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Entries in constitution (1)

Friday
Sep022011

A few new appellate decisions before Labor Day

The appellate world has been rather busy lately.  Consider the following:

      In Stinnett v. Tam, 2011 Cal.App. LEXIS 1153, the Fifth Appellate District, the plaintiff challenged the MICRA statute in Civil Code 3333.2, which limits "non-economic" damages to $250,000 in any action against a health care provider based on professional negligence.  The court reduced a $6 million non-economic damage award.  The plaintiff argued the reduction violated her right to equal protection, as well as her right to a jury trial.  The court found these arguments to be without merit and affirmed the judgment.

      Okay, I couldn't resist In re Forchion, 2011 Cal.App. LEXIS 1144, in which the Second Appellate District was presented with the issue of whether an individual can change his name to the name of his web site, including the .com.  The petitioner, Robert Edward Forchion, Jr., who manages a Rastafarian temple in Los Angeles and operates a medical marijuana dispensary, wanted to change his name, consistent with his national reputation, to NJWeedman.com.  He first tried to change his name in New Jersey, but that state said no.  The court noted that a name change could last indefinitely, but petitioner might lose his domain name for various reasons.  If someone obtained that domain name later, then petitioner's personal name might result in confusion.  I'll bet that is the first time a name change has been denied for a business reason.  The court stated, "In sum, personal names and domain names should not overlap; they belong in distinct realms.  Domain names were created for use on the Internet and should be limtied to assisting a user in finding a desired Web site.  By the same token, we should not treat a peson as part of a domain."  The court also indicated that a name change to NJWeedman, without the .com, would meet the same result.

     In Bullock v. Philip Morris USA, Inc. (2011) 198 Cal.App.4th 543, a case that has been litigated and appealed on several occasions, the parties were back in court after a jury awarded the plaintiff $13.8 million in punitive damages.  A jury had previously awarded $850,000 in compensatory damages.  The court upheld the punitive damage award based on Philip Morris's conduct in intentionally deceiving the public for several decades concerning the adverse health effects of cigarettes, formulating them to make the cigarettes more addictive, and aggressively advertising to youths.  The award is approximately 16 times the compensatory award and was not considered constitutionally excessive.  This case will probably give plaintiff's attorneys some hope that not all courts are moving toward a 1:1 ratio with compensatory damages.

       In Coalition for a Sustainable Future in Yucaipa v. City of Yucaipa, 2011 Cal.App. LEXIS 1117,  the plaintiff sued over the proposed approval of a new shopping center.  While the appeal was pending, the project was abandoned and the appeal became moot.  In considering whether to abandon the appeal, the court of appeal held a dismissal of an appeal constitutes an affirmance of the lower court's ruling.  Maybe not such a good idea as the judgment could have an effect on future litigaiton.  The better solution was to reverse based on mootness, with directions to the trial court to dismiss the complaint.

That's enough for now.  Time to start the Labor Day Weekend.  Enjoy!