News

Virginia Regulatory Hot Tip 2017-4

May / 2017

The above article was written by Barrett E. Pope and recently published in the Professional Insurance Agents Association of Virginia & The District of Columbia, Inc. newsletter.  Please select the link below and go to page 10 of the newsletter to read Mr. Pope’s commentary.

http://www.piavadc.com/Portals/0/pdf/PIA%20Insider/CompleteNewsletterApril2017.pdf

Virginia Regulatory Hot Tip 2016-12

Dec / 2016

The above article was written by Barrett E. Pope and recently published in the Professional Insurance Agents Association of Virginia & The District of Columbia, Inc. newsletter.  Please select the link below and go to page 14 of the newsletter to read Mr. Pope’s commentary.

PIA Newsletter – December 2016

Virginia Regulatory Hot Tip 2016-9

Oct / 2016

The above article was written by Barrett E. Pope and recently published in the Professional Insurance Agents Association of Virginia & The District of Columbia, Inc. newsletter.  Please select the link below and go to page 7 of the newsletter to read Mr. Pope’s commentary.

PIA Newsletter – September 2016

Tesoro Loses Bid To Toss $9M Suit Over Military Base Work

Apr / 2016

By Patrick Boyle

Law360, Washington (March 30, 2016, 1:58 PM ET) — A Virginia federal judge on Tuesday rejected Tetra Tech Tesoro Inc.’s bid to dismiss a $9 million breach of contract lawsuit by JAAAT Technical Services LLC, ruling that the court has jurisdiction because the dispute arises from work done on U.S. military bases.

Even though the companies’ contract stipulates that their disputes will be governed by Virginia law, the Constitution and court precedents dictate that the federal courts retain jurisdiction to apply state law for matters that occur within federal enclaves, the court said.

“Because the events giving rise to JAAAT’s claims occurred on the military bases, the court finds that JAAAT’s claims arise under federal law,” U.S. District Court Judge M. Hannah Lauck wrote.

The decision keeps alive JAAAT’s 2015 suit alleging that its subcontractor failed to meet deadlines on five military base contracts in North Carolina and Georgia, forcing JAAAT to incur more than $9 million in damages from shoddy work. JAAAT says the subcontracts stipulated that Tesoro reimburse the contractor for any delay damages that it caused, which Tesoro has purportedly not done.

Tesoro’s argued that the federal court lacks jurisdiction because the suit raises no substantial federal questions, an approach Judge Lauck labeled as “misguided” because it ignores the fact that the dispute arose on land for which the state has ceded jurisdiction to the federal government. Although state laws that exist when an enclave is created still apply to the enclave, the state laws become “federalized” for disputes involving that land, the judge said.

“This so-called ‘federalized’ state law, in turn, confers on federal courts subject matter jurisdiction over claims otherwise characterized as ‘state law,’ such as the contract disputes here,” Judge Lauck wrote, citing federal court precedents. “The parties’ contractual agreement to apply Virginia law does not disturb this conclusion.”

The Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution also mandates that when the events behind a lawsuit occur on a federal enclave, the court must apply the enclave’s federalized state law, she said.

“Tesoro’s attempt to cherry-pick language regarding which government ‘created’ the law does not persuade,” Judge Lauck wrote.

She also rejected the subcontractor’s claim that because the companies chose Virginia law to enforce disputes under their contract, only Virginia laws will be at issue, meaning the case belongs in state court regardless of what federal law says.

“This novel argument — which essentially advances the idea that parties to a contract, by their choosing, may negate the application of federal law — misses the mark,” she wrote. “Tesoro argues for the application of state law in spite of the existence of federal law — federalized state law — that governs the dispute. The parties’ election to the contrary does not override the Constitution.”

An attorney for JAAAT said the legal dilemma was of Tesoro’s own making.

“This contract was created by the defendant, who has tried every procedural technicality possible — including filing five separate cases in the state courts of North Carolina and Georgia — to avoid having its own contract enforced against it in its own chosen forum, the Eastern District of Virginia,” J. Buckley Warden IV said in a statement to Law360. “Now we can finally get to the merits of the matter and show just how poorly the defendant performed its work.”

JAAAT contends that Tesoro failed to meet 540-day deadlines for work on a training facility at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on a company support facility at Fort Benning, Georgia, and a sensitive compartmented information facility addition at Fort Gordon, Georgia. The contractor also accuses Tesoro of missing date-based deadlines for work on a Fort Bragg C-130 flight simulator and a Fort Bragg brigade headquarters facility.

Tesoro is a construction services firm that operates under California-based parent Tetra Tech EC Inc. JAAAT is based in Hopewell, Virginia, and provides construction services to the U.S. government.

Attorneys for Tesoro did not respond to requests for comment.

JAAAT is represented by Wyatt B. Durrette Jr., S. Sadiq Gill, Christine A. Williams and J. Buckley Warden IV of DurretteCrump PLC.

Tesoro is represented by Neil S. Lowenstein, Richard H. Ottinger and Dustin M. Paul of Lowenstein Vandeventer Black LLP.

The case is JAAAT Technical Service LLC v. Tetra Tech Tesoro Inc., case number 3:15-cv-00235, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

–Editing by Katherine Rautenberg.

Virginia Regulatory Hot Tip 2016-3

Mar / 2016

The above article was written by Barrett E. Pope and recently published in the Professional Insurance Agents Association of Virginia & The District of Columbia, Inc. newsletter.  Please select the link below and go to page 8 of the newsletter to read Mr. Pope’s commentary.

PIA Member Benefits News – March 2016

Virginia Regulatory Hot Tip 2016-2

Feb / 2016

Barrett E. Pope recently published the above article in the Professional Insurance Agents Association of Virginia & The District of Columbia, Inc. newsletter.  Please select the link below and go to page 5 of the newsletter to read Mr. Pope’s commentary.

PIA Member Benefits Pro – February 2016

The Agreement to Agree Folly

Dec / 2015

The Supreme Court of Virginia reversed a judgment from the Henrico Circuit Court enforcing a construction contract.  Kevin J. Funk, on behalf of the defendant, argued that the document on which the trial court based its judgment was an unenforceable “agreement to agree” because the material terms were subject to a future agreement.  The Supreme Court agreed.  

http://www.courts.state.va.us/courts/scv/orders_unpublished/141681.pdf

Lawsuit over controversial guard rail case moves forward in Virginia

Sep / 2015

http://www.nbc12.com/story/29925823/lawsuit-over-controversial-guardrails-moving-forward-in-virginia

Wyatt Durrette of DurretteCrump and former United States District Judge Walter Kelley of Hausfeld LLP argued the Motions on behalf of the Commonwealth, defeating a Demurrer and Motion Craving Oyer raised by the Defendant.  This case, which is the Commonwealth of Virginia’s version of the same matter for which the plaintiff already won a $663,000,000 judgment in federal court, will now move forward in Richmond Circuit Court.

Christine Williams Recognized

Sep / 2015

The firm is enormously proud of Christine Williams, a partner, for earning the service alumni award from Virginia Wesleyan College. See the article below, which describes her extraordinary service to children in the Richmond area and beyond.   More: http://www.vwc.edu/news-a-events/news-releases/2015-alumni-awards

Court Enter’s $663,360,750.00 Judgment for Guardrail Whistleblower

Jun / 2015

DurretteCrump is proud to have played a major role in achieving a widely publicized multi-million dollar verdict in favor of one of its clients.  On June 9, Judge J. Rodney Gilstrap, in United States of America ex rel. Joshua Harman v. Trinity Industries, Inc. and Trinity Highway Products, LLC (Case No. 2:12-CV-00089-JRG,  pending in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (Marshall Division)), rejected the defendants’ post-trial motions and entered final judgment in favor of the qui tam plaintiff, as shown in the initial attachment above.  Judge Gilstrap awarded a total of $663,360,750.00 in (i) damages that were trebled and (ii) civil penalties.

Because the Relator, Joshua Harman, a resident of Sword’s Creek, Virginia, proceeded without the benefit of a federal intervention, the Court awarded him 30% of whatever will be recovered—which is the maximum percentage permitted under the federal False Claims Act.

In addition, Judge Gilstrap awarded attorneys’ fees of $16,535,035.75; expenses of $2,300,000.00; and taxable costs of $177,830.00.

 The Trinity defendants (“Trinity”) make and distribute guard rail end terminals that are positioned at the end of guard rail installed on the sides of the nation’s highways and secondary roads, including in Virginia.  Such products must be approved by the Federal Highway Administration (“FHWA”) in order for states buying and using this hardware to be reimbursed by the federal government.  Non-approved terminal heads are not eligible for such reimbursement.

 After seeking and receiving FHWA approval, Trinity made cost-saving changes to the product that the jury determined were (i) material and (ii) intentionally concealed from the FHWA.  Nonetheless, reimbursements continued for years afterward.  Upon discovering what he thought to be a violation of the law, Mr. Harman filed his qui tam lawsuit.

This case has made national and regional news for many months, with various local broadcast network affiliates featuring stories of accidents in their geographic areas resulting in grim personal injuries to vehicle occupants.  Instead of causing the guard rail itself to extrude away from a vehicle striking the terminal, the heads occasionally “lock up.”  As a direct result, the guard rail spears an occupant like a jousting pole.  There have been several deaths and critical injuries.

DurretteCrump PLC has served as part of Mr. Harman’s litigation team.  Wyatt B. Durrette, Jr. has led the effort for this firm, with assistance from Barrett E. Pope, Debbie Seidel, and J. Buckley Warden IV.  Upon being brought into the case, the firm arranged—through  our prior associations—to enlist Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, who they served as lead trial counsel.  We have collaborated with the Boies attorneys, as well as with counsel who assisted locally, throughout the entire process—from just after the unsealing of the original whistleblower complaint to the entry on June 9, 2015 of final judgment in favor of Mr. Harman and the United States on the jury’s verdict.  The firm expects that Trinity will file an appeal with the Fifth Circuit.

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth of Virginia has intervened in and is pursuing a parallel qui tam case against Trinity pending in the City of Richmond Circuit Court.  Filed by Mr. Harman, who is again represented by DurretteCrump and other attorneys, the suit seeks to recover Virginia’s damages (based on state expenditures on the product) apart from those suffered by the federal government.

DurretteCrump Adds New Principal to the Firm

Jun / 2014

DurretteCrump PLC is pleased to announce that Robert Rae Gordon has joined the Richmond office as a Principal of the Firm. His practice focuses on Eminent Domain Litigation, Local Government Representation, and Rural Economic Development.

Roseland Village Moves Forward

Feb / 2014

Bruce Arkema and Kevin Funk served as debtors’ counsel in the jointly administered bankruptcy cases of Roseland Village, LLC and G.B.S. Holding, Ltd.  The companies were engaged in the development of 1,200 acres in Chesterfield County.  On November 27, the bankruptcy court confirmed the plan of reorganization which resolved the approximately $45 million in debt incurred by the debtors and allows for the development to move forward.  See the article below for current coverage of the development’s progress.

http://www.richmondbizsense.com/2014/02/04/bank-reclaims-a-chunk-of-midlothian/

WYATT B. DURRETTE has been selected for Fellowship in the Litigation Counsel of America

Feb / 2013

WYATT B. DURRETTE has been selected for Fellowship in the Litigation Counsel of America (“LCA”), a trial lawyer honorary society whose membership is less than one-half of one percent of American lawyers.  Membership is by invitation only.  BRUCE E. ARKEMA is also a member of the Fellowship of LCA.

Kevin J. Funk has been elected a Director of the Firm

Feb / 2013

The members of DURRETTECRUMP are proud to announce that Kevin J. Funk has been elected a Director of the Firm.   Our congratulations to Kevin.

WYATT B. DURRETTE has been named 2013 TOP RATED LAWYER

Jan / 2013

WYATT B. DURRETTE has been named 2013 TOP RATED LAWYER in Intellectual Property in The American Lawyer & Corporate Counselmagazine.

CONGRATULATIONS to the members of our firm who have been selected in 2012 as “Virginia Super Lawyers”

Dec / 2012

CONGRATULATIONS to the members of our firm who have been selected in 2012 as “Virginia Super Lawyers” and as “Virginia’s Legal Elite” by their peers.  See side bar for list of names.

  • Bruce E. Arkema – Business Litigation
  • Barrett E. Pope – Business Litigation
  • John B. Russell, Jr. – Criminal Defense:  White Collar

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