Senior Communications Manager
Virginia Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Wiley Rein Client Marterella Winery
On May 11, the Supreme Court of Virginia upheld a jury's verdict that found Marterella Winery was allowed to run its business despite a homeowners association rule that non-agricultural commercial activity on the property required committee approval. Wiley Rein associates Jason O'Brien and Tara L. Ward represented Marterella Winery pro bono.
"The Virginia Supreme Court's decision reminds us of the respect we owe the jury, particularly here, where the jury considered sufficient evidence before concluding that the Marterellas reasonably determined that they could build a farm winery and operate a tasting room," said Mr. O'Brien. Ms. Ward added, "Our client is thrilled with the ruling and is excited to be able to re-open the tasting room soon."
The case has been closely watched by the local business and growing Virginia wine community, as evidenced by the Virginia Farm Bureau and the Virginia Wineries Association's joint filing of an amicus brief in support of the Marterella Winery.
The Bellevue Landowners' Council initially brought the case against Kate and Jerry Marterella, arguing the family had violated home owners association's rules by opening a winery and tasting room without first seeking approval from the association. Wiley Rein and the Marterellas argued that the rules expressly permitted homeowners to pursue agricultural commercial activities. A jury ruled in favor of the Marterellas in 2009, agreeing that the Marterellas reasonably interpreted the association's rules to authorize operation of farm winery and retail tasting room. However, the trial court judge set aside the verdict and enjoined the Marterellas from operating the tasting room.
Mr. O'Brien and Ms. Ward took up the Marterellas' appeal in the spring of 2011. On May 11, 2012, the Supreme Court of Virginia reinstated the jury's verdict, noting that "nothing in the jury instructions required the jury to find that the Marterellas' interpretation of the word 'agriculture' was reasonable" and that the trial court had "injected" its own standard as to what constitutes an agricultural activity. For more background on the winery and earlier stages of litigation, see The Washington Post's recent article "Virginia Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Marterella Winery."
Wiley Rein takes pride in its strong tradition of service to the community and encourages its lawyers and paralegals to participate in pro bono activities. Mr. O'Brien focuses his practice on professional liability insurance coverage analysis and litigation, and Ms. Ward represents government contractors in bid protests and in claims and disputes before federal and state agencies.