Civil Procedure Fact Scenario

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Civil Procedure Fact Scenario

Issue

i) Whether Orestes and Willard Family Park are civilly liable for negligently causing the injuries to Jackson

ii) Whether the Probate and Family Court in New York has personal and subject matter jurisdiction over the issue.

iii) Whether the time limit for service to Orestes has been exceeded

iv) Whether Larry Lawyer and Richard Barrister have a duty to provide witness deposition testimonies and to disclose the identity of the expert witness and other testifying witnesses respectively.

Rule

Issue one: Under the common law, it is imperative for a negligence claim to contain these elements: a duty of care owed by the defendant; breach of said duty of care; causation; and damages (Schubert 405).

Issue two: Pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court is only permitted to assume power over claims over which it possesses authorization to hear as dictated by the laws if its jurisdiction. Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court can only obtain personal jurisdiction over a defendant if service occurs in the state in which that court sits and the defendant willingly makes a court appearance. Furthermore, under the US Constitution, before a court is permitted to exercise its power over a party, it must establish that this party satisfies stipulated minimum contacts with the court’s forum. 

Issue three: Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, notice of filing of an action must be presented to the defendant within 90 days of the filing of a complaint.

Issue four: Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, parties are mandated, without having to be requested, to avail the names and where possible the addresses and contacts of all individuals who may possess information deemed to be discoverable. Furthermore, parties are mandated to reveal the identities of any expert witnesses whose evidence they seek to present during trial.

Application issue 1

In the consideration of matters regarding duty of care and its potential breach by Orestes, it is imperative to consider several elements. The first element to consider in this instance is the age of the defendant. Orestes, at the time of the occurrence of the act, was aged ten. Under tort law, duty of care refers to an individual’s responsibility to behave in a certain manner to avoid bringing injuries onto others. For adults, this general standard for duty of care under common law is that of a reasonably prudent in circumstances of a similar nature (Schubert 406). However, for children below 18 years, the expectation must be that of a “reasonable child” since it is impossible to apply the “reasonable person” standard. That is, the question presented by the court will be what a ten-year old with a similar life experience and mental capacity as Orestes would have done. For duty of care to arise, it is also mandatory to demonstrate that Willard Family Park knew or ought to have known about the possibility of injury occurring to others due to the minor’s riding of the horse.

A plaintiff may only support an action for negligence in a case where a reasonable connection between the defendant’s negligent action and the plaintiff, which is a concept called causation (Schubert 412). However, the mere establishment of factual causation is insufficient and proximate cause, which consists of causation in fact as determined by the “but for” test and foreseeability. The “but for test” posits that liability exists in circumstances where if not for the defendant’s negligence, the plaintiff’s injuries may not have occurred (Schubert 413). Under this rule, Orestes may be liable because if he had not been riding so close to the plaintiff then the severity of the injuries would not have been to that extent. Similarly, Willard Family Park may incur liability because the collision between Jackson and Orestes would not have occurred but for Willard’s negligence in not enforcing the minimum distance. However, since it is imperative for limits on an action be established, courts usually apply proximate cause rather than causation in fact in the determination of liability. In this case, the facts suggest that the proximate cause of injury was Jackson falling from his horse and not the collision with Orestes’ horse, which consequently would absolve them of any charges.

Foreseeability, which dictates that one may only be held liable for consequences that could were easily predictable.  According to the facts, Orestes did not adhere to instructions issued by Willard staff and he was riding dangerously close to Jackson. Consequently, the employees ought to have foreseen that this was likely to result in disaster should an accident occur thus making them liable. However, Orestes could nor reasonably have foreseen that Jackson would fall from his horse so he cannot be liable under this rule.

Conclusion

No. Neither Orestes nor Willard are civilly liable for negligently causing injurious harm to Jackson.

Application issue 2

In International Shoe Co. v. Greatness, 326 U.S. 310 (1945), the court opined that the exercise of jurisdiction by any court on a party who has no contacts with a certain state and thus has no reasonable expectation of being hailed by a court in that state was unfair. This doctrine is also referred to as the “minimum contacts” rule and it is the guiding factor in the determination of a court’s in personam jurisdiction over an individual. It is imperative that a court dispenses with the matter of whether or not it possesses jurisdiction to hear a matter before addressing other issues in the case (Schubert        125). The facts here state that Larry Lawyer filed his negligence cases against on behalf of Jackson, a resident of New Jersey, in New York with Willard and Orestes sued separately. However, the incident occurred in Montana where Willard operates from and Orestes hails from Maine. Willard’s operations do not extend as far as New York and they have no contractual obligation pending with anyone from that state. Similarly, Orestes has no connection with New York, is not residing there at the time of filing, and cannot therefore have a reasonable expectation of being hailed before a court in that state. The mere existence of products in the “stream of commerce” is not sufficient third party establish the existence of minimum contact and it is imperative that the individual demonstrates some activity. Consequently, the New York court cannot purport to exercise any jurisdiction over Orestes. Likewise, Willard Family Park has no reasonable justification to believe that a lawsuit may be instituted against them in New York and consequently, the court cannot claim to have in personam jurisdiction over this issue.

State legislatures, in accordance with their respective state constitutions, may enact statutes dictating the subject matter jurisdictions of different courts and establishing specialized courts for example probate courts (Schubert 126). Subject matter jurisdiction refers to the specific types of controversies that a certain court may litigate. For example, the Probate and Family Court has its jurisdiction limited to matters involving the estates of deceased persons and other family matters like divorce and child custody (Schubert 126). Thus, Larry Lawyer’s filing of the negligence suit in the Probate and Family Court is erroneous because unlike personal jurisdiction, this type of jurisdiction is impossible to waive and as posited in Joyce v. United States, 474 F.2d 215 (3d Cir.1973), any judgment rendered by a court that does not possess subject-matter jurisdiction is considered permanently null.

Conclusion                                 

No. A court sitting in New York does not have in personam

jurisdiction over the matter.

No. The Probate and Family Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over a negligence case.

Application Issue 3

Service of summons to Orestes only occurred 11 months after the filing of the suit. The FRCP rule 4 (m) posits that failure to serve a defendant within a period of 90 days after the filing of a complaint provides grounds for dismissal of the action whether on motion or on the court’s initiative. In this case, service occurred beyond the 90-day deadline without the plaintiff obtaining the leave of the court and providing sufficient reason for the delay. Consequently, the defendant Orestes can petition the court to dismiss the case for lack of service. However, depending on the reasons provided for the failure of service, the court may deny the motion to dismiss.

Conclusion

Probably yes. The Court may grant the motion to dismiss for failure of service within the stipulated deadline.

Application issue 4

Larry Lawyer when requested by Richard Barrister to provide deposition transcripts refuses to disclose these testimonies whereas Richard Barrister declines to reveal the identities of both his expert witness and other testifying witnesses. Rule 26 (a) (1) of the FRCP necessitates the disclosure of names, addresses, and contacts of all individuals who may have discoverable information, while Rule 26 (a) (3) mandates the provision of copies of pertinent sections of witness depositions. Furthermore, Rule 26 (a) (2) necessitates the disclosure of expert witnesses’ identities and the provision of reports by these witnesses. Consequently, the refusal by both these parties to comply with the requirements is a flagrant violation of the FRCP and the court can necessitate the compliance with these provisions.

Conclusion

Yes. The court will necessitate that both parties comply with the disclosure requirements.

Evidence Fact Scenario

Issue

i) Whether evidence of Matthew’s prior convictions is admissible

ii) Whether character evidence provided by Mrs. Crabapple is admissible

iii) Whether evidence of Matthew’s offer to pay for Nicolai’s medical expenses is admissible

Rule

Issue one: Under the Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE), Rule 609, prior criminal convictions are only admissible if the conviction was punishable by a jail term of more than one year and the value of this evidence is not prejudicial to the defendant

Issue Two: Under the FRE Rule 404, evidence of an individual’s character traits or character is inadmissible in proving that the individual’s actions on a particular occasion were in keeping with his character or character traits

Issue Three: Under the FRE Rule 409, evidence of actual, promised, or offered settlement of hospital, medical or similar expenses emanating from injuries is inadmissible as proof of liability for the said injuries

Application issue one

Matthew is accused of violently assaulting Nicolai, and has prior convictions for assault and disorderly conduct dating back two decades. Pursuant to the FRE Rule 609, prior criminal convictions may only be admissible whereby the crime committed was, in the jurisdiction of conviction, punishable by the death sentence or a jail term of more than one year. Furthermore, to ensure that the prosecution does not exploit this evidence to gain an unfair advantage, the rule pegs admissibility on “whether the probative value outweighs its prejudicial effect on the defendant” ("Federal Rules of Evidence"). Another applicable caveat to the admissibility of the prior conviction was how long ago it took place with convictions dating back ten or more years only being permissible if their probative value is more than any prejudice they may cause. Probative value means that the evidence can provide proof of an element that is integral to the case (Schubert 170). Thus, the prosecution’s argument could be that the priors, although they occurred decades ago, are proof of Matthew’s violent nature. However, Matthew can argue that 20 years is a long time and that his clean record since then is evidence of reformation, would render his past records immaterial and thus their admission would serve no purpose other than to prejudice him in the eyes of the court.

Conclusion

 Probably No. The Court will probably reject the admissibility of prior convictions due to the duration that has lapsed since then.

Application issue two

One of the prosecution witnesses, Mrs. Crabapple who was Matthew’s high school teacher, testifies as to his unsavory character, stating that he had a propensity for violence dating back to an early age. This type of testimony, falls under character evidence, which according to Rule 404 of the FRE is inadmissible where it seeks to establish that an individual at a particular time, acted in a manner consistent with an identified trait or character. However, admissibility of character evidence is permissible where the prosecution’s intention is the establishment of “motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake, or lack of accident” ("Federal Rules of Evidence"). In this instance, the implication of Mrs. Crabapple’s testimony is that Matthew, in assaulting Nicolai, was acting in line with a previously established pattern of behavior, which merely serves to profile him and not establish any of the stated exception. Consequently, this evidence cannot be considered admissible.

Conclusion

 No. Character evidence provided by Mrs. Crabapple is inadmissible.

Application issue three

Matthew, after attacking and severely injuring Nicolai, immediately offers to settle the medical expenses that would be incurred in treating those injuries but the district attorney still opts to charge him with assault. During trial, the prosecution attempts to introduce the offer to pay for treatment into evidence. When considering whether such evidence is permissible, the guiding framework is Rule 409 of the FRE, which posits that “Evidence of furnishing, promising to pay, or offering to pay medical, hospital, or similar expenses resulting from an injury is not admissible to prove liability for the injury” ("Federal Rules of Evidence"). Offering to settle such expenses cannot be construed as an admission of guilt because an individual may make such an offer for altruistic reasons and holding such a position would discourage a well-wisher from assisting an injured person lest he be accused of having caused the injury. Thus, despite the prosecution pursuing this as a line of questioning, an admission by Matthew to having made such an offer could not be perceived as evidence of his guilt. Instead, the defendant can argue that upon witnessing the nature of Nicolai’s injuries, he as a minister was immediately struck with sympathy and he like the Biblical Good Samaritan, recognized the need for immediate medical assistance thus prompting him to offer to settle the bills.

Conclusion

No. The offer made by Matthew to Nicolai to settle his medical bills is not admissible evidence.

Criminal Law Fact Scenario

Issue

i) Whether Davis can be charged for the robbery of Winnie’s laptop

ii) Whether Winnie can be charged with manslaughter over the death of Ulysses

iii) Whether Winnie can be charged with sexual abuse of a minor arising from her relationship with Rex

Rule

Issue one: Under the common law, the crime of robbery necessitates the following elements: larceny or theft of money or property; the use of fear or physical force by an offender against the victim.

Issue two: Under the common law, conviction for a crime necessitates the existence of three elements: actus reus; mens rea; and causation. Under 18 U.S. Code § 1112 manslaughter entails an unlawful killing that is absent of malice.

Issue three: Under 18 U.S. Code § 2243, sexual abuse of a minor entails two elements: knowingly engaging in a sexual act with another person who-

(1) has attained the age of 12 years but has not attained the age of 16 years; and

(2) is at least four years younger than the person so engaging

("[USC03] 18 USC 2243: Sexual Abuse of a Minor or Ward")

Application

Issue one

Under common law, conviction for a crime is premised on the legal maxim of Actus Non Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea, which means that an act can only be considered illegal if an individual has a guilty mind during its commission. Consequently, common law dictates that there must be proof of both the criminal act and an intent to commit it before a conviction can result. Acts of a criminal nature typically comprise of actus reus, which is the physical, illegal action, and mens rea, which describes the guilty mind from which the act stems. Furthermore, for robbery, common law dictates that both theft and the actual or threatened violence must be present. In this case, both the common law requirements to establish criminal behavior are present. First, by forcibly depriving Winnie of her laptop, Davis fulfils the actus reus requirement because this is an illegal and voluntarily executed act. The mens rea, on the other hand, is provable because Davis entered the liquor store with no other intention but to execute a crime. By striking Winnie severally, Davis satisfies the physical violence requirement for a robbery while fleeing with the laptop is evidence of the theft or larceny requirement.

Conclusion

 Yes. Sufficient evidence exists to prosecute and convict Davis for robbery.

Application issue two

Pursuant to 18 U.S. Code § 1112, the crime of manslaughter necessitates the commission of an act that leads to the unlawful death of another person but the killing must be devoid of any malice by the perpetrator. Manslaughter may be either voluntary whereupon its occurrence takes place in the heat of passion or after a sudden quarrel; or it may be involuntary, whereby death results from the engagement of the perpetrator in an unlawful, non-felonious action or in a lawful action albeit unlawfully performed or without due regard to circumspect and caution.  Thus, the key differentiating factor between murder and manslaughter is whether the intended consequence was death.

The common law requirements of actus reus, mens rea, and causation also apply in the determination of whether one may be charged with manslaughter. In this case, Winnie sets out after Davis with the intent of exacting revenge upon him for attacking her during the robbery incident but she instead attacks and kills another person whom she mistakenly confuses for Davis. Hence, in this case, therefore, the prosecution may argue that Winnie has a guilty mind because she fully intends to hurt Davis. However, because it is not obvious that Winnie’s intention when striking the blow was to kill the man whom she erroneously believed to be Davis and not just to seriously injure him, a murder charge would probably be unsustainable. Furthermore, a possible mitigation that cements the manslaughter argument is that Winnie’s action was prompted by an emotion- anger, which had been ignited by Davis’ violent robbery. However, the other two requirements are relatively straightforward. Winnie’s unlawful action of striking Ulysses with a crowbar constitutes actus reus with causation being established by the fact that it is this blow that causes Ulysses to fall and violently hit his head thus causing his death. Thus, all three elements of a crime are present but Winnie only acted out of anger and not because of malice.

Conclusion

 Yes. Winnie can be prosecuted for the voluntary manslaughter of Ulysses.

Application issue three

Since last year, Winnie, aged 30, has been living with her boyfriend Rex, whom unknown to her, was a minor aged fourteen. Under 18 U.S. Code § 2243, engagement in sexual relations with an individual aged below 16 is a crime punishable by a fine, a jail term of up to 15 years or both. Under common law, it is a requirement that both actus reus and mens rea

be present before an action can be deemed to be of a criminal nature. However, as was held in Regina v. Prince, L.R. 2 C.C.R. 154 (1875), an exception is often made for cases involving sexual offenses with underage individuals whereby it is unnecessary to establish mens rea since a strict liability standard is applicable (Bonnie, et al. 192). Consequently, the only element that need be established here is the actus reus and in this case, the prosecution can rely on the continued cohabitation and alleged pregnancy of Winnie as evidence of the occurrence of sexual relations between Rex and Winnie. However, in such a prosecution, reasonable belief that the other individual was above the age of consent may serve as a permissible defense but it is imperative that the defendant establishes this through a preponderance of evidence.

Conclusion

 Yes. Winnie can be held criminally liable for engaging in the sexual abuse of a minor.

Works Cited

"[USC03] 18 USC 2243: Sexual Abuse of a Minor or Ward."OLRC Home, uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=granuleid:USC-prelim-title18-section2243&num=0&edition=prelim. Accessed 25 Oct. 2018.

Bonnie, Richard J., et al. Criminal Law. 2nd ed., Foundation Press, 2004.

"Federal Rules of Civil Procedure."LII / Legal Information Institute, 16 May 2018, www.law.cornell.edu/rules/frcp. Accessed 22 Oct. 2018.

"Federal Rules of Evidence."LII / Legal Information Institute, 16 May 2018, www.law.cornell.edu/rules/fre#Rule702. Accessed 23 Oct. 2018.

Schubert, Frank A. Introduction to Law and the Legal System. 10th ed., Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2012.

December 12, 2023
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