THE CIRCUIT COURT OF FAIRFAX COUNTY Brett A. Kassabian, Judge
Alberto Salvado (Salvado, Salvado & Salvado, PC, on
brief), for appellant.
E. Jeffrey, III, Senior Assistant Attorney General (Mark R.
Herring, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.
Present: Judges Petty, Beales and Decker Argued at
WILLIAM G. PETTY JUDGE
Justin Levenson challenges his conviction of aggravated
involuntary manslaughter in violation of Code §
18.2-36.1. He contends that the evidence was
insufficient to convict him because the victim's medical
treatment decision was a superseding act that caused his
death. We disagree and affirm.
early morning hours of May 9, 2015, Levenson crashed into the
rear of a dump truck that was stopped in a construction zone.
Levenson was intoxicated and was exceeding the speed limit.
The impact from the crash caused extensive damage to the
vehicles and injured both Levenson and his passenger, Devon
Martin. Martin was transported to the hospital where he was
diagnosed with an injury to the spleen and a blood clot
forming on the right iliac artery. The blood flow to
Martin's leg was restricted and, according to expert
medical testimony, Martin risked irreversible damage and the
loss of his leg within five hours. To preserve the leg,
Martin's doctor recommended that the blood thinner
heparin be administered and that a stent be inserted into
the artery. The doctor was aware that the use of heparin
could cause life-threatening bleeding from Martin's
injured spleen. However, a team of three doctors in
consultation formed a plan to deal with the spleen bleed if
the situation became life threatening. The use of heparin was
recommended because insertion of a stent without it would be
substantially riskier. Amputation of the leg was mentioned
only as a last option. Martin was asked for consent to
proceed with the treatment. At the time he gave consent, he
was completely lucid, coherent, and logical. After the
heparin was administered, Martin began bleeding in the brain
from an injury undetected by an earlier CAT scan. He died as
a result of that bleeding. The only issue before us on appeal
is whether the
trial court erred in refusing to strike the evidence on the
basis that the evidence was insufficient to prove
manslaughter because Martin opted for a discretionary course
of treatment, including the use of heparin, there being
several alternate [sic] options for care of his injuries
which would have insulated him from death, his passing being
the product of an intervening and superseding act of
embarking on an injurious course of action which caused his
we must resolve whether the crash caused by Levenson was a
proximate cause of Martin's death or, as Levenson argues,
Martin's consent to the administration of heparin was a
negligence and proximate cause are factual findings and thus
"are issues for a jury's resolution. They only
become questions of law to be determined by a court, when
reasonable minds could not differ." Hawkins v.
Commonwealth, 64 Va.App. 650, 655, 770 S.E.2d 787, 789
(2015) (quoting Forbes v. Commonwealth, 27 Va.App.
304, 309, 498 S.E.2d 457, 459 (1998)). Further, "the
factual findings of [a jury] are not to be disturbed unless
they are plainly wrong or are without evidence to support
them." Wilkins v. Commonwealth, 292 Va. 2, 7,
786 S.E.2d 156, 159 (2016).
principles of proximate causation are applicable in both
civil and criminal cases." Brown v.
Commonwealth, 278 Va. 523, 529, 685 S.E.2d 43, 46
(2009); Chapman v.Commonwealth, 68 Va.App.
131, 140, 804 S.E.2d 326, 331 (2017). A proximate cause is
"an act or omission that, in natural and continuous
sequence unbroken by a superseding cause, produces a
particular event and without which that event would not have
occurred." Brown, 278 Va. at 529, 685 S.E.2d at
46 (quoting Williams v. Joynes, 278 Va. 57, 62, 677
S.E.2d 261, 264 (2009)). "Because an event can have more
than one proximate cause, criminal liability can attach to