Code of Virginia

Code of Virginia
Title 8.01. Civil Remedies and Procedure
11/13/2019

Article 4. Witnesses Generally.

§ 8.01-396. No person incompetent to testify by reason of interest, or because a party.

No person shall be incompetent to testify because of interest, or because of his being a party to any civil action; but he shall, if otherwise competent to testify, and subject to the rules of evidence and practice applicable to other witnesses, be competent to give evidence in his own behalf and be competent and compellable to attend and give evidence on behalf of any other party to such action; but, in any case, the court, for good cause shown, may require any such person to attend and testify ore tenus and, upon his failure to so attend and testify, may exclude his deposition.

Code 1950, § 8-285; 1977, c. 617.

§ 8.01-396.1. Competency of witness.

No child shall be deemed incompetent to testify solely because of age.

1993, cc. 441, 605.

§ 8.01-397. Corroboration required and evidence receivable when one party incapable of testifying (subdivision (b)(5) of Supreme Court Rule 2:804 derived from this section).

In an action by or against a person who, from any cause, is incapable of testifying, or by or against the committee, trustee, executor, administrator, heir, or other representative of the person so incapable of testifying, no judgment or decree shall be rendered in favor of an adverse or interested party founded on his uncorroborated testimony. In any such action, whether such adverse party testifies or not, all entries, memoranda, and declarations by the party so incapable of testifying made while he was capable, relevant to the matter in issue, may be received as evidence in all proceedings including without limitation those to which a person under a disability is a party. The phrase "from any cause" as used in this section shall not include situations in which the party who is incapable of testifying has rendered himself unable to testify by an intentional self-inflicted injury.

For the purposes of this section, and in addition to corroboration by any other competent evidence, an entry authored by an adverse or interested party contained in a business record may be competent evidence for corroboration of the testimony of an adverse or interested party. If authentication of the business record is not admitted in a request for admission, such business record shall be authenticated by a person other than the author of the entry who is not an adverse or interested party whose conduct is at issue in the allegations of the complaint.

Code 1950, § 8-286; 1977, c. 617; 1988, c. 426; 2013, cc. 61, 637.

§ 8.01-397.1. Evidence of habit or routine practice; defined (Supreme Court Rule 2:406 derived from this section).

A. Admissibility. Evidence of the habit of a person or of the routine practice of an organization, whether corroborated or not and regardless of the presence of eye witnesses, is relevant to prove that the conduct of the person or organization on a particular occasion was in conformity with the habit or routine practice. Evidence of prior conduct may be relevant to rebut evidence of habit or routine practice.

B. Habit and routine practice defined. A "habit" is a person's regular response to repeated specific situations. A "routine practice" is a regular course of conduct of a group of persons or an organization in response to repeated specific situations.

C. The provisions of this section are applicable only in civil proceedings.

2000, c. 1026.

§ 8.01-398. Privileged marital communications (Subsection (a) of Supreme Court Rule 2:504 derived from this section).

Husband and wife shall be competent witnesses to testify for or against each other in all civil actions.

In any civil proceeding, a person has a privilege to refuse to disclose, and to prevent anyone else from disclosing, any confidential communication between his spouse and him during their marriage, regardless of whether he is married to that spouse at the time he objects to disclosure. This privilege may not be asserted in any proceeding in which the spouses are adverse parties, or in which either spouse is charged with a crime or tort against the person or property of the other or against the minor child of either spouse. For the purposes of this section, "confidential communication" means a communication made privately by a person to his spouse that is not intended for disclosure to any other person.

Code 1950, §§ 8-287, 8-289; 1977, c. 617; 2005, c. 809.

§ 8.01-399. Communications between physicians and patients (Supreme Court Rule 2:505 derived from this section).

A. Except at the request or with the consent of the patient, or as provided in this section, no duly licensed practitioner of any branch of the healing arts shall be permitted to testify in any civil action, respecting any information that he may have acquired in attending, examining or treating the patient in a professional capacity.

B. If the physical or mental condition of the patient is at issue in a civil action, the diagnoses, signs and symptoms, observations, evaluations, histories, or treatment plan of the practitioner, obtained or formulated as contemporaneously documented during the course of the practitioner's treatment, together with the facts communicated to, or otherwise learned by, such practitioner in connection with such attendance, examination or treatment shall be disclosed but only in discovery pursuant to the Rules of Court or through testimony at the trial of the action. In addition, disclosure may be ordered when a court, in the exercise of sound discretion, deems it necessary to the proper administration of justice. However, no order shall be entered compelling a party to sign a release for medical records from a health care provider unless the health care provider is not located in the Commonwealth or is a federal facility. If an order is issued pursuant to this section, it shall be restricted to the medical records that relate to the physical or mental conditions at issue in the case. No disclosure of diagnosis or treatment plan facts communicated to, or otherwise learned by, such practitioner shall occur if the court determines, upon the request of the patient, that such facts are not relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action or do not appear to be reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Only diagnosis offered to a reasonable degree of medical probability shall be admissible at trial.

C. This section shall not (i) be construed to repeal or otherwise affect the provisions of § 65.2-607 relating to privileged communications between physicians and surgeons and employees under the Workers' Compensation Act; (ii) apply to information communicated to any such practitioner in an effort unlawfully to procure a narcotic drug, or unlawfully to procure the administration of any such drug; or (iii) prohibit a duly licensed practitioner of the healing arts, or his agents, from disclosing information as required by state or federal law.

D. Neither a lawyer nor anyone acting on the lawyer's behalf shall obtain, in connection with pending or threatened litigation, information concerning a patient from a practitioner of any branch of the healing arts without the consent of the patient, except through discovery pursuant to the Rules of Supreme Court as herein provided. However, the prohibition of this subsection shall not apply to:

1. Communication between a lawyer retained to represent a practitioner of the healing arts, or that lawyer's agent, and that practitioner's employers, partners, agents, servants, employees, co-employees or others for whom, at law, the practitioner is or may be liable or who, at law, are or may be liable for the practitioner's acts or omissions;

2. Information about a patient provided to a lawyer or his agent by a practitioner of the healing arts employed by that lawyer to examine or evaluate the patient in accordance with Rule 4:10 of the Rules of Supreme Court; or

3. Contact between a lawyer or his agent and a nonphysician employee or agent of a practitioner of healing arts for any of the following purposes: (i) scheduling appearances, (ii) requesting a written recitation by the practitioner of handwritten records obtained by the lawyer or his agent from the practitioner, provided the request is made in writing and, if litigation is pending, a copy of the request and the practitioner's response is provided simultaneously to the patient or his attorney, (iii) obtaining information necessary to obtain service upon the practitioner in pending litigation, (iv) determining when records summoned will be provided by the practitioner or his agent, (v) determining what patient records the practitioner possesses in order to summons records in pending litigation, (vi) explaining any summons that the lawyer or his agent caused to be issued and served on the practitioner, (vii) verifying dates the practitioner treated the patient, provided that if litigation is pending the information obtained by the lawyer or his agent is promptly given, in writing, to the patient or his attorney, (viii) determining charges by the practitioner for appearance at a deposition or to testify before any tribunal or administrative body, or (ix) providing to or obtaining from the practitioner directions to a place to which he is or will be summoned to give testimony.

E. A clinical psychologist duly licensed under the provisions of Chapter 36 (§ 54.1-3600 et seq.) of Title 54.1 shall be considered a practitioner of a branch of the healing arts within the meaning of this section.

F. Nothing herein shall prevent a duly licensed practitioner of the healing arts, or his agents, from disclosing any information that he may have acquired in attending, examining or treating a patient in a professional capacity where such disclosure is necessary in connection with the care of the patient, the protection or enforcement of a practitioner's legal rights including such rights with respect to medical malpractice actions, or the operations of a health care facility or health maintenance organization or in order to comply with state or federal law.

Code 1950, § 8-289.1; 1956, c. 446; 1966, c. 673; 1977, c. 617; 1993, c. 556; 1996, cc. 937, 980; 1998, c. 314; 2002, cc. 308, 723; 2005, cc. 649, 692; 2009, c. 714.

§ 8.01-400. Communications between ministers of religion and persons they counsel or advise (Supreme Court Rule 2:503 derived in part from this section).

No regular minister, priest, rabbi, or accredited practitioner over the age of eighteen years, of any religious organization or denomination usually referred to as a church, shall be required to give testimony as a witness or to relinquish notes, records or any written documentation made by such person, or disclose the contents of any such notes, records or written documentation, in discovery proceedings in any civil action which would disclose any information communicated to him in a confidential manner, properly entrusted to him in his professional capacity and necessary to enable him to discharge the functions of his office according to the usual course of his practice or discipline, wherein such person so communicating such information about himself or another is seeking spiritual counsel and advice relative to and growing out of the information so imparted.

Code 1950, § 8-289.2; 1962, c. 466; 1977, c. 617; 1979, c. 3; 1994, c. 198.

§ 8.01-400.1. Privileged communications by interpreters for the deaf (Supreme Court Rule 2:507 derived in part from this section).

Whenever a deaf person communicates through an interpreter to any person under such circumstances that the communication would be privileged, and such person could not be compelled to testify as to the communications, this privilege shall also apply to the interpreter.

1978, c. 601.

§ 8.01-400.2. Communications between certain mental health professionals and clients (Supreme Court Rule 2:506 derived from this section).

Except at the request of or with the consent of the client, no licensed professional counselor, as defined in § 54.1-3500; licensed clinical social worker, as defined in § 54.1-3700; licensed psychologist, as defined in § 54.1-3600; or licensed marriage and family therapist, as defined in § 54.1-3500, shall be required in giving testimony as a witness in any civil action to disclose any information communicated to him in a confidential manner, properly entrusted to him in his professional capacity and necessary to enable him to discharge his professional or occupational services according to the usual course of his practice or discipline, wherein such person so communicating such information about himself or another is seeking professional counseling or treatment and advice relative to and growing out of the information so imparted; provided, however, that when the physical or mental condition of the client is at issue in such action, or when a court, in the exercise of sound discretion, deems such disclosure necessary to the proper administration of justice, no fact communicated to, or otherwise learned by, such practitioner in connection with such counseling, treatment or advice shall be privileged, and disclosure may be required. The privileges conferred by this section shall not extend to testimony in matters relating to child abuse and neglect nor serve to relieve any person from the reporting requirements set forth in § 63.2-1509.

1982, c. 537; 2005, c. 110.

§ 8.01-401. How adverse party may be examined; effect of refusal to testify (subsection (b) of Supreme Court Rule 2:607 and subsection (c) of Supreme Court Rule 2:611 derived from subsection A of this section).

A. A party called to testify for another, having an adverse interest, may be examined by such other party according to the rules applicable to cross-examination.

B. If any party, required by another to testify on his behalf, refuses to testify, the court, officer, or person before whom the proceeding is pending, may, in addition to punishing said party as for contempt, dismiss the action, or other proceeding of the party so refusing, as to the whole or any part thereof, or may strike out and disregard the plea, answer, or other defense of such party, or any part thereof, as justice may require.

Code 1950, §§ 8-290, 8-291; 1977, c. 617.

§ 8.01-401.1. Opinion testimony by experts; hearsay exception (subsection (a) of Supreme Court Rule 2:703, subsection (a) of Supreme Court Rule 2:705, and subsection (a) of Supreme Court Rule 2:706 derived from this section).

In any civil action any expert witness may give testimony and render an opinion or draw inferences from facts, circumstances or data made known to or perceived by such witness at or before the hearing or trial during which he is called upon to testify. The facts, circumstances or data relied upon by such witness in forming an opinion or drawing inferences, if of a type normally relied upon by others in the particular field of expertise in forming opinions and drawing inferences, need not be admissible in evidence.

The expert may testify in terms of opinion or inference and give his reasons therefor without prior disclosure of the underlying facts or data, unless the court requires otherwise. The expert may in any event be required to disclose the underlying facts or data on cross-examination.

To the extent called to the attention of an expert witness upon cross-examination or relied upon by the expert witness in direct examination, statements contained in published treatises, periodicals or pamphlets on a subject of history, medicine or other science or art, established as a reliable authority by testimony or by stipulation, shall not be excluded as hearsay. If admitted, the statements may be read into evidence but may not be received as exhibits. If the statements are to be introduced through an expert witness upon direct examination, copies of the specific statements shall be designated as literature to be introduced during direct examination and provided to opposing parties 30 days prior to trial unless otherwise ordered by the court.

If a statement has been designated by a party in accordance with and satisfies the requirements of this section, the expert witness called by that party need not have relied on the statement at the time of forming his opinion in order to read the statement into evidence during direct examination at trial.

1982, c. 392; 1994, c. 328; 2013, c. 379.

§ 8.01-401.2. Chiropractor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant as expert witness.

A. A doctor of chiropractic, when properly qualified, may testify as an expert witness in a court of law as to etiology, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, treatment plan, and disability, including anatomical, physiological, and pathological considerations within the scope of the practice of chiropractic as defined in § 54.1-2900.

B. A physician assistant or nurse practitioner, when properly qualified, may testify as an expert witness in a court of law as to etiology, diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, treatment plan, and disability, including anatomical, physiological, and pathological considerations within the scope of his activities as authorized pursuant to § 54.1-2952 or 54.1-2957, respectively. However, no physician assistant or nurse practitioner shall be permitted to testify as an expert witness for or against (i) a defendant doctor of medicine or osteopathic medicine in a medical malpractice action regarding the standard of care of a doctor of medicine or osteopathic medicine or (ii) a defendant health care provider in a medical malpractice action regarding causation.

1984, c. 569; 2014, cc. 361, 391; 2015, cc. 295, 306; 2017, c. 413.

§ 8.01-401.2:1. Podiatrist as an expert witness.

A podiatrist shall not be permitted to testify as an expert witness against a doctor of medicine or osteopathic medicine in connection with a medical malpractice civil court proceeding or a medical malpractice review panel in any case where the doctor or osteopath is a defendant in such proceeding.

2010, cc. 715, 725.

§ 8.01-401.3. Opinion testimony and conclusions as to facts critical to civil case resolution (Supreme Court Rule 2:701 derived from subsection B of this section, subdivision (a)(i) of Supreme Court Rule 2:702 derived from subsection A of this section, and subsection (a) of Supreme Court Rule 2:704 derived from subsections B and C of this section).

A. In a civil proceeding, if scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise.

B. No expert or lay witness while testifying in a civil proceeding shall be prohibited from expressing an otherwise admissible opinion or conclusion as to any matter of fact solely because that fact is the ultimate issue or critical to the resolution of the case. However, in no event shall such witness be permitted to express any opinion which constitutes a conclusion of law.

C. Except as provided by the provisions of this section, the exceptions to the "ultimate fact in issue" rule recognized in the Commonwealth prior to enactment of this section shall remain in full force.

1993, c. 909.

§ 8.01-402. Members of Department of Motor Vehicles' Crash Investigation Team not to be required to give evidence in certain cases.

No member of the Department of Motor Vehicles' Crash Investigation Team shall be required to give evidence concerning any statements made to him in the course of such investigation before any court or grand jury in any case involving a motor vehicle crash on the highways of the Commonwealth in which any member or members of such Crash Investigation Team made or took part in any investigation pursuant to a directive from the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles for purposes of research and evaluation of the Commonwealth's highway safety program.

Code 1950, § 8-296.1; 1974, c. 390; 1977, c. 617; 1992, c. 108.

§ 8.01-403. Witness proving adverse; contradiction; prior inconsistent statement (Subsection (c) of Supreme Court Rule 2:607 and subdivision (a)(i) of Supreme Court Rule 2:613 derived from this section).

A party producing a witness shall not be allowed to impeach his credit by general evidence of bad character, but he may, in case the witness shall in the opinion of the court prove adverse, by leave of the court, prove that he has made at other times a statement inconsistent with his present testimony; but before such last mentioned proof can be given the circumstances of the supposed statement, sufficient to designate the particular occasion, must be mentioned to the witness, and he must be asked whether or not he has made such statement. In every such case the court, if requested by either party, shall instruct the jury not to consider the evidence of such inconsistent statements, except for the purpose of contradicting the witness.

Code 1950, § 8-292; 1977, c. 617.

§ 8.01-404. Contradiction by prior inconsistent writing (Subdivision (b)(i) of Supreme Court Rule 2:613 derived in part from this section and subdivision (b)(ii) of Supreme Court Rule 2:613 derived from this section).

A witness may be cross-examined as to previous statements made by him in writing or reduced into writing, relative to the subject matter of the civil action, without such writing being shown to him; but if it is intended to contradict such witness by the writing, his attention must, before such contradictory proof can be given, be called to the particular occasion on which the writing is supposed to have been made, and he may be asked if he did not make a writing of the purport of the one to be offered to contradict him, and if he denies making it, or does not admit its execution, it shall then be shown to him, and if he admits its genuineness, he shall be allowed to make his own explanation of it; but it shall be competent for the court at any time during the trial to require the production of the writing for its inspection, and the court may thereupon make such use of it for the purpose of the trial as it may think best. This section is subject to the qualification, that in an action to recover for a personal injury or death by wrongful act or neglect, no ex parte affidavit or statement in writing other than a deposition, after due notice, of a witness and no extrajudicial recording made at any time other than simultaneously with the wrongful act or negligence at issue of the voice of such witness, or reproduction or transcript thereof, as to the facts or circumstances attending the wrongful act or neglect complained of, shall be used to contradict him as a witness in the case. Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the use of any such ex parte affidavit or statement in an action on an insurance policy based upon a judgment recovered in a personal injury or death by wrongful act case.

Code 1950, § 8-293; 1958, c. 380; 1960, c. 114; 1964, c. 356; 1977, c. 617; 2007, c. 598.

§ 8.01-405. Who may administer oath to witness.

Any person before whom a witness is to be examined may administer an oath to such witness. In addition, a clerk or deputy clerk may administer an oath to a witness in the presence and at the direction of a judge before whom the witness is to be examined.

Code 1950, § 8-294; 1977, c. 617; 1984, c. 536.

§ 8.01-406. Interpreters; recording testimony of deaf witness (Supreme Court Rule 2:604 derived from this section).

Interpreters shall be sworn truly so to do. In any judicial proceeding, the judge on his own motion or on the motion of a party to the proceeding may order all of the testimony of a deaf individual and the interpretation thereof to be visually electronically recorded for use in verification of the official transcript of the proceedings.

Code 1950, § 8-295; 1977, c. 617; 1978, c. 601.

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