Should I Consent to Judgment in Court?

Sit in the courtroom during any lengthy Virginia General District Court civil return docket, in Fairfax or elsewhere in Virginia, and you will likely see the following scenario play out: a pro se (meaning “unrepresented”) defendant will approach the front of the courtroom, whether in response to a lawsuit filed by a credit card company, homeowners association, medical provider, or any other type creditor, and the judge will ask the nature of the Plaintiff’s claim and the amount of damages alleged—sometimes thousands of dollars and sometimes hundreds. The judge will then ask the defendant whether or not he or she agrees with the claim, and the individual either responds affirmatively or acknowledges owing the money but attempts to explain that they have unsuccessfully tried to resolve the matter outside of court, or that the debt constitutes a hardship.

Occasionally a judge will ask or prompt the creditor’s attorney to speak with the defendant in the hallway to see if the matter can be resolved, but most of the time the court will proceed to enter “judgment by consent” and then encourage or instruct the defendant to follow up with the attorney to make arrangements to pay off the judgment. The entry of the judgment alone will almost always end up on a defendant’s credit report, and many judgments are taken when both sides would have benefited from making arrangements to satisfy the debt and thereby avoiding the entry of judgment.

Many creditors might assume that getting the quickest and easiest judgment always leads to the optimal recovery of the debt, but often times the threat of judgment is a more effective tool than the judgment itself in causing a debtor to pay the debt or entering into a satisfactory settlement or payment agreement. Collection and enforcement of a judgment can be frustrating and time consuming, and a voluntarily agreement or resolution is almost always the most effective path towards recovery of the debt. When judgments are obtained quickly either by default or by consent, it frequently signals that the debtor might not have many assets or revenue sources to protect.

Any defendant can answer the judge’s questions at the return date in a manner that will effectively constitute a sufficient denial of the claim that will result in a trial being set. This trial date is usually months down the road, and if nothing else, this provides the defendant with time to make payments or time to try and work out a settlement agreement or payment plan to resolve the debt. For creditors and their counsel, the pending trial date and continuing threat of judgment provides great incentive for the defendant to resolve the debt, if possible.

We at PJI Law can provide advice and assistance to both creditors and debtors, both prior to litigation, during litigation and during the post-judgment collection period. Contact our office today at (703) 865-6100 to schedule an in-person or remote appointment.

Check Out These Newly Enacted Virginia Laws

We’re not passive about the practice of law here at PJI Law – we pride ourselves on keeping up with the latest changes in the law in order to gain as big of an advantage as possible in our clients’ cases.

Newly enacted Virginia statutes typically go into effect on July 1 of each year, which means it’s now time to look at some of the newest and, in some cases, most interesting, laws that have gone into effect as recently as a last week:

Family Law

1. For the purposes of petitioning the court for a modification of spousal support, the payor spouse’s reaching full retirement age (per the Social Security Act) must be considered a material change in circumstances.

2. Virginia has developed a Kinship Guardianship Assistance Program to facilitate child placements with relatives if it is not appropriate for the child to return home or be adopted. The law also allows financial payment to the relative acting as the guardian of the child.

Business Law

3. The board of directors of a nonstock corporation is now authorized to determine that a meeting of members be held via remote communication, assuming the articles of incorporation or bylaws don’t have contradictory requirements.

4. A new law removes the requirement that a corporation authorized to issue one or more classes of shares list the number of shares of each class on its corporate annual report.

5. Landlords may now accept full or partial payment of rent during a court action for possession and still receive an order of possession if the landlord states in the written notice to the tenant that any payment of rent, damages, money judgment, award of attorney fees, and court costs would be accepted with reservation and not constitute a waiver of the landlord’s right to evict the tenant from the dwelling unit.


6. Everyone with pets knows that there can be liability if the pet bites someone. If there is a history of biting, the repercussions could be even worse. A new law in Virginia requires that previous bites must be disclosed upon the release of a dog or cat for adoption.

7. Virginia is lifting the prohibition on hunting or killing raccoons after 2:00 a.m. on Sundays.

8. Health care practitioners employed by the Department of Health may now prescribe antibiotics to the sexual partner of a patient diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease without physically examining the partner.

9. Effective July 1, 2020, 911 is required to be able to receive and process calls for emergency assistance via text message.

If you have questions on how these or other Virginia laws may impact you, we stand ready to assist you.

The Dangers of Not Properly Registering Your Company in Virginia

The Supreme Court of Virginia has overturned a $2.35 million verdict for a telecom company because the company was not properly registered with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (“SCC”). The ruling of the Court means that in order for a company to prevail in its lawsuit, it must have the necessary certificate with the SCC before the entry of the final judgment.

In this specific case, Tulynet FZ, LLC, a company of Dubai, had a subsidiary company, World Telecom Exchange Communications LLC (“WTXC”), which had its prin­cipal place of business in Virginia. The companies filed lawsuits in the Fairfax County Circuit Court against their former employees, alleging that they conspired to put WTXC out of business by divulging trade secrets and interfering with WTXC contracts.

After a jury trial in 2015, the jury awarded the companies $4.864 million (which was later reduced). The defendants argued that Tulynet FZ, LLC could not proceed because it did not have the necessary SCC certificates of authority and/or registration. The trial court found that the party has until the judge signs the final order to obtain the necessary certificates.

Companies ranging from one person in a home office to multinational corporations are at risk if they fail to            properly register.                                                                      

The Supreme Court of Virginia, however, wasn’t as merciful and found that because Tulynet FZ, LLC did not have the necessary certificates at an earlier point in the process, it could not prevail in the trial. The ruling thus stripped Tulynet FZ, LLC of all monetary awards.

The purpose of enforcing the requirement of SCC certificates is ultimately a public policy issue. By not having the necessary certificates, a foreign company may be able to avoid paying Virginia taxes. Likewise, it may prevent the consumers from being able to sue the deeper pockets of the international company. If the international company is going to reap the benefits of conducting business in Virginia, it should have to register with the SCC just like any other company.

What does this mean for you? If you are a company that does business in multiple states, it is of utmost importance to ensure you are registered with the SCC (or equivalent entity) in each state and that all registration information is up to date. By failing to do so, you may leave yourself open to liability without any recourse. If you have questions about this or other issues related to your business, please reach out to the team at PJI Law by calling (703) 865-6100. We look forward to helping you.

Shortcuts in Business Contracts: Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

In today’s uncertain economy, marginal increases in revenue or minor reductions in expenses can noticeably improve the bottom line of a small business. However, many small business owners in Northern Virginia attempt to cut costs by managing their commercial contract drafting or negotiations without an attorney, an ill-advised attempt at cost-cutting which often backfires.

Whether negotiating a commercial lease, a promissory note, a distribution agreement, an asset purchase agreement, or a joint venture agreement, consulting with an attorney early in the process will likely save you money and help avoid headaches both during the negotiation process and during the term of the agreement.

Many small business owners or entrepreneurs are tempted by the thousands of easily obtainable agreements online, and in fact, many of these agreements are indeed professionally and expertly drafted—but for different parties dealing with different and unique circumstances, often in a different state or legal jurisdiction. Since the addition or omission of a single word or sentence can often radically change the meaning or enforceability of an agreement, attempting to modify and utilize these agreements without professional assistance can end badly.

When it comes to business agreements, business owners without legal training don’t know what they don’t know.

The attorneys at PJI Law have seen countless commercial agreements that omit critical provisions which should always be included, as well as agreements made by individuals when the parties should be corporate entities, or agreements made by corporate entities which have been dissolved or have never existed to begin with. We often find ourselves helping clients who had poorly drafted agreement resolve contract disputes at a far higher cost than the small upfront investment in legal guidance that would have likely prevented such problems from arising.

When both parties are represented by counsel and the attorneys drafting the agreement have a clear understanding of their clients’ desires and concerns, the process can become streamlined and efficient. An effective commercial contract can save even a very small business tens – or even hundreds – of thousands of dollars by helping to reduce the likelihood of problems arising and minimizing the damage in the event that problems do arise – whether from breaches, negligence, liability, or indemnification issues.

Finding ways to cut costs in your small business is absolutely critical for success and survival, but business owners should think twice before trying to save money by taking shortcuts with their commercial contracts. No one wants to reach a point where they realize they were penny wise and pound foolish.

List of New Virginia Laws Going Into Effect This Month

We at PJI Law always follow Virginia General Assembly sessions quite closely, since there are typically new laws passed that directly affect our practice and that may impact some of our clients.

Many laws, however, are written in a matter too confusing for most people, and ought to be made more accessible to the public. Thankfully, the General Assembly’s Division of Legislative Services publishes an annual summary of a selection of legislation passed every year. You can find this year’s list at this link. For the most part, the new laws took effect on July 1 of this year.

The following new laws are of particular interest to us (please note that these are incomplete summaries):

1. Your employer may not require you to disclose the username and password to your social media accounts, nor to add the employer or a co-worker as a “friend”.

2. Crowdfunding, if it meets some requirements, can be exempt from the difficult and complex laws typically governing the issuance of securities.

3. You may breastfeed in any place in public where you are lawfully present.

4. You will receive civil immunity for breaking into a car to save a child, as long as you first tried to contact emergency personnel when possible.

5. Child support may be ordered for disabled adults if the disability existed before adulthood, regardless of whether or not child support had been previously paid. If this may be applicable to your child, our firm would be happy to review the matter with you and assist you in any appropriate Northern Virginia jurisdiction.

Virginia cyclists receive increased protection under new laws.
Virginia cyclists receive increased protection under new laws.

6. The authorities may not use against you your attempt to obtain emergency medical attention for yourself or another due to a drug-related or alcohol-related overdose, even if such possession or consumption was illegal, as long as you are cooperative.

7. In addition to not being able to follow other cars too closely, you may not follow bicycles, mopeds, and other non-motor vehicles too closely. If you are a cyclist injured in an accident with a motor vehicle, we would be happy to discuss the impact of this law on your case.

8. You may cross a double yellow line to pass a pedestrian or cyclist, if you do it safely.

If you have any questions on how any new Virginia law impacts you, our attorneys stand ready to assist you.

This Is How We Can Help You

Welcome to the PJI Law website, and to our brand new blog. For one of our first blog posts, we would like to briefly introduce ourselves and explain the specific ways in which we can help you. Yes, our website has our attorneys’ bios and a list of our practice areas, but here on the blog we will explain things a little less formally and a bit more practically.

First of all, our firm has two full-time attorneys who work on most matters together. Although one of them is likely to be the primary attorney on your specific case, the other attorney will be well positioned to proceed with your case without any hiccups should the need arise – in case of sickness, vacation, or emergencies, for example. For this reason, and in order to ensure the reasonable availability of at least one attorney for your case on every business day of the year, our attorneys adhere to a strict policy of not taking time off simultaneously.

We also believe that the quality of our staff is as important as the quality of our attorneys. Our receptionist, for example, knows every single retained client by name. She knows what their case is about, which attorney they are primarily working with, and understands the nature or urgency of their calls.

That is who we are. Now, this is how we can help you:

Family Law

If you’re about to get married and need a prenup, we can draft one that honors your specific wishes. If you’re already married and are contemplating divorce, we can serve you. We have seen it all – heartbreaking divorces involving children, the end of marriages that had lasted for decades, and even legal separation that began on the first day of marriage – literally. By definition, none have been happy stories, and we cannot change that fact. But in such a time of emotion and uncertainty, we can navigate the law on your behalf, ensure that your rights are protected, and pursue the results you deserve. And whether or not you’re married, we can assist you with the very important issues of child custody, child support, and spousal support. If you’ve already obtained a court order and it is not being honored by the other party, we can help you to get it enforced.

Personal Injury

If you were injured in a car accident, you do not want to talk to the other party’s insurance company on your own. There is simply too much about the process that you don’t know. We have the education and experience to guide you through the loopholes and maximize your recovery. The same goes if you slip and fall, get bitten by a dog, or are otherwise injured in various or unusual ways due to the negligence of others. For example, we recently represented a client who suffered severe burns from sizzling soup spilled by a careless restaurant employee. We can also assist if an incident was even more tragic and resulted in the wrongful death of a family member.

Business Law

What’s the difference between an LLC and a C-Corp, and why is one better than the other for your particular situation? What’s a Registered Agent, and is every single business entity in Virginia required to have one even if it’s a one-person company that made eighty bucks last year? (Yes). Does this two-page commercial lease look good? (No). Business law is not just for Google and Exxon. It is extremely relevant for even the smallest business with the smallest budget. And in fact, we like to focus on both establishing small to medium businesses and completing small to medium business transactions – no business is too small for us. We also help both businesses and individuals collect money they’re owed, whether or not they already have a judgment from the court. We represent both commercial tenants and commercial landlords and offer them “a la carte” options – some want us only to review their lease, others ask us to negotiate the whole deal. Of course, we handle a wide variety of business and contract disputes, whether out of court or by litigating it all the way to trial. This includes representing you in whichever side of a mechanic’s lien you might be on. And since all Virginia businesses are required to have a Registered Agent, we are pleased to serve as your Registered Agent so that you can have the peace of mind you need.

Estate Planning

Everyone knows what a Will is, and we can certainly draft one for you. But fewer people know what Advance Medical Directive / Living Will is, which is why we are proactive about explaining it to our clients. Such a document allows you to make decisions about your medical care in some situations where you wouldn’t be able to express your wishes (i.e., if you are in coma). It also allows you to designate an agent to speak to the doctors on your behalf in certain situations, such as the middle of a surgery. And even fewer people know about the need for a General Financial Power of Attorney, which allows a trusted or loved one to make financial/legal/property decisions on your behalf if you are mentally incapacitated or otherwise unable to make such decisions. Falling into such a state without leaving your family with the means to manage your assets on your behalf could significantly complicate their lives in what would already be a difficult time. In short, this is the one area of our practice that it is applicable to 100% of the population – everyone should have these documents.

Other Areas of Practice

In addition to representing both commercial landlords and commercial tenants as discussed above, we represent residential landlords in various ways. However the most urgent need residential landlords tend to have arises when tenants fail to pay their rent or vacate, in which case we swiftly step in to proceed with an eviction process that minimizes the landlord’s losses.

We also take on Lemon Law cases, which arise from repeated problems with new cars. In such cases we reach out to the car manufacturers directly to resolve the matter, and if that fails, we invite them to meet us in court.

Our firm also engages in civil litigation regarding a variety of topics, including property damage, conversion, detinue, fraud, and other areas too numerous to include in this post.

There are many more unique cases that often don’t fall into a specific practice area, and we handle many of them. If you are not sure, please ask us – we are always happy to hear from you even if it turns out that we cannot accept your case. And if we don’t, we will likely be able refer you to a specific attorney who is more appropriate for your case.

So, this is who we are and how we can help you. And when you find yourself in need of the services above, we will be ready for your call.

What Types of Businesses Can We Serve?

Within the Business Law portion of its practice areas, PJI Law’s focus is on small and medium businesses. We embrace both the newcomer who wants to launch a business from scratch, and the established business that is undergoing changes or completing a transaction. Our business clients are so diverse that we figured we would share this alphabetical (and incomplete) sample list of the types businesses we have represented in formation, transaction, litigation, dissolution, as registered agent, or in other ways:

  • Art Producer
  • Auto Dealership
  • Boarding Kennel
  • Chiropractic Clinic
  • Church
  • Cleaning Service
  • Commercial Landlord
  • Compounding Pharmacy
  • Consulting Firm
  • Contractor
  • Day Care
  • Deli
  • Dental Practice
  • Dog Breeder
  • Dry Cleaner
  • Event Planner
  • Financing Company
  • Food Franchise
  • Hair Salon
  • Hydroponic Farm
  • Landscaping Service
  • Law Firm
  • Marble & Granite Provider
  • Nail Care and Spa
  • Non-Profit Organization
  • Painting School
  • Pizza Joint
  • Photography Service
  • Real Estate Service
  • Residential Landlord
  • Restaurant
  • Shipping Service
  • Souvenir Shop
  • Technology Firm
  • Telecommunications Contractor
  • Urgent Care Clinic
  • Wine Importer

Do you own, or wish to establish, any of the businesses above, or any other type of business in the northern Virginia or DC areas? Whatever you need assistance with, chances are we’ve already seen it. And we are ready and happy to guide you through it.