In March 2021, the governor of Virginia signed a bill that significantly increases the scope of the Court of Appeals in Virginia. Beginning January 2022, all civil litigants (i.e., those involved in a civil lawsuit) will now have the right to appeal their verdict to the Virginia Court of Appeals. Previously, the Court of Appeals only had jurisdiction over criminal matters, and only very limited civil cases, including worker’s compensation cases. Virginia was the only state that did not have an automatic right of appeal in civil cases.
Prior to the new law, parties dissatisfied with a circuit court decision could petition the Supreme Court of Virginia for the right to appeal, with a slim chance of ever being granted one. Now, if a party is unhappy in a civil suit, he or she is entitled to an appeal before the Court of Appeals. Litigants will have 30 days from the date of the judgment to file a notice of appeal.
This will have a number of effects on our clients. First, in the short term, we may see many of our trial verdicts appealed if the insurance company is unhappy with the result. It is important to note that an appeal is granted and the verdict overturned only if there was a mistake in the law, such as the court making an incorrect ruling. Secondly, it could possibly extend the time it takes for a case to close, as the appeals process takes some time. Ultimately, no one knows exactly what the timing will be or how many verdicts will be appealed. It will take a number of years before lawyers see how the new process will fully play out.