Annual Meeting Updates, Legislative Update, Member Spotlight, and more. .

VADA Defense Line September 2020

President's Welcome

Thank you for the opportunity to be of service to you this year as your President. My term ends on October 15, and thereafter, Tate Love will enthusiastically take the helm. It has been an honor to hold this position and a joy to work with others who are committed to moving our organization forward. While the year 2020 did not unfold as originally envisioned, since COVID-19 quashed previously scheduled in-person meetings, anticipated new live programming and a joint physical fitness event /community outreach program with VTLA, VADA adapted to these setbacks. The resilient are always ready for Plan B! Our Director of Meetings, Amy Gilbody, Executive Director, Sherma Mather, and the Executive Committee were quick to lead the charge and embrace new technology. This allowed VADA to continue its mission of providing educational opportunities to our members in alternative formats of webinars and remote CLEs, and communication by keeping our members well informed about COVID-19’s impact on the courts through current updates to multiple social media platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter) and our monthly electronic newsletter.

Even though COVID-19 challenges continue, we are ready to transition to the next step and offer attendance at our Annual Meeting in a hybrid format. The Annual Meeting will take place at The Homestead with our traditional reception on Wednesday, October 14. On Thursday, October 15, we offer an all day CLE program, to include our awards luncheon. For those contemplating live attendance, The Homestead adheres to COVID-19 safety guidelines and VADA will be in strict conformance. There is also a remote option which allows you to enjoy the robust agenda from the location of your choice. I encourage you to sign up since the program offers content beneficial to everyone’s practice and an array of excellent speakers. The speakers include two Virginia Supreme Court Justices, multiple state and federal court judges, and experienced and respected practitioners. Some of the material includes tips to improve both oral and writing advocacy skills, handle a tricky adversary, and master techniques for damage control in a catastrophic injury case. You will also be updated on recent legislation and informed about the impact of COVID-19 on personal injury claims. Register online here.

In the last quarter of 2020, VADA will also continue its mission to educate our young lawyers. Our Young Lawyers Boot Camp is scheduled presently as a live event on December 4, in Richmond. VADA offers rich programming to our younger attorneys with the objective of creating rising stars who are also assets to our firms, this organization and the practice of law. Please encourage your newer attorneys to sign up when registration opens soon.

As we adapt to the uncertainties and hardships this virus has caused worldwide, it is important to remember that we are all in it together and stronger together. Another one of VADA’s missions is to provide fellowship. While our ability to gather together, as in days of past, is temporarily constrained, it is important to remember that we can always reach out to one another for an encouraging word, shared laughter, and/or friendly advice. If you aren’t attending our Annual Meeting in person, please take a moment and contact one or two old friends who you will miss seeing this year. Fellowship is always appreciated, even if by email, text, or phone.

Finally, we have many events planned in 2021 and 2022, and I look forward to the day when I can greet you in person less than six feet away and shake your hand!

Melissa H. Katz
VADA President, 2019-20

Attend in-person or via webcast


Many of our members, sponsors, and friends have been looking forward to gathering again for in-person VADA meetings. Others among us, however, are uncomfortable doing so. Understanding and respecting both of these perspectives, we are modifying our 2020 Annual Meeting to a quasi-hybrid format. In addition to trimming our CLE content to a single day, October 15, with opportunities for networking both that day and evening, as well as the evening before, all of our CLE offerings will be presented virtually, via webcast.

Has it been a while since you’ve seen the inside of a courtroom due to the pandemic? Rediscover the art of persuasion with our panels on effective legal writing and oral advocacy, featuring Justices S. Bernard Goodwyn and Stephen B. McCullough of the Supreme Court of Virginia; U.S. District Judge Michael F. Urbanski of the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia; the Honorable David B. Carson, Chief Judge of Virginia’s 23rd Judicial Circuit; the Honorable Ricardo Rigual of Virginia’s 15th Judicial Circuit; Erin Ashwell, Chief Deputy Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia; and Jay O’Keeffe of Johnson, Rosen & O’Keeffe.

Our Legislative Update, presented by Sam Bernier of Frith Anderson + Peake; Stephen Marshall of Two Rivers Law Group; and VADA’s lobbyists, Alexander Macauley and Lindsay Sessa of Macauley Jamerson, will educate us on important bills signed into law July 1, as well as noteworthy bills that were tabled at the last session but are likely to return. This presentation will include information on the Special Session bills that were introduced in response to COVID-19 and other issues.

Stewart Pollock of Moran Reeves & Conn will help us get a jumpstart on the wave of personal injury lawsuits that already have begun related to COVID-19. Learn about potential claims and claimants, theories of liability, and what tools you’ll need to successfully defend such claims.

John W. Bell of Johnson & Bell, who is joining us courtesy of DRI, will help us harness “the power of compassion,” with strategies for exhibiting to a jury “empathy, sympathy & kindness from a defense perspective.” And finally, learn how to keep your cool and remain ethical and professional in the heat of battle. Our “Taming a Tricky Adversary” session features the Honorable Randall G. Johnson, Jr., of Virginia’s 14th Judicial Circuit; the Honorable Deborah C. Welsh, Chief Judge of Virginia’s 20th Judicial District; and Paul Kuhnel of Lewis Brisbois.

If you are planning to attend the meeting, either in-person or via webcast, please help us get an accurate registration count as soon as possible by registering and booking your hotel now, using the links below.

Thank you!

    Before October 1

The General Assembly is still in special session.  HB5013 removing qualified immunity for law enforcement officers as defendants in civil actions has been tabled this session, but will likely return for the 2021 Session.  Multiple bills introduced are in response to the COVID-19 health situation.  HB5028 defines COVID-19 as presumed occupational disease for workers’ compensation benefits for law enforcement, first responders, health care providers and school board employees.  It has passed the House and is in Senate Appropriations after reporting from Commerce and Labor.  HB5059 grants immunity from civil liability to certain hospices, home care organizations, private providers, assisted living facilities and adult day care centers and was passed by the House and reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The competition was fierce as Team Harman Claytor Corrigan & Wellman claimed—in a thrilling tie breaker—first place in VADA’s Virtual Trivia Night on September 15! Congrats, Team HCCW, on the win! Many thanks to our host Orange Cat Trivia, our sponsors Planet Depos and J.S. Held, LLC, and to all who participated for a fun evening!

Moving Cases to Conclusion and
Thinking Outside the Box

By: Melissa H. Katz

How do you move a case to conclusion if you can’t agree on a settlement and a jury trial is light years away? Since both parties have a common interest in expeditious and successful case closure, alternative methods of deciding the case should be considered.  It is more important than ever to think outside the box of traditional methods of case resolution given the backlog of cases COVID-19 has created in our court systems. 

Whether liability, damages, or both, are at issue, remote mediation, trial by judge, or arbitration, with or without high-low agreements, are viable options of adjudication.  This article will focus on arbitration and suggestions to avoid missteps, disagreements and derailment.

Read the full text of the article here on the VADA website.

Mark your calendar now for these upcoming VADA events.  Be sure to bookmark VADA Upcoming Events so you don't miss out.

Watch your email for updates on all upcoming events.

October 14-15
Annual Meeting
The Homestead/Via Webcast

December 4
Young Lawyers Boot Camp

May 5-7
Spring Sections Seminar 
Boar's Head Inn, Charlottesville

This Washington, D.C., native and longtime VADA member loves travel, spending time with his family, and classic rock.  Among the many highlights of his career has been, in addition to his involvement with VADA, the chance to have dinner with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.  To learn more about this month’s VADA Spotlighted member, click here..

Remember, if you join the VADA as a new member by attending the Annual Meeting October 14-15, your membership dues for 2020 AND 2021 are included. This is a great way to introduce new members to everything VADA has to offer!

If you’re not sure of your current membership status, please reach out to Executive Director Sherma Mather at or Membership Chair Sam Bernier at for more information.

We are so pleased to welcome our new VADA members.

Jacob Stroman
Chesapeake City
Attorney’s Office

John Perry
Harman Claytor
Corrigan & Wellman

Join our social media sites where we post current court updates and relevant legal developments.  

VADA’S Mission

The mission of the Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys is to assist Virginia attorneys in the professional and ethical representation of their clients in civil litigation through education, communication and fellowship.

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