Murder at the Hotel Thoreau

 

Action by P, executor of M's estate, against D Insurance Company, to recover on M's life insurance policy. At trial evidence is introduced to show that M was behind in his premium payments and the policy was due to lapse at midnight, May 31. M's body was found in shallow waters of the Concord River the morning of June 1. The crucial issue at trial is the time of M's death.

(1) P calls W, the night clerk at the Hotel Thoreau, an inn near the Concord River. W testifies that M checked in on May 31 at 10 p.m., went to his room, and reappeared in the lobby at 11 p.m. The following dialogue then ensues:

Q: Did you observe M's expression?

A: Yes.

Q: What was it?

A: An expression of ineffable sadness.

By defense counsel: Objection. Move to strike. The witness is giving an opinion.

Court: Denied.

Q: Did you observe M's conduct at that time?

A: Yes.

Q: What was it?

A: M acted disoriented.

By defense counsel: Objection. Move to strike. The witness is giving an opinion.

Court: Sustained.

Q: What did M do?

A: He paced up and down the room, twirled the revolving door, went out, and walked up and down the sidewalk several times, bumping into two or three people when they came by.

How can you reconcile the two rulings by the court?

(2) Y is called by D and testifies to discovering M's body at 7 a.m. on June 1. The following dialogue then ensues:

Q: Please describe the appearance of the body when you found it.

A: The stomach was bloated, the skin blue, there was blood coming from the nose and froth coming from the mouth. The whole body was stiff as a board.

Q: How long would you say the person had been dead?

A: About eight hours.

By plaintiff's counsel: Objection. Move to strike. The witness is giving an opinion.

What ruling and why?



div1.gif (1531 bytes)
Home | Contents | Topical Index | Syllabi | Search | Contact Us | Professors' Pages
Cases | Problems | Rules | Statutes | Articles | Commentary