As long time (and possibly recent) readers of Construction Law Musings know, I am a Virginia Supreme Court Certified Mediator. In that capacity, I spend quite a bit of time sitting in general district court courtrooms in places like Goochland and Caroline Counties “court sitting” awaiting a referral from the judge of a case with parties ready and willing to take advantage of the mediation process.
As I sit there wearing my mediator “hat,” I see case after case be called for the first return date. Without fail, several cases are called where the defendant fails to appear after being served with process. There are even a case or two where the plaintiff (the party that picked the return date in the first place) fails to appear. In the first instance, where the defendant doesn’t appear, the judge almost inevitably enters a judgment for the amount sued for by the plaintiff. In the latter instance, the case is dismissed without prejudice to the plaintiff with a shake of the head by the judge at the wasted time and filing fee. This post focuses on the first case.