Virginia Hamilton Snell
Virginia Snell chairs the Firm’s Appellate Advocacy Practice. She has served as a member of the Firm’s Executive Committee and, until 2005, chaired the firm’s Professional Personnel Recruiting Committee, responsible for the firm’s summer associate program and the hiring of entry level associates. In addition to the civic and professional commitments described below, Virginia regularly represents clients in appellate courts and in cases before lower courts that primarily involve questions of law and are likely to proceed to the appellate level.
Her experience encompasses a wide range of issues, including constitutional, contract, statutory, class action, regulatory, legal malpractice, trusts and estates, wrongful death, tax, healthcare provider, employment, and business disputes, over, for example, fraud, fiduciary duty, lender liability, shareholder rights, or covenants not to compete. Virginia often becomes involved after a trial when an independent appellate analysis and representation is desirable.Show More
Virginia has served as appellate counsel in the following significant cases:
- Photographic Illustrator’s Inc. v. Orgill, Inc. (1st Cir. 2020) (Case No. 19-1452) Photographic sued our client Orgill alleging copyright infringement. The District Court granted summary judgment in Orgill’s favor. Photographic appealed. The appeal involved a number of issues, including claim preclusion and breach of contract, but the central question is one of first impression: Is an “implied” copyright sublicense valid? After oral argument in Boston in January 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed the judgment in Orgill’s favor in an unanimous opinion on the issue of first impression. The First Circuit’s analysis reflects perhaps the only opinion that fully addresses the criteria for a sublicense and the rationale for allowing a copyright sublicense to be implied.
- Owensboro Health, Inc. v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 706 Fed. Appx. 302 (6th Cir. 2017). The hospital challenged the agency’s classification of medical technicians under Medicaid regulations, which adversely affected reimbursement rates. The Sixth Circuit sympathized with the hospital’s position but deferred to the agency’s interpretation given the deference standard of review.
- Lettie Sexton v. Commonwealth of Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, et al, No. 2016-SC-540. The Kentucky Supreme Court adopts federal constitutional test for standing in case of first impression.
- Sparkman v. Consol Energy 571 S.W.3d 569 (Ky. 2019). The Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed in the client’s favor on an issue of first impression, holding that a parent corporation cannot be liable for tortious interference with a subsidiaries contract.
- American Mining v. Peters Farms, LLC, 557 S.W. 3d. 293 (Ky. 2018). The Kentucky Supreme Court reversed punitive damages in insurance coverage dispute.
- Hon. Ann Bailey Smith Chief Judge, Jefferson District Court v. Commonwealth of Kentucky Ex Rel Michael J. O’Connell, et al (Case No. 2013-SC-000828). This appeal involved a dispute between the Jefferson Circuit Court (our client) and the County Attorney over the validity and interpretation of a statutes governing court costs. The appeal involved statutory interpretation and constitutional issues like separation of powers. The Kentucky Supreme Court dismissed the appeal after the General Assembly amended the statute in favor of the County Attorney.
- Dianna Hull Perazzo, M.D. v. Melanie Robbins (Case No. 2018-CA-000986). Dr. Perazzo’s insurer retained us to handle an appeal from a multimillion dollar judgment. the appeal involves a number of trial errors, which include the laws governing causation admissibility. The appeal has been briefed in the Court of Appeals but the Court has not yet scheduled argument.
- Ridgeway Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility v. Stella Collins, 2017 WL 1829742. The jury found a nursing home negligent in caring for a resident who died and awarded compensatory damages and nearly $1 million in punitive damages. On appeal, we represented the nursing home’s parent corporation arguing that there was no joint venture between it and the nursing home and, regardless, the negligent conduct did not justify punitive damages. The Court of Appeals found a joint venture but vacated the substantial punitive award.
- Big Rivers Electric Coop v. City of Henderson and Henderson Municipal Power & Light (No. 2013-CA-000019) (unpublished). The City of Henderson retained Wyatt to defend its position in this litigation, which went to arbitration, to the circuit court and eventually the Court of Appeals. The dispute involved the right to reserve power and energy under a Power Sales Contract, valued at around $150 million. The City asserted its right under a complex energy contract and the case involved all aspects of contract construction as well as constitutional restrictions on the City’s ability to contract. The Court of Appeals affirmed in the City’s favor.
- Nami v. Asher Land & Mineral 554 S.W.3d 323 (Ky. 2018). The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in the client’s favor in construing the provisions of gas leases in a royalty dispute, holding that tort liability and punitive damages are not available to a plaintiff when an alleged injury results solely from a breach of contract.
- Brown-Forman Corporation, et al. v. George Miller 528 S.W.3d 886 (Ky. 2017). This appeal involved a tort suit by residents against distillers for alleged mold contamination of their property. We represented Heaven Hill. The Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that, while federal environmental law did not preempt a claim for monetary damages to property, Kentucky law did bar any action for injunctive relief that would require distillers to adopt measures that were not required in their permits to operate.
- Your Community Bank v. Woodlawn Springs Homeowners Association 449 S.W.3d 357 (Ky. 2014). The Kentucky Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and ruled in the client’s favor, holding that a contractual assignment of rights must be enforced as written.
- John Paul Short v. Shara Willis, et al., No. 2013-CA-001343. This appeal involved alleged medical malpractice and negligent hiring issues. It was resolved prior to oral argument.
- Jarvis v. National City and PNC Bank, 410 S.W.3d 148 (Ky. 2013). The Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed judgment for the banks in applying the statute governing trustee fees. The appeal presented an issue of first impression on the construction of a statute and the law pertaining to retroactivity.
- Branch Banking and Trust Company v. Larry Thompson, et. al, 2009-CA-001427 (Ky. App. 2011). The Court of Appeals reversed a $10 million jury verdict in lender liability action and enforced forbearance agreement in the client’s favor.
- Fuel Transport, Inc., et al v. Garnett Gibson, as Executor and Personal Representative of the Estate of Topsie Gibson, 410 SW 3d 56 (Ky. 2013). The Kentucky Supreme Court reversed a multi-million punitive award in the client’s favor when plaintiff alleged company allowed defective truck to be driven.
- Vinland Energy Operations LLC v. Engle, 2009-CA-002227 (Ky. App. 2011). The court reversed a jury verdict in sexual harassment case and remanded for new trial.
- Scott v. Moore Pontiac Dealership, 291 SW 3d 622 (Ky. 2009). The Supreme Court held that client’s dealership cannot be liable for accident caused by test driving customer,
- EPI v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, Cabinet for Health and Family Services, 2006-SC-000348 (Ky. 2010). The court affirmed judgment for client on Medicaid reimbursement.
- Haydon Bridge v. Governor Ernie Fletcher, 304 SW 3d 682 (Ky. 2010). We represented the Governor in defendng budget provisions and the court upheld constitutionality of parts of 2000-2004 Kentucky budget provisions enacted by Legislature.
- Gunderson v. Sandoz Pharmaceutical Corp., 279 SW 3d 93 (Ky. 2008) (products liability and related issues)
- Flegles v. TruServ, 289 SW 3d 544 (Ky. 2009) (reversing multi-million jury verdict on fraudulent inducement to contract claim)
- Louisville Metro Housing Authority v. Burns, 198 S.W.3d 147 (Ky. App. 2005) (governmental immunity from punitive damages)
- Elk Horn Coal Corp. v. Cheyenne Resources, Inc., 163 S.W.3d 408 (Ky. 2005) (constitutionality of appeal penalty statute)
- City of Covington v. Kenton County, 149 S.W.3d 358 (Ky. 2004) (statutory construction of tax credit)
- Stringer v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 151 S.W.3d 781 (Ky. 2004) (alleged defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and other employment-related claims)
- Sand Hill Energy, Inc. v. Smith, 142 S.W.3d 153 (Ky. 2004) (punitive damage standard) (Amicus Party – Product Liability Council)
- RAM Engineering & Const., Inc. v. University of Louisville, 127 S.W.3d 579 (Ky. 2004) (validity of the University’s construction bidding process)
- Lanier v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 99 S.W.3d 431 (Ky. 2003) (case of first impression on premises liability standard)
- Wilhite v. Rockwell Intern. Corp., 83 S.W.3d 516 (Ky. 2002) and on remand, 143 S.W.3d 604 (Ky. App. 2003) (many issues in environmental tort action, including proof needed for “injury” to property)
- Williams v. Wilson, 972 SW 2d 260 (Ky. 1998) (constitutionality of punitive damage statute under jural rights doctrine)
J.D., University of Texas Law School, with honors
- Order of the Coif
- Articles Editor on the Texas Law Review
B.A., University of Texas, summa cum laude
- Plan II Honors Program with Special Honors in History
- Phi Beta Kappa
- Phi Kappa Phi
- United States Supreme Court
- United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
- United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
- United States District Courts of Kentucky
- All Kentucky Courts
- All Texas Courts (inactive status)
- United States Court of Federal Claims
- Ranked #1 lawyer in Kentucky by Super Lawyers® for 2018
- AV rated in Martindale-Hubbell, its highest rating
- American Academy of Appellate Lawyers, Inducted 2015
- Woodward/White’s The Best Lawyers in America® Louisville “Lawyer of the Year” Litigation-Securities 2020
- Woodward/White’s The Best Lawyers in America® Louisville “Lawyer of the Year” Appellate Practice 2013, 2019
- Woodward/White’s The Best Lawyers in America® in the areas of Appellate Practice, Bet-the-Company Litigation, Commercial Litigation and Litigation-Securities, 2006-2021
- Recognized as a Litigation Star by Benchmark Litigation 2017-2019
- Kentucky Super Lawyers® 2007-2021, and in the top 25 women attorneys in Kentucky, 2013-2021
- Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, 2005 – Present. Chambers has stated under Kentucky litigation, that Ms. Snell is “personable,” and as “Chair of the appellate practice group was pinpointed by peers as ‘exceptionally good on heavy-duty appellate motions’ and almost exclusively practices at this level. Covering a wide range of areas, including legal malpractice and securities fraud, she has been involved in cases for some of the largest retail and insurance companies in the USA.” In addition, clients interviewed by Chambers USA describe Ms. Snell as “responsive and logical” and an “excellent lawyer and writer” and that she “comes up with creative ideas of how to approach the problem” and “takes cases that other people have tried and figures out how to turn them around.”
- Recognized as one of the “Top Lawyers” in the area of Appellate Law by Louisville Magazine, March, 2014
Judicial Clerk to the Hon. Homer Thornberry, United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES AND MEMBERSHIPS
- Member, Louisville Bar Foundation Board of Directors
- Member, Louisville Bar Association Board of Directors
- President, The Inn of Court, an organization promoting skills, ethics, civility and professionalism in the Bar, 2018-2019, and member, 2007 to present
- Member, Inquiry Commission, Kentucky Bar Association, appointed by Chief Justice, 2019 to present
- Member, Commission on Bar Admission, appointed by Kentucky Supreme Court, 2012-2015
- Chair of Appellate Advocacy Section, Kentucky Bar Association (2008-2009), established by the Kentucky Supreme Court
- President of The Law Club (2008-2009), and now member, of a fifty-member organization of lawyers and judges, with the object of refreshing and broadening professional knowledge and providing a forum for the exercise of professional scholarship
- Member (2006-2008), appointed by the Kentucky Supreme Court to serve on the Supreme Court Civil Rules Committee, which considers proposed amendments to the Civil Rules governing practice in Kentucky courts
- Member, Attorney’s Advertising Commission for the Kentucky Bar Association, 2003-2005, appointed by the Board of Governors
- Member, Litigation Committee, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
- Member, Louisville Public Media Board of Directors, Vice Chair of the Committee on Board Leadership and Governance, Member, Executive Committee. LPM consists of three public radio stations, WFPL (NPR and local news), WFPK (alternative music and entertainment) and WUOL (classical music), 2010-2014
- Member, Visiting Committee, Board of Overseers for Brandeis Law School, University of Louisville 2007-2008 to assess curriculum
- Member, Board of Trustees for the Oldham County Public Library District, appointed to the Board by the Fiscal Court 2000-2009 (and 2011-2020), during which the Library completed a major construction project for a new building in LaGrange, KY, which is the first leed-certified (green) library in Kentucky.
- Member, State Advisory Council on Libraries and Archives, appointed by Governor Paul Patton, 2001-2006
- Member, Gala Committee for the Oldham County Historical Society (2000-2008)
- Member, Executive Committee of the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival Board of Directors for several years
- “Dear Trial Court: Please Key The Post-Judgment Interest Rate To An Index, Not Making It The Best Investment In Town,” Bar Briefs, June 2011
- “Make Sure You’re Awake When the Arbitration Clause is Negotiated,” Bench & Bar, September 2009