jury trial

What’s Going on with Virginia Jury Trials During the Pandemic?

During the long hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, jury trials that the Abrams Landau injury law team had scheduled were continued, postponed, canceled and put in “limbo.” In the recent Virginia Lawyers Weekly newspaper, four Virginia Circuit Courts indicated that they would resume jury trials this month.

These courts are located in Stafford, Henrico, Norfolk and Allegheny County. It should be noted that the Virginia Supreme Court has moved cautiously on resuming jury trials, because the jury assembly rooms bring many strangers together in close quarters and create dangerous places where the virus could easily be spread. The high Court has fashioned a process for approval of individual court jury plans, as not one size fits all. Many other Circuit Courts are still awaiting to learn if their plans will survive scrutiny by the panels empowered to review their plans. Court administrators will also be consulted so that the safety of court personnel, those called for jury duty, lawyers and litigants can be safeguarded.

Doug Landau
After another successful case in front of the Federal District Court, Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, attorney Doug Landau stands beneath the sculpture of Lady Justice astride a turtle. The saying “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied” was at the heart of this Court’s nickname, “The Rocket Docket,” because it was one of the fastest courts in the country. Personal injury cases were often tried by a jury less than a year from the time they were filed in the Federal Court in Alexandria. However, since the coronavirus pandemic, jury trials have been halted, and they are unlikely to begin again until next year.

However, it was reported that there were already complaints about some people in court not wearing masks and that some courts were not enforcing the six feet separation standard. Complaints have been made to the Virginia Department of Health regarding this activity in court, and mask-wearing should be the default practice. Physical distancing, mask-wearing and frequent hand washing are all relatively easy methods that have been shown to reduce the spread of airborne viruses.

The Federal Court in Northern Virginia indicated it would not resume jury trials until next year, and then criminal cases would have priority, due to the “speedy trial rule.” Additionally, it was indicated that they may start with only one jury trial per day, which suggests that civil jury trials, and those cases involving personal injury, may have a very long wait.

Currently, one of the Abrams Landau injury team’s jury trials set for the Arlington Circuit Court has been twice continued. This airport car crash case is now scheduled for May 21-22 of 2021. This case will now be almost five years old. What is particularly frustrating is the fact that the liability (fault part of the case) is clear. In this case, two different camera systems caught the unsafe defendant crossing the centerline and striking the plaintiff’s vehicle. The defendant’s automobile liability insurance company offered all of their minimum limits policy ($25,000 pursuant to Virginia law), but the case is going to trial because the plaintiff’s own underinsured motorist coverage has not seen fit to even offer a penny. When lawyer Landau offered to go without a jury in order to try the case sooner, in front of only a judge, Allstate Insurance declined even that offer. This notoriously recalcitrant insurance company indicated that as a corporate decision, they do not have authority to agree to a bench trial. This is remarkable because prior to the coronavirus pandemic, insurance companies and defense lawyers would jump at the chance to do without a jury because once the case is in the hands of the jurors, these huge corporations have no control over the outcome.

These are strange times that we are living in. While we were able to predict with some accuracy when a case would be tried before, under the present circumstances, we are unable to do so in either state courts or even the Federal Courts. Even the infamous “rocket docket” of the Alexandria Federal District Court is no longer able to resolve personal injury cases quickly. As further updates are received from the courts, we will continue to publish updated posts. Stay tuned!

If you or someone you know was injured due to no fault of your own, please give us a call (703-796-9555) or email us at Abrams Landau, Ltd. We will do our best to guide you in the right direction to ensure you receive the full compensation you deserve for your injuries.