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Name: People v. Butler
Case #: B218946
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 05/11/2011
Subsequent History: opn. mod. on 6/7/2011
Summary

The offense of presenting multiple claims for the same loss is not limited to the presentation of multiple claims to more than one insurer, but also applies where multiple claims are presented to one or more individuals. Appellant filed four small claims actions against the manufacturers of electric razors, falsely claiming the devices had caused him injury. He was convicted of presenting multiple false claims under Penal Code section 550, subdivision (a)(2). Appellant challenged his conviction, maintaining that section 550 applies only to claims against multiple insurers and not against individuals or manufacturers. However, the plain language of the statute does not restrict its application to claims against insurers, but applies also to individuals, which includes corporations.
The trial court erred by instructing the jury on theft by larceny under Penal Code section 484. Appellant contended the court erred by instructing on theft under a theory of larceny (section 484) instead of theft by false pretenses (section 532). The Court of Appeal agreed. Theft by larceny requires that the property be taken without the owner’s consent. If the owner consents to the taking, there is no trespass and therefore, no larceny. Theft by false pretenses requires a showing the defendant deceived the owner of the property by false representations, intending to persuade the owner to allow the defendant to take possession and ownership of the property and that the owner relied on the pretense in allowing the defendant to take the property. It also requires corroboration such as a writing or testimony regarding the pretense. Thus, it was error for the trial court not to instruct on the elements of theft by false pretense. However, applying the Chapman standard the court found the error harmless because the record contained ample proof of the elements of theft by false pretense.