How much do jury instructions matter? How much do they influence juror decision making? Some studies have suggested they matter little. Assuming they do matter, do these instructions nudge the fact-finder one way or the other way? We will never know for sure. Here is the verdict.
Credit the Rochester Post-Bulletin reporter Jeff Kiger for this story from Olmsted County (and thanks ELG for cluing me in!).
Dr. Franklin Cockerill got all choked up and teary about leaving Mayo Collaborative Services (“MCS”) after 30 years with Mayo and talked about retiring to help his elderly mother manage the family business in Nebraska.
The next day, Dr. Cockerill started work with Quest Diagnostics, Inc., a direct competitor of MCS. “I will be turning my attention to my family’s businesses and philanthropic efforts in my home state of Nebraska,” the doctor told his beloved MCS colleagues. Quest is headquartered in New Jersey, not Nebraska. It is not a Cockerill family business. It does not appear that Dr. Cockerill’s involvement with Quest is philanthropic.
This is a bad way to start off defending a lawsuit in which you are sued for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and theft of trade secrets. Assuming the allegations in the complaint are true, you start the case with an undeniable act of intentional dishonesty.
Query whether Dr. Cockerill and/or Quest sought legal advice as they planned the doctor’s “onboarding.” If so, did they disobey their lawyers’ advice or did they get awful advice?
Previously on Minnesota Litigator, we have covered the battle between Superior Edge, Inc. (“SEI”) and Monsanto (here, linked, is SEI’s complaint and U.S. District Court Judge John R. Tunheim’s (D. Minn.) denial in large part of SEI’s motion to dismiss).
Now SEI will be dealing with a new case brought by Mr. Daniel Ochylski in which Mr. Ochylski alleges that SEI walked away with $100,000 of his money, this one pending before U.S. District Court Judge Joan N. Ericksen (D. Minn.).
Not clear what to make of this but the optics are not good…
Update (October 22, 2014): Congratulations to Katherine Mackinnon on the (partial) win! “I am so excited right now, I could launch into the stratosphere,” Mackinnon tells me. This is a big win for Mackinnon, her client, and all Minnesota insureds.
Update (February 4, 2014): Is it possible that a person might forget about some doctor’s visit and fail to disclose it in a life insurance application? If, soon thereafter, he dies of some wholly unrelated cause, is it fair that the insurance company can rescind the policy based on the decedent’s “misrepresentation and/or omission”? How about if the decedent authorized the life insurance company access to all of his medical records but a third-party health care record provider omitted records that would have put the life insurer on notice of the doctor’s visit that the decedent failed to disclose? No claim for negligence against the record provider?
Kate Mackinnon discussed this case nearly a year ago in her Minnesota Litigator profile as, perhaps, both the best case and the worst case of her long and distinguished career (see below). This past week, the Minnesota Supreme Court has granted plaintiff’s petition for review.
When I first started the practice of personal injury law some thirty years ago, there seemed to be a bedrock consensus about certain principles of law and procedure underlying the civil justice system. Lawyers and judges of all stripes tended to agree to them. One of those ideas was the oft recited mantra in court opinions that favored resolution of claims on the merits rather than by technicalities.
That is a notion that has taken a bit of a beating over the last thirty years. Through a drip, drip, drip of unfavorable court decisions, hostile legislation, crowded dockets, new filing requirements and assorted trip wires, it has become much harder for claimants to get their cases to a jury. In this historical context, it is noteworthy that the Supreme Court just beat back another of those small assaults on the right to get a jury trial. Last week they denied a petition to review the Court of Appeals decision in Pfeiffer v. Allina Health Systems. Continue reading