To help combat the increasing demand on the court system, court have implemented a series of strict rules that plaintiffs must follow in order to have their case heard in a timely manner. There are various types of rules, and the penalty for the violation of a rule depends on which type of rule was violated.
One type of court rule is a jurisdictional rule. Jurisdictional rules are perhaps the most important because when they are not followed, the court loses the power to issue a binding decision in a case. For example, statutes of limitations are considered to be jurisdictional rules. Thus, if a party fails to file a lawsuit within a certain amount of time, the court loses the power to hear the case. Since the violation of a jurisdictional rule deprives the court of the power to hear the case, once a jurisdictional rule is violated, a court cannot make an exception to the application of that rule, even if the court determines it is in the interest of justice.
Other mandatory court rules can, when violated, result in the dismissal of a case. However, since the violation of a non-jurisdiction mandatory rule does not deprive the court of the power to hear the case, courts can readily apply exceptions when they deem it appropriate.
A recent case illustrates how a plaintiff’s failure to pay mandatory filing fees nearly resulted in her losing the ability to pursue a wrongful death claim.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff lost a loved one due to the alleged negligence of the defendant hospital. Initially, the case went to trial, and the jury determined that the defendant was negligent, but the defendant’s negligence was not the cause of her loved one’s injuries and subsequent death. However, shortly after that trial, newly discovered evidence showed that the defendant’s conduct may have actually been the cause of the plaintiff’s loved one’s death. The plaintiff asked the court for a new trial.
The plaintiff was required to pay a fee along with her application for a new trial. The plaintiff submitted her application on time but did not pay the fee on time. The defendant did not object to the plaintiff’s failure to pay the fee but argued that a new trial was not appropriate nonetheless. The trial court considered the new evidence and determined that a new trial should be granted. The defendant appealed.
On appeal, the defendant claimed that the plaintiff violated a jurisdictional rule when she failed to pay the filing fee on time. Thus, the defense argued, the court lacked the power to issue the new trial. However, the appellate court disagreed with the defendant’s characterization of the rule as a jurisdictional rule. Instead, the court determined that the rule, while mandatory, was not jurisdictional, so it did not prevent the court from hearing the case.
The court explained that the defense did have a valid objection at the time the plaintiff failed to pay the fee; however, by failing to object, the defendant waived the issue, and it cannot now be argued on appeal. As a result of the defendant’s failure to object, the plaintiff will be permitted to proceed toward a new trial with the newly discovered evidence.
Have You Been Injured in a Virginia Medical Malpractice Incident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured due to the negligence of a doctor or other medical professional, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Virginia medical malpractice case. The skilled injury attorneys at Charles B. Roberts & Associates have ample experience across all areas of personal injury and wrongful death law, including cases arising out of medical negligence. To learn more about how you may be able to obtain compensation for your injuries, call 701-491-7070 to set up a free consultation today.
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