Thursday, July 05, 2007

Corder v. Corder (Cal. Supreme Ct. - July 5, 2007)

I thought that both the majority and the dissenting opinions in the Court of Appeal were better -- and more persuasive -- than the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court here.

As I said before, it's a tough case. The central issue (Section C of the Supreme Court's opinion) concerns how one allocates a substantial settlement in a wrongful death action when the two recipients of the settlement are (1) the adult sister, who had little contact with the decedent, and (2) the decedent's wife, who (the evidence showed) was prostituting behind the decedent's back and whom the decedent was allegedly about to leave. Neither one seems like she should get a lot of money, but those are the only two choices. What to do?

Ultimately, Justice Baxter writes an unpersuasive (at least in my mind) opinion that concludes that a remand is necessary because the multiple witnesses who testified that the decedent intended to divorce his wife and that the decedent "felt that his marriage was a mistake because his wife had continued to work as a prostitute despite her promises to stop" were insufficient as a matter of law to prove that divorce was likely. Really?! Multiple witnesses who testify -- entirely credibly -- that a husband says that he's going to divorce his wife because she continues to be a whore notwithstanding her promises to stop seems more than enough to me. Especially when, as here, the trial court -- the only one to actually see and hear that testimony -- finds those witnesses credible and bases a factual finding thereupon.

This just seems a cop-out by the California Supreme Court. And a not very credible one. I'd have much preferred the Court to adopt either the majority opinion by Justice Ikola or the dissent by Justice Sills. Both of which were more persuasive, coherent, and (for what it's worth) well-written than the opinion by the California Supreme Court.