Melissa is Of Counsel in the firm’s Litigation Section and has substantial experience litigating trust and estates, product liability and complex commercial disputes in federal and state courts in Virginia and elsewhere. She has represented businesses and individuals in disputes involving fraud and misrepresentation, negligence, personal injury, insurance, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, defamation, and wills and trusts. She is a member of the firm’s Financial Services Litigation and Product Liability Litigation practice groups.
As a member of the Financial Services Litigation practice group, she has represented financial institutions, colleges and individuals in trusts and estates cases involving claims of breach of fiduciary duty, lack of testamentary capacity, fraud and duress and cases seeking aid and guidance from the court regarding the interpretation of a will or trust.
As a member of the Product Liability Litigation team, Melissa has successfully litigated product liability and mass tort cases in state and federal courts, including defending manufacturers of prescription drugs and medical devices.
Honors and Other Distinctions
Selected as a Virginia "Rising Star" in Personal Injury Defense: Products by Law & Politics' Virginia Super Lawyers Magazine (2007-2009, 2011-2012).
Trusts and Estates Litigation
Assisted in litigation involving valuable artwork to be sold by a Virginia college. Obtained a preliminary injunction prohibiting the college from selling the art.
Successfully defended financial institution against claims of breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract.
Successfully defended administrator of an estate against complaint to impeach a will alleging duress and lack of testamentary capacity of the testator.
Successfully defended administrator of an estate against a complaint to impeach a will filed by a disinherited relative of the testator.
Obtained an order terminating a trust when the trust no longer furthered grantor's purposes.
Successfully probated lost codicil.
Product Liability Defense Litigation
Assisted in the defense of a pharmaceutical company in the diet drug mass tort litigation, including assisting in the defense of the pharmaceutical company against claims of plaintiffs who have opted out of the National Diet Drug Settlement.
Assisted in the defense of pharmaceutical companies in the Baycol mass tort litigation, Oxycontin mass tort litigation, PPA mass tort litigation, and Ketek mass tort litigation.
Assisted in the defense of a medical device manufacturer and various related companies in hip implant mass tort litigation.
Assisted in the defense of a medical device manufacturer in two medical device products liability cases. Plaintiffs dismissed the manufacturer during discovery.
Assisted in the defense of a Taiwanese motorcycle helmet manufacturer and two helmet distributors. This case resolved through settlement negotiations after a mediation.
Defended a beauty product manufacturer in a products liability case. After extensive written discovery and the depositions of plaintiff and plaintiff’s expert, plaintiff voluntarily dismissed her case.
Tort Defense Litigation
Obtained a decision in defendant’s favor after a two-day arbitration in a case involving a glider plane that crashed during take-off. After a battle of aviation experts, the arbitrator found that our client was not liable for the accident.
Obtained summary judgment in favor of national retailer in malicious prosecution case.
Successfully defended landlords in child lead exposure cases.
Assisted in the defense of a property management company in a child lead exposure case where plaintiff nonsuited the case during discovery.
Wrote appellate briefs to the Virginia Court of Appeals & Virginia Supreme Court in several cases where decisions in clients’ favor were upheld on appeal.
Publications, Presentations, and Speaking Engagements
Co-author, " Significant Virginia Trusts and Estates Litigation Cases in 2011," Virginia Lawyer, April 2012.
Speaker, “Virginia Evidence: Getting It in, Keeping It Out,” Virginia Continuing Legal Education (March 2012).
Co-author, “Defending (And Defending With) Pharmacovigilance After Wyeth v. Levine,” DRI’s For the Defense magazine (August 2011).
Co-author, The Scope of Discovery in Lead Exposure Litigation: Family Matters, 21 Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys, J. Civ. Litig. 25, Spring 2009.
Co-Author, Spahn, Gary J., et al., Virginia Law of Products Liability, (2d. ed. Harrison 2002 and annual updates).
Author, "Virginia Consumer Protection Act Chapter", Virginia Business Torts, Virginia CLE Publications (2d ed. 2009).
Presentation, Defense Research Institute Young Lawyers Seminar, "E-Discovery: Recent Amendments to the Federal Rules of (in) Procedure and Practical Pointers" (June 2007).
Author, " Successful Strategies for Asserting and Defending Against Virginia Consumer Protection Act Claims," Virginia State Bar Litigation News, Vol. XII, number 3, Summer 2005.
Co-Author, " Fraudulent Joinder: Successful Removal of Actions to Federal Court," Pharmaceutical & Medical Device Law Bulletin, April 2004.
Co-Author, “Parlodel Cases Illustrate Ongoing Battle Over the Importance of Epidemiological Evidence,” Pharmaceutical & Medical Device Law Bulletin, vol. 2, number 8, August 2002.
“Product Liability Law in Virginia: Recent Developments,” Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys, Products Liability Section, Spring Series, May 2001.
Moderated “Preparing A Winning Trial” panel discussion, Richmond Bar Association sponsored Continuing Legal Education, 2001.
Moderated “Negotiation Strategies” panel discussion, Richmond Bar Association sponsored Continuing Legal Education, 2001.
SCAN - Stop Child Abuse Now, Board of Directors (2000-2006); Advisory Committee (2007-2009)
Class Trustee, University of Virginia School of Law Foundation, Lifetime trustee (1997-present)
Recruiting Committee, 2002-2003 and 2007-present