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Phelan v. Commonwealth

Supreme Court of Virginia

February 12, 2016

CHERYL ANN PHELAN
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF SOUTHAMPTON COUNTY. Carl E. Eason, Jr., Judge.

Richard E. Railey, Jr. (Railey and Railey, on brief), for appellant.

J. Michael Parsons, Assistant Attorney General II (Mark R. Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.

PRESENT: Lemons, C.J., Mims, McClanahan, Powell, Kelsey, and Roush, JJ., and Koontz, S.J. OPINION BY JUSTICE CLEO E. POWELL.

OPINION

CLEO E. POWELL, JUSTICE.

Cheryl Ann Phelan (" Phelan" ) appeals the decision of the trial court granting the Commonwealth's special plea in bar of sovereign immunity because she failed to meet the statutory notice requirements of the Virginia Tort Claims Act (" VTCA" ), Code § § 8.01-195.1 through -195.9.

Page 568

I. BACKGROUND

Phelan was an inmate incarcerated at the Deerfield Correctional Center. On April 26, 2013, Phelan allegedly slipped on a zucchini and injured her knee while working in the canning department of the Southampton complex.

On March 26, 2014, Phelan sent a notice of claim to the Attorney General purporting to give notice of her claim against the Commonwealth for her injuries. In her notice of claim, Phelan specifically identified herself as an inmate at the Deerfield Correctional Center and alleged that she sustained her injuries while she was working in the canning department in the Southampton complex. Phelan further claimed that her injuries occurred due to the negligence of Lakeyta Lee (" Lee" ) and Assistant Warden Willette S. Copeland (" Copeland" ).

On November 7, 2014, Phelan filed a complaint against Copeland, Lee, and the Commonwealth of Virginia. In response, Copeland and Lee filed a special plea in bar, asserting that Phelan's action was barred by the statute of limitations. Phelan subsequently conceded that her action against Copeland and Lee was barred by the statute of limitations. As a result, the trial court sustained the plea in bar and dismissed the action against Copeland and Lee.

The Commonwealth also filed a special plea in bar asserting that Phelan's action was barred by sovereign immunity because Phelan failed to fulfill the statutory notice requirements of the VTCA. The Commonwealth noted that Phelan failed to state the agency that was allegedly liable for her injuries in her notice of claim. After considering the matter, the trial court agreed that Phelan's notice of claim was insufficient as a matter of law and sustained the Commonwealth's plea in bar.

Phelan ...


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