Nonsuit Obtained Thanks to New Virginia Rules of Evidence

The firm was recently on the winning end of a case in the Loudoun Circuit Court, through the effective application of the new Virginia Rules of Evidence which were adopted by the Virginia General Assembly on July 1, 2012.

The New Rules of Evidence

The new Rules represent a “sea change” in Virginia trial practice, according to many, but will bring the Commonwealth in line with 48 other states that have codified rules of evidence (Massachusetts is now the lone state without codified rules). Rules of evidence are important because they dictate what information a lawyer can put before a judge or jury to prove a case. Virginia’s new Rules serve to replace the mish-mash of evidentiary rules established through the common law that were incomplete and tedious for lawyers to navigate in practice.

The Rules in Action

In August, less than two months after the Rules had been put in place, GarbiaPlocki attorneys Jeff Gaull and Ibrahim Moiz represented an individual at trial who signed as a commercial lease guarantor for a restaurant located in Ashburn, Virginia. When the restaurant owners could not keep up with rental payments, the plaza owners sued the restaurant and all guarantors named in the lease, including the firm’s client, for over $200,000.00.

During the discovery phase of the case leading up to trial, the plaza produced a ledger of accounting, showing a summary of the rents, fees, utilities and other charges that had accrued and were due and owed to the plaza.

At the bench trial before the Honorable Thomas Horne, the plaza’s attorney tried to move the ledger into evidence through a witness representing the plaza’s management company, to prove the amount of damages the plaza had incurred. The defendants jointly raised an objection under of the new Rules of Evidence, Rule 2: 1006 (“Summaries”), which states:

The contents of voluminous writings that, although admissible, cannot conveniently be examined in court may be represented in the form of a chart, summary, or calculation. Reasonably in advance of the offer of such chart, summary, or calculation, the originals or duplicates shall be made available for examination or copying, or both, by other parties at a reasonable time and place. The court may order that they be produced in court.

The defendants objected on the ground that no supporting documentation, including invoices, tax bills, receipts, etc. had been produced or been made available for review by the plaintiff in advance of trial.

Rather than proceed, and thereby risk that the case would lack any support for damages, the plaintiff took a nonsuit – in effect serving to dismiss the case. Taking a nonsuit allows the plaintiff to re-file the lawsuit anew at a later date.