The Last Few Weeks, Part 2

Last week, the Supreme Court announced that it had granted certification in five more cases.  Three of them are criminal appeals, one involves additur after a jury verdict, and one implicates the entire controversy doctrine.

The question presented in State v. Santamaria, as phrased by the Supreme Court Clerk’s Office, is “Did the State’s introduction of more than fifty sexually explicit photographs, which were taken after the victim turned eighteen, for the purpose of establishing the existence of a sexual relationship between defendant and the victim when the victim was a minor, constitute plain error that required the reversal of defendant’s convictions for sexual assault; and was it reversible error for the State to comment in summation on defendant’s silence when he was confronted by the victim during a recorded conversation?”  After a jury convicted defendant on multiple sexual assault and official misconduct charges, the Appellate Division, in a three-judge unpublished per curiam opinion, reversed all of those convictions.

In State v. Alessi, the question presented is “Did police engage in an unconstitutional traffic stop and seizure that required the suppression of defendant’s statements and reversal of her convictions on the charges of filing false reports and hindering; did the admission of defendant’s statements also require reversal of her burglary conviction?”  A two-judge panel of the Appellate Division, in an unpublished per curiam ruling, found the stop and seizure unconstitutional and therefore reversed defendant’s convictions for filing false reports and hindering, but sustained the burglary conviction despite that.

The final criminal matter is State v. Vincenty.  The question presented there is “Was defendant’s waiver of his Miranda rights knowing and voluntary where police officers failed to advise him in advance of the waiver that a criminal complaint had been filed against him?”  The Law Division concluded that defendant knowingly waived his rights.  On appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed in an unpublished, two-judge per curiam opinion.

The additur case is Orientale v. Jennings, an auto accident case, where the question presented is “Did the trial court apply the appropriate standard and analysis in determining an award of additur?”  Plaintiffs settled with the negligent driver for $100,000.  They then sued their own insurer under the underinsured motorist provision of their insurance policy, seeking additional damages.  After a jury awarded plaintiffs just $200, they moved for a new trial or, alternatively, additur.  Additur was granted in the amount of $47,300, bringing the total award to $47,500.  But because that amount was less than the $100,000 that plaintiffs got from the driver, a ruling of no cause for action was entered.  Plaintiffs appealed, but the Appellate Division affirmed in an unpublished, three-judge per curiam opinion.

Finally, in Dimitrakopolous v. Borrus, Golden, Foley, Vignuolo, Hyman and Stahl, P.C., the question presented is “Did the entire controversy doctrine require that plaintiffs pursue their malpractice action as a defense or counterclaim in defendants’ prior action against plaintiffs for the collection of attorneys’ fees?”  A two-judge Appellate Division panel, in an unpublished per curiam opinion, affirmed the decision of the Law Division that plaintiffs’ legal malpractice claim was barred by the entire controversy doctrine.