Posts Tagged ‘fraud’

A Remedy Remains: “Stolen Valor” is Still Fraud

July 16, 2012

by Sara B. Morgan, Esq.

Although the Supreme Court recently overturned the Stolen Valor Act of 2006, there are still legal consequences for lying about receiving awards and medals won through military service. Indeed, the ruling in U.S. v. Alvarez does not constitute an endorsement for stealing valor.

Instead, in finding the Act unconstitutional, the Court determined only that imposing federal criminal charges for such conduct violated the First Amendment protection of free speech. However, nothing about the High Court’s ruling disturbs the laws of torts or precludes any civil action by private parties. So, if I bestow something of value upon a person because of his misrepresentations about military service awards, I can still sue to get it back. Further, I may be able to get what are known as punitive damages, which are a monetary award designed to punish this type of despicable behavior.

The Duty to Disclose STDs — The One that Never Goes Away

May 22, 2012

In a recent local case [Behr v. Redmond, (2011) 193 Cal. App. 4th 517], the plaintiff sued the defendant for damages arising from the alleged tortious transmission of genital herpes.  Essentially, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant committed fraud when he misrepresented to her that he was free of STDs, knowing this to be false.  Relying on his representation, the plaintiff ultimately contracted genital herpes from her encounter with the defendant.

 After trial, the Riverside County Jury awarded her compensatory damages in the amount of $4,003,600, including $2.5 million for future medical expenses for the treatment of her genital herpes. In a separate trial deciding the issue of punitive damages, the jury awarded the Ms. Behr $2.75 million.

 The decision was based, in part, on long-established California law. “People who know or should know they have genital herpes generally have a duty to avoid sexual contact with unaffected persons or to warn potential partners before sexual contact occurs.” Doe v. Roe (1990) 218 Cal.App.3d 1538, 1545.

 On appeal, the Appellate Court concluded that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s findings that Mr. Redmond was negligent and had also fraudulently concealed the risk of contracting herpes. The jury could reasonably conclude that plaintiff justifiably relied on defendant’s assurance that it was okay to have sex with him.

 The Court of Appeal did, however, make modifications to the award of future medical expenses.  The Court found that plaintiff’s claim that she was now uninsurable to lack factual support and thus struck damages based on this contention.  The Court thus found that plaintiff’s future medical expenses were the cost of her herpes medication over her expected life span.

 The award of punitive damages was not so disproportionate as to render it suspect or to otherwise require reversal. Plaintiff was not entitled to recover expert witness fees because she failed to support her memorandum of costs with a written offer to compromise.

The judgment was affirmed in part and reversed in part. The judgment was reversed as to the cause of action for fraud by misrepresentation. The award of future medical expenses was reduced to from $2.5 million to $72,000, and the total compensatory damages award was reduced to $1,575,600.

PROTECTING A LITIGANT’S RIGHT TO PRIVACY

January 20, 2011

by Sara B. Morgan, Esq.

In today’s modern social environment, it has become increasingly important to manage one’s personal and private information in order to protect against identity theft, fraud, and the like. As participants in a lawsuit, plaintiffs and defendants alike are often required to disclose a great deal of personal information, including financial and medical documents, identification information, and background details. However, one’s mere participation in a lawsuit does not automatically waive the right to privacy, and experienced, competent attorneys can assist clients in protecting their personal information.

For example, in the course of a personal injury lawsuit, a party’s personal information is often collected by a professional photocopier who makes distribution to the appropriate parties. These professional photocopiers are required by law to keep copies of the information collected for at least 6 months after the final resolution of the legal matter. Code of Civil Procedure, Section 2020.440. Maintenance of those files arguably creates a risk of exposing that personal information, especially in light of the ever-advancing developments in electronic technology and associated criminal activity.

However, the best defense, as it were, is a good offense, and the skilled attorneys at Heiting & Irwin are experienced in navigating the waters of discovery. We work tirelessly and diligently to protect our clients’ rights to keep their personal information private by narrowly tailoring the scope of discovery to only those matters at issue in the case. By doing so, we limit the invasiveness of the litigation process by protecting from disclosure as much personal information as possible.

While most clients are not thinking about protecting their personal information when they first call us, we are on the job from day one. We offer free consultations, a warm and inviting office, and a friendly staff to anyone interested in speaking about a potential legal matter with a law firm with over 35 years of experience in catastrophic injuries, wrongful death, auto and motorcycle accidents, medical malpractice, legal malpractice, premises liability, products liability, elder abuse/nursing home negligence, and Worker’s Compensation claims.