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Criminal and Insurance Matters

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By FindLaw Staff on February 18, 2010 2:40 PM

The Eighth Circuit today decided four criminal matters and two insurance coverage disputes.

In US v. Stephens, No. 09-3706, following defendant's indictment for child pornography transportation, the district court refused to impose a curfew and electronic monitoring system as required by the Adam Walsh Child Protection Act, on the ground that the Act was facially unconstitutional.  The Eighth Circuit reversed, holding that defendant's facial challenge failed because he could not establish that there were no child pornography defendants for whom a curfew or electronic monitoring was appropriate.

In Bluehaven Funding, LLC v. First Am. Title Ins. Co., No. 09-2383, real estate investors sued a title insurance company claiming it was vicariously liable for fraud by another insurer with which defendant had an agency relationship.  The district court granted summary judgment to defendant and the Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that 1) the insurer responsible for the fraud lacked the authority to provide escrow and closing services as defendant's agent; and 2) defendant had no duty under the agency agreement to monitor the insurer's conduct.

In Medical Protective Co. v. Bubenik, No. 09-2324, an insurer sought a declaration that it had no duty to pay a malpractice judgment, and the district court granted summary judgment to plaintiff.  The court of appeals affirmed on the ground that the district court did not err in concluding that the malpractice defendant materially breached the cooperation clause in his insurance policy.

In Fincher v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., No. 09-2040, plaintiff claimed that defendant-insurer vexatiously refused to pay plaintiff's underinsured motorist (UIM) claim relating to injuries he sustained while driving a motorcycle as a police officer.  The district court granted summary judgment to defendant.  The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that an agent of the local government responsible for its insurance matters possessed the actual, implied authority to sign a form rejecting UIM coverage in excess of the statutory minimum.

In US v. Chavez-Alvarez, No. 09-1308, defendants were convicted after a trial on drug conspiracy charges.  The court of appeals affirmed, holding that 1) the evidence was sufficient to convict defendants of conspiracy because it showed that they either had actual knowledge of the conspiracy or deliberately failed to inquire about it; and 2) a willful blindness instruction was appropriate because defendants claims a lack of guilty knowledge, but the evidence supported an inference of deliberate ignorance.

In US v. Cloud, No. 08-1972, defendant was convicted after a trial of firearm possession.  The Eighth Circuit affirmed on the grounds that 1) defendant did not make "clear and unequivocal" requests for an attorney such that the arresting officer was required to stop the interview; and 2) even if hearsay evidence was introduced at the trial, it did not prejudice defendant.

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