Good news for those injured at airports far from home. A new rule opens up opportunities for Virginia lawyers to present witnesses in a trial by video from distant locations. Witnesses under this new role would be allowed to testify by audiovisual links at civil trials under the rule that took effect back in March. The rule will probably find common use in personal injury cases, where the treating doctor, therapists or other medical care providers are located out of state.
This typically happens when a Virginia resident is injured during a flight or in an airport far from the state. The language of the new rule suggests that a Virginia Circuit Court trial judge should allow a treating medical provider to testify by video unless there is good cause to require an in-person appearance. The rule says that parties and experts should be allowed to appear remotely only under “exceptional circumstances.”
The Virginia Supreme Court approved rule 1.27 on January 9 after two years of study. This rule only applies to civil actions (not criminal cases) that are filed in the Circuit Courts. Besides allowing remote testimony of doctors and other healthcare providers, the rule sets up standards for considering long-distance witnesses. The remote testimony should be allowed for any witness if all parties consent. Furthermore, the trial judge should also allow the video testimony if a lay (non-expert) witness is more than 100 miles away or out of state.
A judge may permit distant testimony of a non-party lay witness if good cause exists. As many airport injury cases involve out-of-state witnesses, out-of-town doctors, and airline personnel who may have moved, airport injury lawyer Doug Landau believes this new rule will help save money and time for those who must take their airport or airline injury cases to court in Virginia. The unprecedented circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, however, may allow for different rules and exceptions in regards to having virtual witnesses.