Justia Commercial Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law
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Appellant Angela O'Connell was involved in a theft scheme whereby Appellant's husband would steal property from a local business and sell the stolen goods for cash. Appellant pled guilty to accountability for theft pursuant to a plea agreement. Upon sentencing, Appellant was prohibited from entering bars and casinos and consuming alcohol, and was ordered to pay restitution to the business she stole from in the amount of $159,606. The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) because the district court's determination of lost profits in this matter was based upon speculation and not supported by substantial evidence, the district court erred by ordering payment of lost profits, in addition to the replacement value of the stolen property, as part of Appellant's restitution obligation, and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion by prohibiting Appellant from entering bars as a condition of her sentence because the restriction furthered Appellant's rehabilitation. Remanded for recalculation of restitution based upon the replacement value of the stolen property.

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Three separate sets of repairs were made to a waste hauler purchased by Consolidated Waste from Standard Equipment. Consolidated Waste filed a complaint in circuit court, seeking to recoup the cost of the second round of repairs and claiming that the first and second set of repairs, performed by Standard Equipment, were made in such a way as to constitute a breach of contract and negligence. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of Standard Equipment. After appealing to the court of special appeals, the Court of Appeals issued a writ of certiorari. The Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion (1) by excluding evidence of the third round of repairs, performed by a different company, as a reasonable trial judge could have determined that the danger of prejudice outweighed substantially any probative value of the evidence; and (2) by utilizing a verdict sheet supplied by Standard Equipment.

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David McNeal was convicted in a bench trial in the circuit court for failing to return rented personal property within ten days after expiration of the rental period in violation of Va. Code Ann. 18.2-118. At trial, the store manager of the rental business testified that she rented an aluminum brake to McNeal on September 18, 2008, and after two or three months elapsed without McNeal returning the brake, she contacted the sheriff's office. On cross-examination, the store manager testified that the deputy returned the brake on September 19, 2008. The circuit court concluded that, considering all the evidence, the equipment was gone for two or three months on a week's rental, and thus the evidence was sufficient for a finding of guilt. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the conflicting evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to sustain McNeal's conviction. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated McNeal's conviction, holding that the circuit court's judgment finding McNeal guilty was not plainly wrong or without evidence to support it. The Court concluded that the circuit court was entitled to consider all the evidence and to resolve the conflict in the evidence as it did.

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The owner of a mortgage company was sentenced to 96 months for fraud and money laundering. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that the conviction was supported by substantial evidence. Evidence of a government witness's prior inconsistent statements that referred to a conviction more than 10 years prior was properly excluded; the trial judge gave the defense proper latitude to impeach the witness. The sentence was properly enhanced for attempting to obstruct the investigation, use of "sophisticated means," and acting as the organizer or leader.