Decisions in Criminal and Insurance Law Matters

By FindLaw Staff on January 10, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

People v. Wilkins, G040716, concerned a challenge to a conviction of defendant for first degree murder under the felony murder rule, when a stolen stove fell from defendant's truck and killed a victim. 

In affirming, the court held that it was not unreasonable for the jury to conclude the homicide and the burglary were part of one continuous transaction, inasmuch as defendant was in flight from the scene with his license plates secreted.  The court rejected defendant's argument that the trial court erred in refusing his request to instruct the jury pursuant to CALCRIM No. 3261 as, the Supreme Court has held that instruction on the "continuous-transaction" doctrine is sufficient to inform the jury on the duration of a felony for purposes of the felony-murder rule and that the escape rule, which terminates a felony at the point the perpetrator reaches a place of temporary safety, defines the scope of an underlying felony for certain ancillary purposes and not for felony-murder purposes.  The court also held that, given defendant's record and described by the seasoned judge as "chilling," as well as the fact that the jury found defendant guilty of first degree murder, defendant's argument that the 25 years to life sentence imposed is cruel and unusual is rejected.

People v. Morehead, D055889, concerned a conviction of defendant for various offenses arising from an attempted bank robbery and a sentence of 200 years to life plus 10 years.  In affirming, the court held that the evidence of actual and reasonable fear is overwhelming and any error in failing to explain the actual-and-reasonable-fear concept to the jury did not affect the outcome and was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.  The court also held that substantial evidence supports defendant's convictions of the robbery and attempted robbery counts.

In re Miranda, C062411, concerned a parolee's petition for a writ of habeas corpus claiming that the Board of Parole Hearings violated his due process rights at a parole-suitability hearing in 2007 because its determination that he was not suitable for parole was not supported by "some evidence" that he remained dangerous.

In denying the petition, the court held that, contrary to petitioner's argument that his petition is not moot because, if it is found that the Board violated his due process rights in the 2007 parole-suitability hearing, the court can credit the time he should have been released toward his parole period, the California Supreme Court recently held that the remedy for a violation of due process at a parole-suitability hearing is a new hearing comporting with due process.  The court also held that, because the petitioner has been released, a new hearing is unnecessary, and as such, even assuming the Board violated petitioner's due process rights at the 2007 parole-suitability hearing, the petition is moot.

Dobbas v. Vitas, C061494, concerned an insurer's suit to recover its payment to the injured parties from a broker who failed to procure or canceled excess liability insurance to cover the insured's ranching operations, arising from an underlying action against the insured for a fatal automobile accident caused by the insured's escaped bull.

In affirming the trial court's denial of the insurer's request to intervene in the negligence and breach of contract action against the broker, the court held that, because the insurer would have been responsible for its share of the injury even if the policy promised by the broker had been in place, it is not entitled to reimbursement, but only to apportionment of the loss.  The court also held that where two parties are contractually bound to provide insurance for the same loss, the payment by one does not create superior equities, rather a right to equitable contribution, and as such, the trial court correctly concluded the insurer has no interest in the action against the insurance agent because the insurer cannot establish the elements of a claim for equitable subrogation.

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