Fred Wilson links to his partner Brad Burnham’s post, "We need an independent invention defense to minimize the damage of aggressive patent trolls:"

I know of no case where the engineers in one of our companies were aware of the patents that are now being used to attack them. The moral rightness of this

As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote,

Great cases, like hard cases, make bad law. For great cases are called great, not by reason of their importance in shaping the law of the future, but because of some accident of immediate overwhelming interest which appeals to the feelings and distorts the judgment.

Northern Securities Co.

As The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Friday:

An association of black police officers has sued the Philadelphia Police Department in federal court for allowing its officers to post "blatantly racist . . . and offensive" content on a popular Web site devoted to law enforcement topics.

The suit, filed Wednesday, says Domelights.com, which bills

Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, has been covering Soticism lately, most recently with a post on Seneca’s "On The Shortness Of Life," including this passage:

Vices beset us and surround us on every side, and they do not permit us to rise anew and lift up our eyes for the discernment

The WSJ has a fascinating story about Justice Stevens’ investigations into the true authorship of the works of William Shakespeare, which includes this intriguing chart:

Shakespeare’s Court

The Supreme Court on the likely author of Shakespeare’s plays:

Active Justices

Roberts, Chief Justice

No comment.

Stevens

Oxford

Scalia

Oxford

Kennedy

Stratford

Souter

"No idea."

Thomas

No comment.

Here are the facts, liberally edited by me:

Appellee purchased property for $ 20,000.00, including a building that was deemed uninhabitable by both the City and Appellee.

After Appellee purchased the Property, she contacted the Philadelphia Neighborhood Housing Service (PNHS) to assist her in securing a loan to rehabilitate the Property. A building inspector estimated the cost of renovation and repair to be $ 113,500.00. Another contractor estimated the cost of renovation and repair to be $ 122,590.00.

PNHS agreed to lend Appellee $ 65,000.00 to renovate and repair the Property. PNHS also agreed to help Appellee secure additional financing to reach the estimate provided by the inspector. Appellee successfully received a total mortgage commitment of $ 125,000.00 for the renovation and repair of the Property.

After Appellee received the mortgage commitments, but before any renovations were made, the City tore down the building on the Property.

So, what’s it worth? The relevant Second Restatement of Torts provisions are below the fold.

One answer is market value. Plaintiff certainly didn’t want that: they bought it for $20,000 and it was valued at $35,000 after the demolition, a gain of $15,000.

Another is "special value" (the Restatement calls it "peculiar value"). Here’s what happened at trial:

The trial court read, in pertinent part, the following charge to the jury:

Plaintiff is entitled to be compensated for the harm done to her property. If you find that the property was a total loss, damages are to be measured by either its market value or its special value to the plaintiff, whichever is greater. The plaintiff is entitled to be reimbursed for losses reasonably incurred because of the damage to the property.

The City objected to that part of the trial court’s charge which was based on Section 6.11 of the Pennsylvania Suggested Standard Civil Jury Instructions, 3rd Edition (Jury Instruction). The trial court overruled the City’s objection. The jury found the City negligent in tearing down the building and entered a verdict for the Appellee in the amount of $ 80,000.00.

Oliver-Smith v. City of Philadelphia, 962 A.2d 728 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2008). The Commonwealth Court reversed, holding:

‘The fundamental purpose of damages for an injury to or destruction of property by the tortious conduct of another is to compensate the injured party for the actual loss suffered.’ Department of Transportation v. Crea, 92 Pa. Commw. 242, 483 A.2d 996, 1001 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1977). Appellee presented evidence that she purchased the Property on April 8, 2003, for $ 20,000.00. The Property was later appraised, prior to demolition, at $ 20,000.00. Appellee did not present any evidence showing that she had spent any money repairing or rehabilitating the Property or that there were any unique characteristics of the Property that warranted a special value. The charge by the trial court of anything further than market value was, therefore, an erroneous extension of the range of permissible damages.

Appellee cannot receive as damages money that she never spent. Such unspent money is not actual damages, but a windfall. Section 911 provides for special value, but only for matters which can be accounted for. In this case, the loss of approved loans/mortgages which were never executed and to which no legal obligation ever attached does not amount to ‘special value.’ The trial court erred in directing the jury. 

There’s definitely a "special value" here: the plaintiff was going to rehabilitate the project and, presumably, re-sell it for a profit. A condemned building might be worth nothing to you and me, but it’s worth a lot to a contractor with a vision. The plaintiff is entitled to recover those damages.

Maybe the plaintiff didn’t present anything but the sizes of the loans, in which case the above is correct. But I bet they did, since the size of the jury’s verdict reflects, in my view, the lost profit on the resale of the property contemplated by the plaintiff once they had rehabilitated and renovated it. Such a number — a projection about future profits — is certainly open to doubt, but it’s a factual issue for the jury, and the defendant (the City of Philadelphia) easily could have presented evidence to the contrary.

Oh well.


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On Christmas Eve, the Third Circuit issued its opinion in Jurinko v. The Medical Protective Company and The Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (MCARE) Fund, a fascinating insurance bad faith claim arising from the failure to tender policy limits in a medical malpractice case, prompting an article in yesterday’s Legal Intelligencer and

The Philadelphia Inquirer published a review of the just-released biography of Jim Beasley, the founder of my firm:

Legendary Philadelphia trial lawyer Jim Beasley achieved national fame – and vast wealth – by magically spinning humdrum details into compelling courtroom drama. Former Inquirer reporter Ralph Cipriano’s account of Beasley’s life, unfortunately, too often does the