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Case Update

The big case out of Columbus this week was Angel v. Reed, a personal injury case arising out of an automobile accident.  The police report indicated the defendant was insured by Nationwide, but it turned out the company had cancelled his policy before the accident.  Angel eventually made a claim against her insurance company under the uninsured motorist coverage. 

The "eventually" part was the problem; the policy had a two-year limit for filing claims, and Angel had filed hers after that time had elapsed.  She claimed that the the period for filing a claim didn't being to run until she discovered that the defendant was uninsured.  Not so, said the Court, especially since she could have found that out simply by contacting Nationwide.  The moral, of course, is to do your due diligence; my guess is that the next insurance company Angel's lawyers contact will be their own.

On to the courts of appeals...

Civil.  Where defendant is sued for injuries, his conviction of aggravated assault estops him from claiming injuries were accidental so as to obtain coverage under his homeowner's policy... 9th District reverses grant of summary judgment in slip and fall case, says crack in sidewalk was not open and obvious, plaintiff had no duty to constantly look downward... 10th District holds that evidence of amount of write-off of plaintiff's medical bills was properly admitted, under Robinson v. Bates, discussed here... Where court imposed fine on attorney under Rule 11 as sanctions for frivolous pleading, attorney must file appeal within thirty days of ruling, says 9th District, or appellate court loses jurisdiction... Although court docket reflects that plaintiff filed brief in opposition to motion for summary judgment, document isn't contained in appellate record; 9th District says it's appellant's duty to make sure record is complete, affirms because in absence of brief, it presumes regularity of proceedings below...

Criminal.  3rd District holds that written communications between spouses aren't covered by marital privilege, also holds that where husband is imprisoned, parties aren't living under "coverture" for purposes of privilege... 10th District upholds identification where witness is shown defendant in handcuffs; also incorrectly assumes defendant is contesting out-of-court identification, instead of identification at trial... 9th District says that defendant waived his claim that trial court improperly gave him maximum sentence for disorderly conduct by not objecting to it at sentencing... 7th District holds that trial judge's sentencing of defendant to consecutive terms because of judge's policy to impose "multiple punishments for multiple crimes" wasn't contrary to law, which it says is the standard for appellate review of sentencing, rather than abuse of discretion...

Apparently, the strategy was to get him convicted.  In State v. Labora, the defendant claimed that his attorney was ineffective for failing to object, among other things, to his being tried in jail clothes.  The 5th District points to defense counsel's opening statement, which began

First of all, ladies and gentlemen, let me try to humanize Ricky Labora a little bit as he sits there in his jail garb and tattoos, obviously having been transported from the jail where he's been held pending this trial.

The attorney followed up by saying that Ricky had been arrested at the home he'd lived in for 30 years, that he'd held the same job for that length of time, and that his wife of 25 years had died shortly been arrested.  The court concluded that the "jail garb" statement, along with the others, "was definitely used to gain sympathy from the jury," and thus fell within the scope of trial strategy.

Here's my question:  do you think the jury might have been more sympathetic to the stuff about Rickey's living in the same house and working the same job for 30 years, and his wife dying, if the jury hadn't seen him in "jail garb and tattoos"?


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