Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Nevada Supreme Court: Now 20% Wackier!

I'll tell you the best part about being a lawyer in Nevada. The law here is so surreal, it's like being on mushrooms for 300 dollars per hour.

The gem I found most recently is Beckwith v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., 120 Nev. 23, 83 P.3d 275, 277 (2004). It seems that Mr. Beckwith went to a party and decided to get drunk, take LSD and smoke pot. So far, nothing too unusual for rural Nevada. Then Beckwith left the party and decided it would be a good idea to take off all his clothes and enter a trailer park where some kids were playing. A guy named William Reccelle saw Beckwith and thought, "Hey, maybe it's not such a good idea for naked stoned guy to be hanging out near those kids," and went to intervene. Beckwith began screaming and writhing on the ground, and asked Reccelle if he were God. After careful consideration of the matter, Beckwith determined that most likely he was a dog, and Reccelle was his evil master, and by way of self-defense hit Reccelle in the face, poking out his eye. So far, so good.

Reccelle sued Beckwith on Beckwith's homeowner's insurance policy under a battery claim. In order to make out a claim for battery, you have to prove a) rude, offensive or harmful contact b) with the person of another, c) intent, d) damages, and e) that the damages were caused by the contact. At first, the insurance company ssaid they would defend Beckwith and pay out for any liability, but then they reconsidered. They argued that because their policy does not cover intentional acts, and because battery is by definition an intentional act, they didn't owe Reccelle anything.

Naturally, Reccelle disagreed.

The Nevada Supreme Court had to decide whether consuming alcohol, LSD and marijuana was enough to destroy intent, such that the insurance company would have to pay, or whether a stoned act can still be an intentional act.

Now in criminal law, voluntary intoxication is not a defense to most crimes by destroying intent, because courts don't want to announce the policy that you can get away with attacking random strangers as long as you're blitzed out of your gourd. But Reccelle, and the dissent in that case, argued that there should be an exception in this case, because otherwise insurance companies avoid liability for the acts of their stoner clients. Reccelle lost.

Come to Nevada, Get Stoned, and Fight People: Our Supreme Court is Cool With It!

More on Nevada law here.