May It Please The Court: Weblog of legal news and observations, including a quote of the day and daily updates

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There are 2033 Journal Items on 255 page(s) and you are on page number 230

The Dog Has The Better Case

"It's not a dog and cat fight, and I'll show you proof of that," Richard Espinosa said in his opening statement.

Since a pet story appeared here on Friday, I thought I'd do a follow-up story. You know, that Pulitizer Prize stuff on series of articles.

Three years ago, Espinosa went to the library with his assistance dog, Kimba, a Labrador. When they entered, the library cat, L.C., attacked Kimba and scratched the dog. Espinosa, who is representing himself, sued the County of San Diego for $1.5 million. In the beginning of trial, after the Judge threw out his federal causes of action for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act Espinosa reduced his claim to $15,000.

The Judge had earlier denied Espinosa's Motion for Summary Judgment.

Now, it's just a question of whether the jury will award Espinosa some scratch for Kimba's scratch. Highly unlikely, and what a waste of time.

To quote the San Diego Trib: "One man, who was not picked as a juror, said he didn't have any reason to be biased in the case but told the judge he had another concern.

'I wish it was the dog suing the cat,' the man joked. 'We've all used the word 'frivolous,' but I think the dog has a real case.'"

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, February 01, 2004 at 12:54. Comments Closed (0) |

Allstate Can Discourage Hiring Lawyers

Are you in good hands with Allstate? The insurer recently won a case where a federal judge thought so. Some plaintiffs and lawyers think not.

In June 1998, Allstate sent Connecticut Plaintiff Donald J. Hipsky a copy of its "Quality Service Pledge" (QSP) after Hipsky had an accident with an Allstate insured. Hipsky was not insured with Allstate.

The pledge stated that "[b]ecause you have been in an accident with an Allstate policyholder, we will provide you with quality service." It also said Allstate would investigate the accident fairly and quickly, and make "an appropriate offer of compensation" for Hipsky's injuries if he "qualified."

Hipsky also alleged that an Allstate claims rep discouraged him from seeking legal counsel, telling him an attorney would merely reduce the net amount of his settlement. Not surprisingly, Allstate offered $3,500 and a "final" offer of $4,000 in June 1999. Hipsky then hired a lawyer, and settled for $25,000 two years later.

Hipsky then sued Allstate, but the federal judge ruled for Allstate on claims it breached an implied contract of good faith and fair dealing, and was engaging in unfair trade practice, unfair insurance practice, recklessness and fraud.

The federal judge also decided that Connecticut does not recognize a duty of good faith by an insurer to anyone who is not a policyholder, and that doing so would detract from the insurer's key obligation.

Just to add fuel to the fire, the American Trial Lawyers Association obtained an Allstate training manual containing scripted pitches and in-house averages reflecting that unrepresented claimants in matters under $15,000 averaged settlements of $3,464, while those with lawyers averaged $7,450. The ALTA has dealt with similar Allstate issues in Connecticut in the past.

Now you get to decide.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, January 31, 2004 at 10:57. Comments Closed (0) |

Get Your Pet's Prenuptial Agreement Here

Yes, I've had a dog and cats in the past. There. My kids are grown and out of the house now, too.

Do I qualify as a pet lover? Perhaps. But not by today's standards, apparently. Consider this: A woman bought a cat with her roommate. More than a year after the roommate moved out, the two became embroiled in a custody battle. Over the cat!

The woman won a five-figure settlement. "In a historic ruling, the court applied the best-interest standard, which is usually applied only in child-custody cases," her attorney said.

"The judge was sympathetic to animal rights, but didn't want to make a big splash out of it," the attorney said. "I had a 50-page brief in that case, and the last sentence was the kicker: 'You can't treat the breaking of the leg of a table the same way as breaking the leg of a puppy.'"

Ouch.

Now don't get me wrong here, and I said it above, I've had pets before. But five figures? Get real.

But, it gets worse. Check out the PetCustody website. You can download a pre-nuptial agreement for your pet. No kidding.

I'm still trying to get over the map of the Roadside Pet Cemetery.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, January 30, 2004 at 20:47. Comments Closed (0) |

Environmental Insurance Coverage Not Cancellable

So, you find you've got leaking underground storage tanks and then when you apply for pollution coverage insurance, you forget to mention it.

Not surprisingly, the insurance carrier refuses to pay your claim, and sues to rescind the policy.

Sounds logical so far. But hold on, Bessie, that's not the rest of the story.

The Ninth Circuit just issued its opinion in the case, and the insurer lost. The Court ruled that the insurer cannot cancel or rescind the policy. Now, the insurer may be able to sue the insured for breach of contract damages, but it can't cancel the insurance.

Why not?

It's a matter of public policy, and USEPA regulations (check "Termination"). The regs require insurers to honor all pollution coverage policies, even if there's been a misrepresentation. What's the catch, you ask?

No coverage in the future. Ever. Perhaps not the sternest punishment, but certainly a stiff penalty. Plus, the public policy of cleanup is furthered because (insurance) money will exist to conduct the cleanup.

Thought you had it all figured out in the beginning, didn't you?

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Thursday, January 29, 2004 at 19:46. Comments Closed (1) |

Oxymorons - Government consultation

Tell me why this makes sense. The Endangered Species Act requires the government to consult with the government when it approves new pesticides.

Even beyond the right hand - left hand thing, the government doesn't conduct the consultations.

Now, it wants permission not to do the consultations anymore.

Huh?

Right.

Check out the full story, and the proposed regulations. Almost oxymoronic.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, January 28, 2004 at 00:45. Comments Closed (0) |

Eternal Triangles in Utah

I really don't like it when people that say "I told you so...", but I did. Back on the first of December, no less.

Perhaps not as early as Justice Scalia, but then again, he's on the Supreme Court, and I'm not. I'm just a lowly and occasional pro tem judge in Harbor Superior Court. But I saw it coming, too.

The case involves two consenting adults, male and female, who want to add another to the eternal triangle. Legitimately. But, Utah won't grant them a marriage license for a third person.

Their argument is that their polygamous desires are no different than same-sex marriages, which the Big Court has glanced at with last year's sodomy ruling. Interesting.

I just don't understand why it didn't happen in California first.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Tuesday, January 27, 2004 at 13:25. Comments Closed (0) |

Gizmo Gadgets - New Wetlands Mapping Software

We may think that trends start in California, but not this one. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's got us on this one.

They're converting aerial maps to digital bits and bytes, and then electronically reviewing those maps to determine if wetlands have been filled in illegally. MDEP has been pretty successful with this new program, to the tune of some $280,000 in fines against just two companies.

Findlaw has the full scoop.

Just don't get caught dumping fill into wetlands in Massachusetts - it can come back and haunt you years later. Here in California, we're still in the stone age with GIS maps, and we still think that advance was pretty cool.

Can't wait to see some of the new gizmo gadget maps here.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, January 26, 2004 at 20:18. Comments Closed (0) |

Cars That Run On Compressed Air Coming To You

Rarely does technology come along in such a way that captures attention. Except this idea is not new. It was first invented in the 1880's. Supposedly, a U.S. Patent exists to convert a V-8 engine to air power.

But, Wikipedia credits Guy Negre with the invention, who started his company in 1991.

In 1996, on the other side of the world, Energine Company has been working on the same thing. President Cho Cheol-sung has "appreciated [our] continuous concerning" about his invention. The Research Library has been working on the problem since 1979.

Don't get me wrong here - I'm not trying to contest any inventor's claims, just point out that the idea is nothing new. I may have gone a bit overboard, though (as usual). Instead, I am more excited about the concept that a car that doesn't pollute could make it to our shores.

But, what happened to good old American ingenuity? Right now, it appears to be in France. Beyond the company's website, here's a short explanation on how the car will work.

So far, it appears that we've only been studying it and studying it. It appears that as far as building goes, all we've been able to produce so far is a Lego air engine.

At least it's not a lot of hot air, and looks like it has the potential to change the world. Question is, will the Motor City and Big Oil support it?

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Sunday, January 25, 2004 at 12:12. Comments Closed (1) |



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