$190,886 Verdict – Lawyer served wrong defendant three days before service date

Attorney for plaintiff: Nathan J.D. Veldhuis, Fredericksburg

Injuries alleged: Professional malpractice; underlying personal injuries included facial scarring, migraines and soft tissue injuries resulting from a car accident
Name of case: Welborn v. Keeve
Verdict Amount: $190,886 ($180,000 plus pre-judgment interest on $15,109, post judgment interest on $164,890 until paid)

This legal malpractice action arose out of an underlying personal injury action wherein the minor plaintiff (at the time of the motor vehicle collision) suffered facial lacerations and other injuries in a head-on motor vehicle collision.

Defendant in the legal malpractice action was retained by plaintiff and her mother, and filed suit a little more than a month before the statute of limitations was to run. Some discovery ensued, including party depositions, and the case was subsequently nonsuited almost five years later. Six months later, defendant in the legal malpractice action re-filed suit. Three days before the year to effectuate service on the personal injury defendant was to run, defendant attorney served the wrong person. The personal injury action was later dismissed with prejudice for failure to properly and timely serve the defendant.

In the legal malpractice case, the Supreme Court of Virginia appointed Judge T. J. Markow to preside, as the local judges of the judicial circuit had recused themselves. Plaintiff was ultimately awarded default judgment, despite contest, and overcame a motion to disqualify plaintiff’s counsel. A trial proceeded on the issue of damages only.  There was some effort by the defendant to dispute liability in the underlying personal injury case and damages were contested. Plaintiff introduced evidence of property damage, her medical treatment and her facial scarring, which was examined by the court. Plaintiff introduced evidence of a neuropsychiatric evaluation which addressed the prognosis for future post traumatic migraine headaches. Evidence was also introduced related to plaintiff’s aspirations to be a professional model.


Type of action: Legal malpractice
Court: Fredericksburg Circuit Court
Case no.: CL10-669
Tried before: Judge
Judge: Theodore J. Markow
Date: Jan. 24, 2012
Special damages: $15,192
Verdict or settlement: Verdict
Amount: $190,886 ($180,000 plus pre-judgment interest on $15,109, post judgment interest on $164,890 until paid)
Attorney for plaintiff: Nathan J.D. Veldhuis, Fredericksburg
Attorney for defendant: Vernon Keeve Jr., pro se, Fredericksburg

By Virginia Lawyers Weekly Published: March 5, 2012

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