news and events

"Ball Gets Rolling on New Midlothian Athletic Facility"

Beth Williams, during her lifetime, was a community-minded individual who devoted her life to raising breast cancer awareness. When she began losing her own battle with the disease, her dying wish was that in lieu of flowers at her funeral, donations be solicited to rebuild the local football field to benefit the community's children. Her family was so moved by her request that it used the donated money to begin The Beth Williams Field of Dreams Foundation. We are pleased to announce our latest news from the foundation:

"Ball Gets Rolling on New Midlothian Athletic Facility"

- Chesterfield Observer - September 17, 2008

Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Presents Resolution of Commendation to Peter Burnett

On June 2, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors awarded Peter Burnett a Resolution of Commendation for his leadership and service on the Courthouse Grounds and Facilities Task Force. Peter was instrumental in the development of a Master Landscape plan for the grounds as well as policies that will protect the grounds from the haphazard placement of monuments and vegetation, preserve the archaeological integrity of the site, and promote fair and orderly use of the grounds by the public.

In addition, the Task force started the process of developing a forward looking consolidated maintenance program that will anticipate preservation and maintenance needs and secure funding for them in a timely fashion.

Loudoun County developed the Courthouse Grounds and Facility Task Force to provide a long-term and unified vision for the court complex grounds; to address ideas regarding ways to make the facility and grounds unique to Loudoun County and to suggest a process for ongoing decision making as new suggestions are brought forward by the community.

Downtown Improvement Association Elects Peter Burnett as Co-Chair

At its first official board meeting on October 4, the newly formed Downtown Improvement Association elected its first board. The board of directors reflects a mix of property owners, business owners, merchants and stakeholders in downtown Leesburg.

The board of directors include:

Peter Burnett, co-chair, Burnett & Williams
Michael O’Connor, co-chair, O’Connor & Fierce Associates
Bradley Gable, Southern Trust Mortgage
Dianne Capilongo, Cardinal Bank
Don Culkin, Burnett & Williams
Stilson Greene, Stilson Greene Graphic Design
Scott Gustavson, Fianna Investments
Dieter Meyer, W.A. Brown & Associates
Ron Rust, Thomas Birkby House
Ken Werner, Town of Leesburg’s Economic Development Commission
Carrie Whitmer, Lightfoot Restaurant
Barbara Williams, Barbara S. Williams PC

Formed in March 2007, the Downtown Improvement Association (DIA) consists of business and property owners, residents, partner organizations and other stakeholders interested in improving the economic and cultural vitality of downtown Leesburg.


Burnett & Williams Sponsors 2008 Beth Williams Field of Dreams Foundation Golf Tournament

On May 12, Burnett & Williams was a major corporate sponsor for the 2008 Beth Williams Field of Dreams Foundation Golf Tournament at Provident Golf Course in Midlothian, Va. Burnett & Williams sponsored two foursomes in addition to helping organize and staff the tournament. Firm players on the first foursome were Peter Burnett, Jim Williams and Don Culkin, and the second foursome included Michele Bennett, Helen Dybulak and Chris Walters.

The tournament raised $11,000 to be dedicated to the building and refurbishing of youth athletic venues such as football and baseball complexes.

Jim Williams, partner at Burnett & Williams, is the CEO of the Beth Williams Field of Dreams Foundation ( Anchorwoman Paula Zahn, who met Beth Williams during her cancer battle, is the honorary chair. Jim's wife, Beth, was an active volunteer and promoter of youth sports before her death from breast cancer in the fall of 2006. She was the inspiration for Jim creating the nonprofit whose mission is to build football and baseball fields for children in areas where local resources are unavailable.


 Burnett & Williams hostS Lawyers for Literacy Fundraiser

On June 8, 2007, Burnett & Williams teamed up with Loudoun Literacy Council to kickoff the “Lawyers for Literacy” fundraising campaign. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright attended the event, held at Burnett & Williams’ Leesburg office, as keynote speaker and longtime advocate of literacy. An author herself, Ms. Albright spoke about the importance of literacy programs in expanding opportunities for people in this country.

The event was attended by many local lawyers, town officials, and citizens of the community. All proceeds from the event benefited the Loudoun Literacy Council, a local nonprofit group dedicated to helping adults and children from disadvantaged families learn to read, speak, write, and understand English. Peter C. Burnett of Burnett & Williams was the lead donor for the Lawyers for Literacy campaign and encouraged other local lawyers to also support this important cause and give back to their communities.


 Peter C. Burnett Elected to the Virginia STate Bar Council

The Virginia State Bar recently announced the nomination and election of Peter C. Burnett to the Virginia State Bar Council for the 20th Judicial Circuit for a three year term.

The Virginia State Bar is an administrative agency of the supreme court of Virginia and is governed by the Council and Executive Committee. The mission of the Virginia State Bar is to regulate the legal profession of Virginia and to improve legal services and the legal system in the Commonwealth

 New Office Opening

In March of 2007, Burnett & Williams opened a new office in Midlothian, Virginia. C. James Williams of Burnett & Williams heads up the new office. Partner, Jim Williams and his five children have lived in Chesterfield County for many years. Jim has been an active participant in the Midlothian PTA and a leader of the Evergreen Athletic Association.

In recent months, Jim has been particularly focused on the Beth Williams Memorial Field of Dreams becoming a reality for the athletic endeavors of Midlothian school children. Jim's wife, Beth was an active volunteer and promter of youth sports before her death from breast cancer in the fall of 2006.

Peter C. Burnett named "2007 Washington Dc Super lawyer"

For the second straight year, Peter C. Burnett of Burnett & Williams was selected as a Super Lawyer. This time, Peter was recognized in the Washington D.C. area. Super Lawyers is an annual award given to attorneys who demonstrate excellence in the legal profession and are respected by their peers.


Peter C. Burnett of Burnett & Williams was awarded the distinction of being named a 2006 Virginia Super Lawyer by the legal community and a state-wide blue ribbon panel. This distinction recognizes Peter's legal excellence and achievement as well as his dedication to the community.

Super Lawyers is an annual award for outstanding attorneys who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The award is the result of a multi-step selection process involving statewide surveys from the legal community and a blue ribbon panel that researches attorney credentials to select only the most distinguished attorneys in Virginia.

Walk to Cure Diabetes

June 4, 2006  Lansdowne, Virginia

On June 4, Burnett and Williams participated in the annual Walk to Cure Diabetes, sponsored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.  Our team raised money for juvenile diabetes research and also got some good exercise walking 5K around Lansdowne.  For more information about JDRF visit their website.





‘Hypersensitivity’ does not limit emotional damages, court holds

By Alan Cooper , from the Virginia Lawyers Weekly journal

The Supreme Court of Virginia has decided to stay away from the distinction between physical and emotional injuries that it announced in "Kondaurov v. Kerdasha" in November.
The court took the extremely unusual step of vacating that opinion after Eve Kerdasha’s attorneys contended in a petition for rehearing that her emotional hypersensitivity was not an issue until Senior Justice Charles S. Russell raised it in his opinion for the court.
The court granted the petition, and on April 21 Russell again sent the case back to Arlington County Circuit Court for a new trial on damages.
But the new opinion contains little of the language that plaintiffs’ attorneys found so distressing in the first one.
In a discussion in the November opinion that found a plaintiff’s instruction to be improper, Russell analogized Kerdasha’s circumstances to cases in which a plaintiff suffers physical injury as the result of emotional distress.
Because of “the fear of fraudulent and exaggerated claims easily asserted and difficult to refute,” Russell said, Virginia and other states have allowed recovery only when a defendant was aware of a plaintiff’s unusual sensitivity and acted outrageously as a result of that knowledge.
An instruction the trial judge gave over the objection of the defendant “permitted the jury to award damages for emotional distress far beyond that which a normal person would have sustained,” Russell wrote. “Such an instruction, given without limitation in a case of this kind, permits a plaintiff to recover damages limited only by his ability to articulate his anguish. Such a claim is impossible for the defendant to refute.”
Russell said the jury should have been instructed that “the defendant is only responsible for such emotional distress as could reasonably be expected by a person of normal sensitivity and normal reactions under the circumstances of the case.”
Kerdasha’s attorneys—Peter C. Burnett, Jeffrey Rosenfeld and Karen M. Kennedy of Northern Virginia—responded that the distinction between physical injury and emotional injury directly related to physical harm was new territory for the court.
The decision went far beyond the general rule that defendants take a plaintiffs as they find them, the attorneys contended in their petition for rehearing. “In finding that she must prove the damages that would have been suffered by a person of ‘normal sensitivity,’ the court established a potentially impossible burden of proof, one that is certain to increase the cost and complexity of litigation in Virginia.
“The policy considerations that created the need to limit liability in cases of emotional distress without impact are not present in this case,” they concluded.
In the April 21 opinion, VLW 006-6-033, Russell still found that the instruction—which told the jury that the defendant was liable for all the injurious consequences of his act even if those consequences were unexpected—was duplicative of other instructions and placed no limit what the jury might consider injurious.
However, instead of analogizing Kerdasha’s emotional harm to non-impact emotional injuries, Russell included a long list of types of emotional distress related to her physical injury for which the jury could award damages.
Those damages did not include the emotional trauma she suffered because of concern about injuries to her dog, Sushi, which was in Kerdasha’s Jeep and also injured when it was rear-ended by a large tour bus in November 1998, Russell said.
The Jeep fell onto its side and skidded into the path of an ambulance. The ambulance struck the Jeep and knocked it onto its roof, leaving Kerdasha suspended upside down from her seat belt.
Remarkably, Kerdasha suffered no injuries more serious than bruises and a stiff and sore neck.
However, the emotional trauma of the wreck made her preexisting multiple sclerosis worse. Moreover, she had a strong emotional attachment to Sushi, and the dog was thrown out of the car and not found for some time. The dog’s tail had to be partially amputated as the result of an injury it suffered in the wreck.
After the accident, Sushi would cower under a bed or in a closet when it heard a siren, and Kerdasha would go under the bed or into the closet to comfort her.
A psychiatrist testified that Kerdasha was “devastated by what happened emotionally and by what happened to her dog.” The incident created an “almost catastrophic downhill ride for her” and left her with “feelings of fear, feelings of terror, cinematic tension, tremor, motor tics,” the psychiatrist testified.

A jury awarded Kerdasha $300,000.

Because pets are considered personal property under state law, damages related to injuries to them are “confined to the diminution in their value” caused by an accident, “plus reasonable and necessary expenses incurred,” Russell said.

(Source: Virginia Lawyers Weekly, 04/21/06)

"duty of good faith" presentation

Jim Williams gave a presentation on "duty of good faith" at the April 21, 2006 CLE Seminar on Handling Insurance Law Matters in Virginia. In conjunction with his role as a faculty member at this seminar, Jim was also one of the authors featured in "Insurance Law in Virginia," a popular Virginia Lawyers Practice Handbook. Jim has used his expertise in insurance matters to teach other attorneys and navigate complicated insurance law relating to personal injury cases.

Recent changes at Burnett & Williams

We are excited and pleased to announce the addition of a new personal injury litigator, C. James Williams, III. Jim is a highly regarded attorney who fits perfectly with our vision for the future of the firm. He is a summa cum laude graduate of George Mason University School of Law and a former clerk to United States District Court Judge Glen M. Williams. He practiced at Gentry, Locke, Rakes, and Moore in Roanoke and at Morris & Morris in Richmond before becoming litigation counsel for Progressive Insurance Company. In 1999, Jim left defense and coverage work and began representing injured plaintiffs. A veteran litigator, he has tried more than one hundred personal injury jury trials and was appellate counsel in Virginia’s leading scientific evidence case, Titsworth v. Robinson. He is a regular contributor of law journal articles on personal injury law and litigation issues. Jim’s wealth of experience in insurance coverage matters provides added expertise in an insurance environment that becomes more complex each year. We are thrilled that he has joined the firm as an attorney and principal, and we look forward to the opportunity to introduce him to you.

Another important change is that Don Culkin has joined the Burnett & Williams Board of Directors as a principal of the firm. Don Culkin joined us in 1996 and his outstanding analytical skills, along with his prior experience as a licensed professional engineer, have been invaluable to the firm. He has participated in numerous cases before the Virginia Supreme Court and has been critical to our recent successes in several substantial medical malpractice and wrongful death cases.

Burnett & Williams is more than the sum of its parts. The Burnett & Williams name holds with it our shared values, ideals, and way of practicing law. More changes will surely come, but our mission will always be to serve the legitimate needs of our injured clients with distinction and dignity.


Dedication to our Community

One of our firm’s core values is  social responsibility. The growth and success of our firm is meaningless if we do not use what we have learned to help our community. Starting in Spring 2006, we will be launching a campaign in association with TeachSafe, a non-profit organization, to share our collective knowledge with others in order to prevent injury and encourage safety. As a personal injury firm, we deal with injured people every day and know a lot about the hardships they face.  While not all accidents are preventable, we feel an obligation to do what we can to help people avoid injury in their lives.  In addition to our safety campaign, the attorneys and staff in our firm give their time and resources to better the community. Here are some highlights:

  • Burnett & Williams received a Certificate of Appreciation from Loudoun Cares for volunteer services above and beyond to Loudoun Cares and its partners in February 2006.
  • Don Culkin received the Harry L. Carrico Pro Bono Award from the Legal Services of Northern Virginia in June 2004. This award recognized Don’s involvement on the Pro Bono Committee at LSNV and his dedication to helping those less fortunate obtain meaningful access to justice.

  • In June 2005, the staff of Burnett & Williams participated in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Walk and raised a substantial amount of money for this worthy cause.

  • Our entire firm received the award for “2005 Outstanding Corporate Volunteer Team” by the Loudoun Volunteer Services for our track record of volunteer work to better our community.

  • In 2004, Peter Burnett was awarded the George C. Marshall Corporate Citizen Award by the Town of Leesburg for his contributions to the town and his efforts to help business prosper in Leesburg.

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