Recognizing the problem with the trial court's November 5 order, the plaintiff sprung to action.  In a single assignment of error, the plaintiff argued that the circuit court erred when it entered the November 5 order "because pursuant to Rule 1:1 it no longer had jurisdiction to do so."
The Supreme Court, of course, agreed.  In doing so, it cited a litany of classic opinions unquestionably dictating that Rule 1:1's remarkable streak must continue.  Among others, the Court cited James ex. rel. Duncan v. James, 263 Va. 474, 481 (2001) (a nonsuit order is a final order), Super Fresh Food Mkts. of Va. v. Ruffin, 263 Va. 555, 560 (2002) (after the entry of a final order, the running of the 21-day period may only be interrupted by the entry of an order modifying, vacating, or suspending the final order), and Davis v. Mullins, 251 Va. 141, 148 (1996) (a court speaks only through its written orders).
In the end, the trial court's announcement that it would award costs to the defendant on the 20th day after the nonsuit order was simply not enough to overcome the mandatory requirements of Rule 1:1.  The trial court lost jurisdiction before it entered the order memorializing that ruling.  Therefore, that order was void, and the trial court's award of costs to the defendants was reversed.
At press time, it is unclear when Rule 1:1's next trip to the Supreme Court of Virginia will occur.  As always, however, Rule 1:1 - which continues to puzzle opponents - will enter that matchup as a heavy favorite.
Benjamin P. Kyber
Richmond Appellate Law Attorney Serving Virginia, Henrico County.
Post A Comment