Ok so very busy today, but more minimum contacts discussion

Today at work I spent a lot of time with the attorney and several consultations with potential clients. Not the least of which being a defense case for someone charged with first and second degree Murder, as well as a number of serious injury claims.

 

Today in Civil Procedure we look at a case that attempts, unsuccessfully, to stretch the boundaries of minimum contacts, in World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286 (1980). In this case there is an automobile accident that occurs in the State of Oklahoma, in which the party Woodson was severely injured not only by the negligence tort of the other driver, but because the gas tank in their vehicle apparently exploded due to a defective design. They sought to recover against the manufacturer and sales company that sold them the vehicle in Messina, NY. They claim that the very nature of the automobile in its mobility and the foreseeability that it could travel anywhere should satisfy the minimum contacts test set up in International Shoe v. Washington. The court disagrees. However, we begin to see the stretching and expanding with a dissension of Justice Brennan who feels that the rest of the court is looking at International shoe too narrowly.

Minimum Contacts Test- 2 cases and a Hypo from E&E Book


Here I discuss two of the early cases we go over in class involving personal jurisdiction and the courts beginning to establish some boundaries  in the “Minimum Contacts Test.” These cases essentially turn on the defendant’s purposeful availment, or lack there of.

McGee v. International Life Insurance Co., 355 U.S. 220 (1957).

Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235 (1958).

The importance of Jurisdiction in Civil Procedure. Venue/Forum Shopping

Ok, so this is my youtube video debut. Here I briefly discuss the concept of jurisdiction and how venue/forum can impact the outcome of a case significantly. Also re-touching on the issues in the cases that we will discuss in Civil Procedure 2, and that many times we will not know the ultimate outcome of the merits of a case. Some discussion of International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945) as it introduces the concept of “minimum contacts” to determine personal jurisdiction.

Assault, False Imprisonment, and Torts to property

This week in torts we continue to discuss intentional torts, as we will for much of the first part of the course. Our tort du jour today (I don’t know french, but I think i was just redundant there) is assault. The assignment for tomorrow’s class also includes false imprisonment and torts to property. The reading has a case covering each of these intentional torts.

Assault:

To fully understand the tort of assault, I think that it’s important to differentiate the difference between a tort and a criminal act. I only do so at this point because assault, like some of the other intentional torts, also have a corresponding criminal act in most jurisdictions. These are different claims, carry different burdens of proof, and in some jurisdictions have different elements. The results of each are different as well. There is a penalty to the defendant in a criminal proceeding that is typically a fine to the state, possibly jail time or some probationary sentence, and occasionally restitution to the victim. The victim in a criminal proceeding is represented by the State, whereas in a tort claim they are now the plaintiff, and represented by private counsel. The tort system is really about one thing: money, and the damages that allow for a monetary recovery to the plaintiff.

Cullison v. Medley, 570 N.E.2d 27 (Ind. 1991).

This is a case in which plaintiff, Cullison, allegedly meets a young girl and invites her to come to his home and “share a Coke,” and inquiry that apparently disgusts the girl and angers her family once they learn of the offer, which as described in the case is somewhat sketchy. However, later that evening Cullison is in bed in his trailer park domicile when he hears a knock at his door. After getting dressed, he finds several family members of the young girl in his living room, one of which has a gun, and another who allegedly pats her pocket to which Cullison is to imply that she has a gun. Through the course of the exchange, Ernest, who has the holstered gun, several times threatens to “jump astraddle” of Cullison. Cullison’s claim for assault, seeking monetary damages of course, is based on the emotional distress that is caused by these threats to his life. In trial court, defendant(s) Medley file for summary judgement, and are successful. This is somewhat based on the fact that the damages claimed by Cullison are strictly emotional, and there is no physical harm done to him. On appeal, this court finds differently, and denotes more of the theory behind the elements of assault. The court looks to an almost 90 year old case in holding “an assault constitutes ‘a touching of the mind if not of the body.'” Kline v. Kline, 158 Ind. 602 (1901). They solidify that the threat of a battery(unwanted touching), and not an actual battery itself constitute the tort of Assault. They bring back our favorite “reasonable person standard” to conclude that a jury could reasonable conclude that the Medleys intended to frighten Cullison when surrounding him and threatening bodily harm upon him. They remand the case back for a jury to determine whether or not a reasonable person in Cullison’s position would feel the same way.

One of the key points in this case seems to be the imminent or immediate danger that the plaintiff feels as a result of the assault. Essentially, in order to have been assaulted in a tortuous manor, one must feel the apprehension against the harm happening immediately, and not as a result of a future threat of battery.

 

False Imprisonment:

McCann v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 210 F.3d 51 (1st Cir. 2000).

From my limited understanding, this case is the classic example of false imprisonment. Here there is a family who is shopping in a wal-mart and as they are leaving are apprehended by employees of the wal-mart, staying that they are suspected of shoplifting. In this particular instance, the children were identified as those who had previously shoplifted in the past at the store. The staff members physically blocked the family from leaving the store, and guided them to a room for investigation. At the time the family though the police was being called, but the Wal-Mart employees were bringing in some sort of loss control agent who had investigated the shopliftings, who verified that these kids were not the ones who committed the prior act. The trial court awarded the family $20,000 in compensatory damages for the confinement. The elements of False Imprisonment are as follows:

1. Intent to confine another

2. Actually confining another

3. Confining another within boundaries fixed by the actor

4. Of which the victim is conscious of the confinement or is harmed by it

It is important to note that the elements merely stipulate intent, not any type of bad motive or malicious intent.

Upon appeal, the court finds that Maine law seems to have somewhat different elements which require the jury to find “actual physical restraint” but find that the law may take that phrase too literally, and essentially changes the interpretation of it, affirming the ruling of the trial court.

Torts to property:

The book breaks down three different torts to property which involve direct application of force, which are:

Trespass to Land- intentionally entering the land of another, or intentionally causing an object to enter the land of another.

Conversion of chattels- The intent to “exercise substantial dominion overt the chattel” which essentially means to take something as if it were one’s own. This doesn’t necessarily mean theft, although it sounds like it at first glance.

Trespass to chattels- Interfering with the enjoyment of property, which causes harm.

There isn’t much in depth discussion of these torts to property in the book, so I look forward to class discussion to solidify some of the concepts, and will update accordingly.

 

 

I didn’t really read this weekend! Uh oh

So this should be an interesting week. Despite having an extra day off for MLK day yesterday, I failed to really do any of the required reading for my classes this week. I am fairly non-stop when I get to work, in fact half of the time I am taking calls related to work before even getting there. Having 2 kids and the associated family duties sure makes time management difficult. Normally I would use the train ride into Baltimore from Perryville for my reading time, but I stayed home to help get the kids ready, and didn’t make the train. Its not incredibly easy, or legal for that matter, to read while driving. I must relegate some of my ability to undertstand the material to Daniel Fessler and his fantastic and seemingly timeless PMBR audio recordings for contracts, but while the bar testable concepts and materials are covered in the audio, the specific cases discussed in classes are not.

Fortunately the reading for Civ Pro for tuesday’s class was merely 2 cases, covering 3 whole pages. Those were somewhat simple to knock out. Fortunately, one of the things that the PMBR audio has helped me to do, was understand the concepts, and read just the cases themselves if I am in a pinch, and not necessarily the commentary of the authors. Note: The guides on the right hand side (Examples and explanations) are fantastic guides for solidifying the concepts in the main books, providing additional hypotheticals and fact patterns for studying.

I also suggest buying these books (click my links so I make a couple cents when you buy them) because there are only so many sources for law school exam fact patterns. This is not to say that your professor(s) will use books like this, but last semester I can say that there were some glaring similarities between some of the fact patterns in Examples & explanations and the fact patterns on at least one of my exam questions.

Playing catch-up on reading at midnight(ish)

Ok, so it’s tuesday night, just after midnight and I’ve caught up on reading, at least until tomorrow night’s tort’s class. My hope is to crack open a little bit of time in the middle of the day tomorrow to possibly do a video blog discussing the concept of forum shopping in Civil Procedure. It’s somewhat one of the more conceptually frustrating courses, in the sense that the merits of the claims themselves are often irrelevant, and that the issues turn on whether or not there was some sort of procedural snafu. So far in Civ Pro 2, it seems that the big focus is on jurisdiction, both over the parties, and over the subject matter.

More on this tomorrow. Time to get some sleep and try to get out of the house by 5:50am!

International Shoe v. Washington (Civil Procedure 2)

Welcome to Civ Pro 2, and the discussion of “minimum contacts” in determining a court’s personal jurisdiction over a party, most specifically a defendant.

It’s somewhat non-standard, from what I gather, to start with this case and not the landmark case Pennoyer v. Neff. In this case we discuss a company, International shoe, who decides to deploy roughly a dozen or so sales people into the state of Washington to solicit business for their company. The company is incorporated in the State of Delaware, and makes their home base in Missouri. The State of Washington sues International Shoe for proceeds to be paid into the state’s unemployment fund, which they feel they are due for the past 3 years in which International Shoe has their sales members on the staff.

In this case the court draws new lines for determining personal jurisdiction over a defendant, throwing aside the prior precedent of Pennoyer v. Neff ( I will return later to analyze PvN for clarity). The court declares that since the business that International Shoe is doing within the state is continuous in nature and satisfies the new idea of them, the defendant, having minimum contacts with the state, and therefore the lawsuit can proceed.

 

Note: Most of the cases discussed in Civil procedure will have very little to do with the merits of the case itself. The issue in International Shoe v. Washington was whether or not the State could sue the company in the state of Washington, versus suing in Missouri or Delaware, in which there would be no such appeal on personal jurisdiction.

Contracts 2- Unjust enrichment

This spring semester I have Contracts 2, Civil Procedure 2 and Torts.

Contracts 2 should be somewhat interesting, as I have the same professor as Contracts 1, and we’re basically picking up where we left off last semester. To note: of my grades last semester, my biggest success of the three classes was in Contracts 1, so I certainly am looking to pick up where I left off.

 

Today’s discussion: Unjust enrichment.

Today we’re looking at unjust enrichment, and a discussion on a number of situations that draw the line between those who are doing work in a contract without due compensation, and those parties who choose to be “officious intermedlers” such as the guy who unilaterally decides to mow your lawn, then and only then upon completion without your acknowledgement that there would be any compensation, to ask for payment for his services.

We’ve discussed a number of cases in the chapter here:

Martin v Little, Brown & Co., 304 Pa. Super. 424, 450 A.2d 984 (1981).

This is a case where James Martin uncovers that a book that was published by Little, Brown & Co. was supposedly plagiarized in another title. After turning in the info to Little, Brown & Co., and without any discussion of such a finder’s fee, extends his hand hoping to receive 1/3 of the fee that they win against the plagiarizer. This is a fairly straight forward case in which the court finds that since there was no explicit conversation and agreement as to how, if at all, Martin would be compensated, that he was not entitled to such compensation. Therefore Little, Brown & Co. was not unjustly enriched through the voluntary work of Martin.

Feingold v. Pucello, 439 Pa. Super. 509, 654 A.2d 1093 (1995).

This is another case that Blum & Bushaw use to illustrate some sort of connection between tort lawyers(personal injury lawyers) and issues of professional responsibility. In this case Pucello was the victim of an automobile accident, and Feingold, a lawyer, discussed helping him out in recovering for his injuries and other damages. There is no specific discussion as to his fee, and at first he does not have Pucello sign any fee agreement. After doing some work on the case, including helping Pucello get a doctor’s appointment, getting the defendant insurance company to admit liability, and other “early stage” sorts of things that a lawyer would do in a case like this, Feingold sends the fee agreement to Pucello, with a 50% contingency. As most clients in his situation would likely do, Pucello balks at such a hefty fee and says “no thanks, I’ll find someone else to help” and refuses any of the work product from Feingold. Feingold sues seeking some portion of the fee that he feels that he is entitled to for the work he has done thus far. The court finds that since there is no contract, and the reason behind Pucello rejecting the fee agreement is the absurd level of the contingency, that Feingold is not entitled to a fee or a portion of the fee in this case.

In Estate of Cleveland v. Gorden, 837 S.W.2d 68 (1992) we look at the only case this chapter where the one who feels another is unjustly enriched actually wins the case. Here, the niece of a decedent is attempting to be reimbursed by the estate for monies that she  output through the course of her aunt’s lifetime, and the time approaching death. These expenses included medical expenses, and other related expenses. The court in this case found that Ms. Gorden was acting out of a sense of family or moral obligation, and that the decedent knew that she expected to be reimbursed for her expenses that she made on Ms. Cleveland’s behalf. Normally, however, one who voluntarily and officiously pays another’s debts is not entitled to reimbursement unless the payment is made under  the compulsion of moral obligation. The court seems to specifically draw such a line between the scenarios of moral obligation and generosity.

Good times in contracts 2, and off to a good start.