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Judge Tells 'A Shakespearean Tragedy, to Be Sure'

With a cue from Shakespeare, Justice Eileen Moore told the tragic tale of a wine collector who lost $18 million on his investment.

"Poor," if not "unfortunate," David Doyle insured his collection for $19 million, only to learn that a dealer had sold him counterfeit wine. And in a deeper cut, the insurance did not cover the loss in Doyle v. Fireman's Fund Insurance.

"A Shakespearean tragedy, to be sure," Moore wrote for California's Fourth District Court of Appeal. Playwrights aside, the judge knows about tragedy.

"Call Thee Devil!"

Moore began her opinion with a quote from Othello, a tragedy and stage for Shakespeare to curse wine and spirits. "Let us call thee, devil!" he proclaimed.

In Doyle's case, the court called out the "villanous wine dealer." Rudy Kurniawan was convicted of fraud and sent to prison for 10 years.

Doyle sued his insurance company for the loss, but a trial judge said the wine was still in the same condition as it was when it was first insured. The appeals court affirmed, saying "the wine collector is stuck with the devil wine without recompense."

"We agreeth with the trial court;" Moore continued. "The wine collector suffered a financial loss, but there was no loss to property that was covered by the property insurance policy."

Tragedy Revisted

Every court sees tragedy, but Moore knows much about it as a former Vietnam nurse. In a PBS broadcast, she recently talked about a pilot who was dying as she sat by his side.

With nothing left to administer but comfort, she sang him songs and read him the last letters he received. One was from his wife, a tender message with a photo of their son.

The second was from a fellow airman who described debauchery in Bangkok. She didn't read those words aloud, but instead crafted a story about friendship.

Moore said Vietnam taught her about life and death, and it informs her work on the court. "Once you've been to Vietnam you can probably do anything," she said.

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