Virginia Court Records
What are Virginia Small Claims Cases and Class Action Lawsuits?
The judicial system in the State of Virginia provides for civil suits of money judgements or property claims with values not more than $5000. These cases come under the Small claims category. The legal process here is informal, easy to navigate, and relatively quick when compared with other civil disputes. The Code of Virginia §16.1–122.1 to 122.7 governs the rules of practice in the small claims court division of the general district court.
Class action lawsuits in Virginia do not follow the general rule, as in other states of the US. In fact, the legal term for what should be class action is the Multi claimant Litigation Act that gives a Circuit Court power to join, moderate, or refer civil actions of at least 6 plaintiffs with a common complaint.
What is a Class Action Lawsuit in Virginia?
There is no class action in Virginia by statute. Rather, there is the Multi Claimant Litigation Act under the Virginia Code, §8.01–267.1 that allows the courts to collect similar complaints from different parties filed separately for a joint proceeding. It means that the system does not make room for filing a class action formally. Rather, the court notes the commonality of the suits filed individuality and processes them together.
How do I File a Claim in a Virginia Small Claims Court?
Having met the statute of limitations and age limit of 18 years, the following are compulsory for suing with the small claims court division of the general district court:
- Identify the relevant court of filing. The court must be resident in the county where the defendant lives, or works.
- Contact the division of small claims, and obtain the civil warrant form. For money judgments, fill out and file a ‘Warrant in Debt (DC–402) Form. Read the Instruction sheet for DC–402 before filling the form. If it is property recovery judgment, prepare and file the Warrant in Detinue- Small Claims Division Form DC–404. Again, read the instruction sheet carefully before filling it out.
- For both forms, provide the names and current address of the defendant value of a claim in dollars, and basis of the claim.
- Bring along the completed form to the office of the district Court clerk with sufficient funds to pay the filing fee and the process server. Use the fee schedule( General District Court Civil Filing Fee Calculation System) to determine the costs of filing. In addition to the numbers of copies requested by the clerk, make two extra copies of the forms: one to be served to the defendant, and the other for personal keeping. The plaintiff should serve the copies of the warrant by 1st class mail at least 10 days before the date of court hearing. Also, complete the Certificate of Mailing Posted Service (form DC–413). Read the instruction sheet before filling it out. This step is compulsory to preserve the case from dismissal.
Do I Need a Small Claims Lawyer?
All parties are to self represent in the small claims court except under the following circumstances:
- The plaintiff and /or defendant is/are corporate organizations with limited liability
- The plaintiff or defendant is unable to represent himself or herself in court. Some reasons are: health conditions, language barrier, literacy, etc. in this case a friend or relative that understands the facts of the case and is not an attorney can represent the complainant.
How do Class Action Lawsuits Work in Virginia?
Class action lawsuits are not legal by Virginia state laws. Rather, the Circuit court handles the cases of at least six persons with similar complaints and can decide to treat them as one. Before a judge can issue a directive for a Multi Claimant Litigation Procedure, the following must be in place:
- There must be commonality of questions about the law regarding the cases in question
- The court calendar must be able to accommodate the proceeding
- The judge deems a joint adjudication better in terms of consistency and non-duplicity of judgment
- There will be no prejudice against any of the involved parties as a result of the joint proceeding
- There will efficient utilization of judicial staff and facilities
Virginia courts allow representative suits for certains of cases such as injunctive relief against illegal taxes, getting a new trustee under a deed of trust, etc. When there are pending cases in different circuit courts, they get transferred to one court for adjudication by a panel of judges.
Is a Class Action Better Than a Single Party Suit?
Yes. The effect of a Multi Claimant Litigation Procedure brings pressure on the defendant by way of multiple simultaneous complainants. This increases the chances for a successful recovery on the part of the complainants. Single party suits may not achieve individually what a joint procedure may achieve. It is also restrictive, because individual parties may not be at liberty to make personal decisions as to the pathway of the case. Joint lawsuits also take longer, although it also engages a meticulous process that will foster fairness in the outcome.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the document or person involved
Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party websites may vary.
What Cases are Heard by Small Claims Courts in Virginia?
Common small claims heard in Virginia Courts include:
- Bad debts
- Warranty breaches
- Libel or slander
- Personal injury
- Landlord tenant disputes
- Product liability
- Property damage
- Security deposit refunds
- Contract breaches
The defining requirement is that all recovery of damages do not exceed $5000.