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Quote of the Day - I don't care what you say about me, as long as you say something about me, and as long as you spell my name right. - George M. Cohan
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How A Dissent Became The Majority Opinion

As a follow-up to a case MIPTC covered before, I have to smugly say, "I told you so."  Back in December of 2005, a nasty suit between a daughter and her stepmother surfaced over a $1.1 million recovery for the wrongful death of father/husband.

Not surprisingly, the two women both wanted all or as much as they could get of the $1.1 million, and sued each other to get it.  Daughter accused stepmother of being a prostitute, and stepmother claimed she and her husband had a loving relationship.

The trial court ruled for the daughter, finding essentially that the father/husband believed his new wife (stepmother) was a prostitute and he was about to leave her when he was killed.  Both the daughter and stepmother presented conflicting testimony about the "society, comfort and affection" between both women and the deceased father/husband.  In dividing up the spoils, the trial court gave 90% of the recovery to the daughter and 10% to the mother.

The Court of Appeal upheld the division, but Justice Sills was not happy.  His 37-page dissent took issue with the majority opinion.

On appeal, and as MIPTC predicted, the Supreme Court sided with Justice Sills, and reversed the two lower court opinions.  In fact, the Supreme Court cited Justice Sill's criticism of the rulings:  "There is something profoundly wrong in allocating 90 percent of a wrongful death award to an adult child and only 10 percent to the widow or widower." 

The Supreme Court didn't stop there, and said:  "the dissenting justice contended that evidence of the decedent's mere intention to divorce Wife was irrelevant because the decedent had taken no concrete steps to effectuate or even initiate such action."

In Justice Sill's colorful words, "No doubt there are some relationships where the spouses form an intention to divorce on a daily basis, and the intention evaporates just as quickly.  Mere intentions can be wonderfully evanescent," as quoted by the Supreme Court, who seemed unpersuasive when compared to the appellate opinions.

The moral of the story?  Be careful what you say, and who you say it to.  You never know how you say something will be viewed by someone else.

Or a court.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, July 06, 2007 at 18:30 Comments Closed (0) |
 
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