Local Chipotle Shuts Down After Customers Become Sick

A Chipotle restaurant on Tripleseven Road in Sterling, Virginia shut down yesterday after numerous customers reported becoming ill after eating there recently. The website iwaspoisoned.com shows 10 reports of customers falling ill after eating at this Chipotle location in the last few days.  The reports all indicate customers ate at this Chipotle on Friday or Saturday, and became ill over the weekend with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Quite a few of the reports indicate the symptoms and illness were “violent.”  Not pleasant.

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Where am I? Jurisdictional Borders in Washington, DC, Virginia, and Maryland

By Cory Bilton

Memorial Bridge 1

If you are the type of person that thinks “jurisdiction” only matters to lawyers and fugitives on the lam, you might be surprised to learn that the moment you cross a jurisdictional line you are subject to a completely different set of laws.  As you are walking across the Key Bridge from Rosslyn to Georgetown, for example, it is “Goodbye, Virginia law.  Hello, DC law.”  This has important consequences because Virginia law and DC law differ in many ways.  By crossing over that bridge you subject yourself to those new laws just by being present in the District of Columbia.

So, jurisdiction matters to everyone in the area.  But where exactly does Virginia end and Washington, DC begin?  The Potomac River, right?  What about the line between DC and Maryland?  It’s those diagonal streets (Southern Avenue, Eastern Avenue, and Western Avenue), right?  Both these answers are close, but not quite right.  The jurisdictional lines between Virginia, Washington, DC, and Maryland are very specific and do not necessarily match up with common understanding.  Here is what you need to know about jurisdiction in the DC area.

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Case Law Dispatch: Bartolomucci v. Federal Insurance

By Cory Bilton

Case: Bartolomucci v. Federal Insurance

  • Court: Virginia Supreme Court
  • Date of Decision: 4/16/15
  • Opinion by: Millette

Facts:

Vu Vo and Christopher Bartolomucci were involved in a vehicle collision. Vu filed suit against Christopher, who was a partner at the law firm of Hogan Lovells. Christopher’s personal insurance policy provided only $100,000 in coverage, which was insufficient to satisfy the damage he caused to Vu. Therefore, Christopher sought excess coverage from Hogan Lovells’ Federal Insurance policy. Federal Insurance denied that the policy provided coverage for Christopher’s collision.

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RGR v. Settle Redux: New Opinion and New Issues

By Cory Bilton

GW Parkway To GT

In its latest release of opinions, the Supreme Court of Virginia issued a new opinion in the RGR v. Settle case (which I’ll call “Settle II”), reaching the opposite conclusion of the prior decision. Back in June, I wrote that the Court’s first opinion in RGR v. Settle (“Settle I”) reached an untenable position. Settle I held that the victim in the case was contributorily negligent as a matter of law because “no reasonable minds could differ” on the matter, despite the fact that there was a two-justice dissent. Now, Settle II spills many bytes on an issue that was not even mentioned in Settle I. In my opinion, there is no way to reconcile these two opinions with legal reasoning alone. Instead, to me this is a candid view into the world of judging. Turns out justices are just people, too.

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Benefits for Same-Sex Spouses in Personal Injury Cases in Virginia

By Cory Bilton.

Supreme Court - 2

Same-sex couples were allowed to legally marry in the Commonwealth of Virginia this week. In a historic, but understated move, the Supreme Court denied certiorari on all of the same-sex marriage appeals as mere line items on an 89 page list without explanation. Later that same day, the 4th Circuit issued a mandate that the previous 4th Circuit opinion, finding that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage impermissibly infringes on its citizens fundamental right to marry, was to take effect immediately. Same-sex couples all over Virginia were getting married by Monday afternoon. (Please accept my personal congratulations to everyone that got hitched in Virginia this week.) With legal recognition comes many new legal entitlements and obligations. Here are some of the new benefits and obligations same-sex couples will enjoy in personal injury cases and in civil litigation in Virginia.

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Second Circuit Splits with Fourth Circuit on ERISA Preemption in Wurtz

By Cory Bilton.

Lincoln Mem 2

The preemptive effect of an ERISA benefit plan’s contract language continues to be a hot judicial topic. Although ERISA covers the broad rights and duties of employer sponsored benefit plans and employee beneficiaries, personal injury attorneys are largely concerned only with the narrow issue of the plan’s subrogation and reimbursement rights against injured plaintiffs. Many states limit the subrogation or reimbursement rights of health insurance plans. When a state limits a benefit plan’s right to recover, ERISA plan administrators’ argue that the plan language itself preempts any state law limitations. If the plan’s language preempts state law, the plan gets repaid. If state law is not preempted, the injured person repays less, or sometimes avoids repayment at all.

A couple days ago the Second Circuit issued an opinion, Wurtz v. Rawlings, holding that the plaintiff’s state law claims were neither expressly nor completely preempted by ERISA. A New York statute (§ 5-335) states that health insurers are not permitted to subrogate against a liable third-party or seek reimbursement for medical expenses from an injured person (Virginia has a similar “anti-subrogation” law). Despite this law, ERISA plans in New York were still seeking subrogation or reimbursement, by claiming the plan language preempted the New York anti-subrogation law. The ERISA plans at issue here were insured ERISA plans, which may still be regulated by state laws that are intended to regulate insurance (as opposed to self-funded ERISA plans, the language of which preempts even state laws that regulate insurance). But when the trial judge faced the plan administrator’s motion to dismiss, he held that the plaintiff’s claims were both expressly preempted and completely preempted by ERISA and thus dismissed the claim.

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Starting July 1st, Virginia Drivers Must Give Bicyclists Three Feet

By Cory Bilton.

Gallows 3

When a vehicle driver wants to pass another vehicle, it goes without saying that the passing vehicle has to move his car into another lane to pass. It’s a simple fact: lanes aren’t wide enough to accommodate two cars side by side in one lane. However, it is less clear when a motorist intends to pass a bicyclist. After all, it is possible for a vehicle and a bicyclist to be side by side with in one lane. But just because it’s physically possible doesn’t mean it is safe to do so. So what is a safe distance for a motorist to give a bicyclist?

Starting July 1st, motorists are required to provide at least three feet of passing space to the left of the bicyclist. The new law, SB 97, modifies Virginia Code § 46.2-839 which previously required only two feet of passing space. In addition to bicycles, the new 3 foot minimum passing distance also applies to electric personal mobility devices, electric power-assisted bicycles, mopeds, animals, and animal-drawn vehicles.

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RGR, LLC v. Settle: If the Facts Don’t Fit the Law, Change the Law

By Cory Bilton

No Loitering on Bridge Sign

Having a case decided by a jury is one of the best features offered by the legal system in the US. The domain of the judge is to determine the law. The domain of the jury is to hear the facts of the case and assess the credibility of the witnesses. If the jurors believe you and your witnesses more than the opposing lawyer and her witnesses, you will prevail.

Except when you don’t…

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Virginia Supreme Court Permits Double-Digit Ratios for Punitive Damages in Coalson v. Canchola

By Cory Bilton

President Signs 2

Numbers have a strong pull on our judgment.  If a law says, “Don’t drive a car unreasonably fast,” it is difficult to know exactly what that means.  Every person on earth could argue at length justifying their own definition of “unreasonably fast.”  But change that law to say, “Don’t drive a car faster than 70 miles per hour,” and all judgment collapses to the single question of whether a car’s speed exceeds 70 mph.  Call it simplicity, efficiency, or laziness, but we love rules based on numbers.  They make decisions easy.  Because numbers mesmerize us, when a law incorporates both a number element and an extra “reasonableness” element, it’s easy to focus on the number part and forget about the rest of the rule.

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Did the Nevils v. Group Health Plan Opinion Just Say What We’ve All Been Thinking?

By Cory Bilton

Wash Cir 3

The Supreme Court of Missouri recently decided Nevils v. Group Health Plan, Inc., holding that FEHBA does not pre-empt Missouri’s anti-subrogation law.  Google informs me that Jefferson City, Missouri, where the Supreme Court of Missouri is located, is roughly 930 miles away from the Washington DC area.  Despite the distance, Nevils could have a significant impact in our area, both for Virginia residents and for federal employees.  This is not to say that the analysis laid out in the Nevils decision is new.  In fact, I think the Missouri Supreme Court just said what we’ve all been thinking (or, at least, what many local lawyers who routinely have to deal with FEHBA liens have been thinking).

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