cut and dry.

Except after the report is delivered and representative parties move forward, a new piece of evidence is introduced showing the utility company disconnected power to the home prior to the fire. As a result of one missing detail that should have been discovered during data collection and analysis, the entire report is overturned.

Download your own copy of "Fact or Fiction - Can You Trust Your Fire Investigator’s Report?" to learn some of the key considerations to look for when selecting fire experts or reviewing investigative reports.

I am Sam Bernier, the VADA’s new Membership Chair. I will be working with Sherma, Amy, and the Board to come up with ideas for current member retention, outreach to potential new members, and working with former members to bring them back into the fold. If you have any ideas or are interested in helping the VADA reach out to eligible Virginia lawyers, please contact me at For now, please timely renew your membership and help us expand by talking about the benefits of VADA membership to others.

You should have received an email on Jan. 1 reminding you that your membership was up for renewal, with links to either print the invoice and mail with a check, or to renew online. Follow this link for your membership renewal. If you have any questions about your membership, please contact Executive Director Sherma Mather.  We have currently received 200 members’ renewals, with more coming every day!

Membership retention is a big push for 2020! We are in the process of reaching out to members whose membership has “lapsed” to try to bring them back to full membership status. President Melissa Katz has emailed lapsed members information about new and upcoming events VADA has planned for 2020, benefits for new VADA members, and to remind them of the many ways a VADA membership can be of aid to them in their practice. 

Member Spotlight

This Roanoke MedMal attorney has two cats with the creative names of "Duck duck" and "Goose." Click here to see who is in this month's Member Spotlight. 

VADA LinkedIn Page

Spread the word! VADA now has a Members-Only Group on LinkedIn! Essentially a mirror of our Members-Only Facebook page, this group is designed to provide our members on LinkedIn with case law updates, federal and state legislative developments, and other items of interest and importance to those in a Virginia civil defense practice. If you are a current VADA member, visit "VADA Members Only" on LinkedIn and join today!

Through the Eyes of the Insured
The learning continues 

If you missed last year's Annual Meeting, you missed an excellent presentation by Jason Moyers who shared a client's perspective on a lawsuit. Most often, a lawsuit is a new experience for an insured and you might be the first attorney they’ve ever met. They are usually not familiar with legal terminology and unaware of how their insurance policy applies.

Read Jason's advice by downloading his PowerPoint presentation.


VADA expresses our sympathy to the family, friends, and colleagues of James E. “Jim” Brydges, Jr., a Past President of VADA and 2008 recipient of the VADA’s Award for Excellence in Civil Litigation. We likewise extend our condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of VADA member Thomas “Jeff” Salb.

DRI Leadership Conference

The Defense Research Institute (DRI) is a national civil defense legal organization. DRI is committed to offering solid educational programs, legal publications, and litigation resources, to include a national expert witness database, to its members. DRI also provides assistance to state civil defense organizations, such as VADA. VADA members are often concurrent members of DRI. Recently, DRI held its Leadership Conference in Chicago, Illinois extending invitations to state officers and their Executive Directors. While the conference included discussions regarding effective communication, providing members with value, and the importance of service in the community, leadership was the primary theme. Leaders were not only identified as the people holding offices but were also identified as the members of the organization. For more interesting things to note about leadership we invite you to read the following articles:

Infectious Leadership

Two Things To Do After Every Meeting

You Don't Need Just One Leadership Voice You Need Many

Plan A Better Meeting With Design Thinking

The Business Case for Curiosity

For more information about DRI, please contact John Peterson, the VADA’s DRI Representative at or visit

Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys
1915 Huguenot Road, Ste 301
Richmond, VA  23235


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