Editor's Note: The following appellate cases of interest were decided by the United States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, Utah Supreme Court, and Utah Court of Appeals.
To view the appellate summaries, select the year and month of interest:
On appeal from a conviction and sentence under 28 U.S.C. § 924(c), the Tenth Circuit held, as a matter of first impression, that the residual clause in the definition of “crime of violence” is unconstitutionally vague. That clause refers to “a felony that by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.”
In this medical malpractice claim against the State, the court of appeals held that filing a pre-litigation claim, as required by the Utah Health Care Malpractice Act, prior to filing a complaint does not toll the one-year statute of limitations applicable to claims under the Governmental Immunity Act.
This appeal arose out of the defendant’s convictions for rape and aggravated sexual abuse. Reversing, the court of appeals clarified the appropriate bounds of expert testimony in a sexual abuse case. While the expert could offer an opinion that certain symptoms were consistent with sexual abuse, the district court erred by allowing the expert to improperly bolster the victim’s credibility by testifying that only a small percentage of children make false allegations.
In this appeal following a bench trial, which involved several challenges to the district court’s rulings prior and during trial, the court of appeals held that many of the appellant’s arguments were inadequately briefed. Among those were the appellant’s challenges to two of the district court’s findings of fact. The Court of Appeals reaffirmed that “[w]hen challenging factual findings on appeal, appellants are expected to carry a heavy burden.” It explained, “Recasting the evidence that was in front of the trial court is insufficient to demonstrate that a court’s factual finding was clearly erroneous.”
While a summary judgment motion was pending at the district court, counsel for Ultimate Auto Body filed an improper notice of intent to withdraw. Although arguing that the notice of intent to withdraw was improper, Basin proceeded to serve subsequent filings directly to Ultimate Autobody. Ultimate Autobody did not respond to the summary judgment motion, which was then granted by the district court due to the lack of a response. The court of appeals held that the failure to serve a notice to appear or appoint, combined with failure to serve counsel who attempted to withdraw, deprived the other party of proper notice and fundamental fairness.
The plaintiffs were arrested based on outstanding warrants and detained in a county jail for 30 days or more prior to their arraignments. The arraignment delays violated New Mexico law requiring arraignment of a defendant within 15 days of arrest. The plaintiffs asserted supervisory liability claims against the sheriff and wardens of the jail. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district’s court’s dismissal of these § 1983 claims because the state trial court’s failure to schedule timely arraignments could not be attributed to the sheriff or to the wardens.
In this criminal case, the State attempted to offer an expert opinion without providing an expert report, as required by Utah Code § 77-17-13. Reversing the convictions, the court of appeals held that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting the expert testimony offered by the State, because the State failed to provide the report and, as a result, the district court lacked sufficient information to make a determination as to admissibility under Rule 702.
Appellant was in default of his mortgage agreement in 2008 for failing to make payments. The mortgage company began the foreclosure process by accelerating the payment due under the agreement in 2016. At issue was whether the triggering event for the six-year statute of limitations period was the breach of the agreement or the accelerated due date. The Court of Appeals held that although an action on a written agreement usually begins to run at the time of the breach, a more specific statutory provision under the U.C.C. provided that the triggering event was the accelerated due date.
In this post-conviction relief act appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the petitioner’s ineffective assistance of counsel challenges to his guilty plea were not procedurally barred even though he had not moved to withdraw his guilty plea in the criminal case.
While the defendant’s appeal of the revocation of his probation was in process, he completed the sentence the revocation required and was released from prison. The Court of Appeals then dismissed the appeal as moot because of the release, despite the presence of two of its prior decisions with contradictory holdings. The Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the defendant’s appeal as moot and held: (1) the Court of Appeals has the same authority to overturn its own precedent as the Supreme Court does; and (2) collateral legal consequences are not presumed when an appeal from a probation revocation has otherwise become moot.
This dispute centered on the termination of an employment agreement. Distinguishing a prior case in which the court had applied an objective reasonableness standard because the contract did not define “just cause,” the Court of Appeals held that where an employment agreement described specific instances that could provide a basis for early termination, the district court erred in incorporating an objective reasonableness standard in the jury instructions. The Court of Appeals also reversed the trial court’s denial of prejudgment interest and held that the unpaid wages and benefits under the employment agreement qualified for prejudgment interest because they were “ascertainable by calculation,” even though the jury awarded less than the plaintiff claimed at trial.
The district court dismissed a petition for habeas corpus filed by a man seeking release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody following ICE’s reinstatement of an order of removal. The petitioner alleged specific facts which, if proven, demonstrated he was a U.S. citizen. The district court concluded that the petitioner had failed to exhaust administrative remedies, and that jurisdiction was barred by the REAL ID Act. The Tenth Circuit concluded that the exhaustion provision at issue does not govern facially valid citizenship claims, and that the REAL ID Act’s jurisdiction stripping provisions raised serious Suspension Clause concerns because the petitioner must be granted some path to advance his facially valid claim of citizenship in federal court.
Before the defendant was served with a summons and complaint in this § 1983 case arising from a traffic stop, he offered to settle the case by paying the driver $20,000 and the passengers $2,500 each. The defendant titled his offer “Defendant’s Rule 68 Offer of Judgment.” At trial, the jury awarded $15,000 to the driver and $1 each to the passengers. The Tenth Circuit nevertheless affirmed an award of costs, concluding Rule 68 requires that a defendant be made a party to the litigation, by service of a summons and the complaint, or waiver of service, before that defendant can make a valid Rule 68 offer of judgment.
In this interlocutory appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s denial of two parties’ motions to amend that had been shortly after the close of fact discovery, before any expert discovery began, and before a trial date was in place. The court held that all Rule 15(a) factors weighed in favor of amendment, and the district court had exceeded its discretion in denying the proposed amendments.
The defendant was convicted of multiple felonies, including a first-degree felony conviction for aggravated murder. The defendant argued on appeal that the aggravator (knowingly creating a great risk of death to the victim’s father) was unsupported by evidence. Based on analysis of the two previous Utah cases in which the aggravator was at issue, as well as persuasive authority from other jurisdictions, the Court identified three main factors that should influence the decision as to whether the “great risk of death” aggravator applies: (1) the chronological relationship between the defendant’s actions towards the victim and the third-party; (2) the proximity of the third-party and the victim at the time of the acts constituting the murder; and (3) whether and to what extent the third-party was actually threatened. Applying these factors, the Court found all three weighed in favor of applying the aggravator, and that there was therefore sufficient evidence for the jury to find the defendant had placed the victim’s father at great risk of death.
After the criminal defendant pled guilty to two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, the district court entered orders for complete and court-ordered restitution for, among other things, the anticipated cost of mental health treatment for the remainder of the victim’s life. The defendant appealed these orders. In evaluating this appeal, the Utah Supreme Court addressed, as a matter of first impression, the level of causation required by the Crime Victims Restitution Act. It held that the Act requires a district court to include in its complete restitution determination the losses that a defendant proximately causes. Because the district court applied a different causation standard, the Court remanded for further proceedings. In doing so, it further instructed that a restitution calculation cannot be based on speculative evidence of losses a victim has incurred or is likely to incur.
In this appeal from a denial of a motion to suppress, the Tenth Circuit joined the Seventh and Ninth Circuits and held that a district court’s assessment of an officer’s good-faith reliance on a warrant under United States v. Leon should be limited to the four-corners of the warrant affidavit, actual information submitted under oath to the issuing judge, and information related to the warrant application process.
In this suit filed to collect a debt purportedly owed to a condominium owners association, the defendant—debtor asserted a counterclaim against the law firm representing the association, arguing the law firm had violated § 1692e of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by misrepresenting the amount owed in demand letters the firm had sent to her. The district court dismissed this claim on summary judgment. On appeal, the Supreme Court, abrogating a prior Court of Appeals decision, held a law firm is not entitled to reasonably rely upon its client’s representation of the debt owed and must instead have procedures reasonably adapted to avoid this type of error or face liability under § 1692e.
The plaintiff—creditors sought to recover funds that debtors paid to a law firm under a theory of fraudulent transfer. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the law firm and one if its lawyers, holding the law firm was not a “transferee” of the funds at issue under Utah’s Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act because it held the funds in its trust account in a fiduciary capacity and did not have legal dominion or control over the funds.
The Court disavowed any prior suggestion in Orvis v. Johnson, 2008 UT 2, that the Utah summary judgment standard is distinct from the federal standard stated in Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986), and held that when the burden of production falls on the nonmoving party, the movant can carry its burden of persuasion without putting on any evidence of its own by showing that the nonmoving party has no evidence to support an essential element of a claim. Applying this standard, the court affirmed summary judgment granted to the defendants, dismissing the plaintiff’s claims for defamation and intentional interference.
In an opinion emphasizing the importance of a clear record that a criminal defendant understands the consequences of waiving the right to counsel at sentencing, the Court of Appeals vacated a sentence entered without counsel for the defendant present. Although the Court concluded the criminal defendant clearly expressed a desire to be sentenced without counsel, it held his waiver was not sufficiently knowing and intelligent to be valid. This was true despite the district court’s attempts to conduct a colloquy with the defendant.
The criminal defendant appealed his murder conviction, arguing the district court erred by admitting the State’s expert testimony and in admitting evidence of prior acts. The Supreme Court reversed, agreeing on both counts. With respect to the expert testimony, the Court held the district court abused its discretion in admitting the State’s expert testimony about whether the victim was suicidal. The State had not satisfied its threshold burden of demonstrating the method of evaluating suicidal risk used by the expert was generally accepted as a means of assessing the risk of suicide in someone who had passed away or that it was reliable when used to assess suicide risk post-mortem.
After problems emerged with homes located within a planned unit development, the homeowners association asserted claims against the developer, the builders, and their principals. In reviewing the district court’s grant of a directed verdict in favor of the developer, the Utah Supreme Court was asked to decide, as a matter of first impression, whether expert testimony is required to establish the standard of care in actions claiming a developer breached the limited fiduciary duties recognized in Davencourt at Pilgrims Landing Homeowners Association v. Davencourt at Pilgrims Landing, 2009 UT 65, 221 P.3d 234. It held the general framework for analyzing the necessity of expert testimony in negligence claims applies in the breach of fiduciary duty context. Applying that framework to the claims in this case, the Court affirmed the directed verdict on the basis that expert testimony was required to establish the relevant standard of care and the plaintiff did not produce any such testimony. The Court further reversed the district court’s award of attorney fees to the developer, awarded in response to a post-trial motion for indemnification based on a provision in the homeowners association’s articles of incorporation. It held that a post-trial motion was not the appropriate vehicle to litigate this claim, which had been asserted as a counterclaim and was not based upon a statute or prevailing party attorney fee clause. By not litigating its counterclaim, the developer had waived its claim for indemnification.
UDOT appealed the district court’s award of $2.3 million in severance damages in connection with UDOT’s condemnation of a portion of property owned by the claimants. In evaluating the claim for severance damages based on a loss of visibility, the Court of Appeals held the presumption of causation that exists when visibility issues stem from a “structure” built on the taken property does not require the view-impairing structure to be entirely constructed within the taken parcel. It further held the appropriate “structure” for purposes of this analysis was the freeway interchange, rather than only the component parts constructed on the taken property as UDOT maintained. Based on these and other rulings, the Court affirmed the entire award of severance damages.
A jury found the defendant guilty of in-flight assault or intimidation of a flight attendant. In an interesting analysis of the differences between general and specific intent statutes, the Tenth Circuit rejected the defendant’s argument that Elonis v. United States, --- U.S. ---, 135 S. Ct. 2001 (2015), required specific intent for in-flight intimidation and held a general intent mens rea requirement was consistent with the plain language and purpose of the statute.
The plaintiff ordered from a wine vendor with Chase Bank credit cards. He then paid off the balance on the credit cards. While delivery was pending, the wine vendor filed for bankruptcy and failed to deliver almost $1 million worth of goods. The plaintiff filed suit against Chase Bank, arguing that under the Fair Credit Billing Act, it was required to refund the money he had paid toward the purchase. The complaint was dismissed, and the plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the Tenth Circuit interpreted the plain language of the Act as limiting recovery to those amounts outstanding at the time the claim is filed. Because the plaintiff had paid off the balance prior to asserting a claim, he was not entitled to recover the money he had already paid.
This case involved an unsuccessful assertion of privilege. The district court ordered production, notwithstanding a party’s claim that the care-review privilege applied. The Court of Appeals affirmed, clarifying that Rule 26 of the Rules of Civil Procedure requires a party to provide a privilege log setting forth sufficient information to evaluate an assertion of the claim-review privilege. Because the party asserting the privilege failed to provide an adequate privilege log or affidavit, the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding the party failed to carry its burden of demonstrating a privilege protected the documents from discovery.
The district court dismissed the plaintiff’s medical malpractice claim on statute of limitations grounds after the jury found she knew that she “might have sustained an injury” more than two years before she filed her complaint. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial. Among the various issues addressed on appeal, the Court held it was error for the district court to instruct the jury that “discovery of an injury from medical malpractice occurs when an ordinary person through reasonable diligence knows or should know that she might have sustained an injury.” The addition of the words “might have” impermissibly relaxed the burden of proof that defendants were required to meet for their statute of limitations defense. The Court also held the defendants’ pre-trial ex parte contact with a nurse who had treated the plaintiff was improper and warranted a sanction under Sorensen v. Barbuto, 2008 UT 8, regardless of whether confidential details of the plaintiff’s care were in fact discussed and regardless of whether actual prejudice resulted from the contact.
In this appeal from a conviction following a jury trial, the Utah Supreme Court addressed the circumstances required to render a witness unavailable under Rule 804 of the Utah Rules of Evidence. It held the district court erred in determining a witness who refused to attend trial because she had given birth a week before, several weeks prematurely, and her baby had come home from the hospital just three days before the trial began was “unavailable.” In order to be “unavailable” under Rule 804(a)(4) based on an illness, the illness must be “of sufficient severity and duration that the witness is unable to be present over a period of time within which the trial reasonably could be held.” There was no such showing in this case.
In this case, the Utah Supreme Court declined to answer two questions certified by the United States District Court for the District of Utah. Both questions implicated the free speech clause of the Utah Constitution. Expressing concern about the briefing, the Court declined to exercise its discretionary authority to answer certified questions because the parties failed to address the precise constitutional issues.
In this civil rights appeal, the Tenth Circuit clarified the standard that applies to a motion to set aside a consent decree under the equity prong of Rule 60(b)(5) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Tenth Circuit held the district court erred by focusing on the narrow issue of a party’s past compliance without broader consideration of whether there was an ongoing violation of federal law, and it remanded for additional findings.
The Tenth Circuit held, as a matter of first impression, that entities engaged in non-judicial foreclosures are not considered “debt collectors” and are not governed by the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act.
This case arose out of an advocacy group’s request for documents relating to a land exchange proposal under the Freedom of Information Act. On appeal, the Tenth Circuit held that the district court correctly denied the records request under FOIA, because (a) a private contractor created the materials, (b) the Forest Service never obtained the materials, and (c) the materials should not be classified as agency records merely because the private contractor maintained the materials pursuant an agreement with the Forest Service.
The Labor Commission issued a notice of violation of regulations to the plaintiff by sending the notice via FedEx with return receipt requested. The plaintiff argued the use of FedEx rendered the notice insufficient to trigger the applicable thirty-day statute of limitations, as the Utah Occupational Safety and Health Act expressly stated the notice must be sent by certified mail. The Court of Appeals agreed, holding the legislature intended the term “certified mail” to refer only to items sent via certified mail through the United States Postal Service, and that service by FedEx was therefore insufficient.
The Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s determination that it had personal jurisdiction over the nonresident defendant, a manufacturer of a helicopter motor, in this lawsuit arising from a deadly crash. After a thorough analysis of the “stream of commerce” theory of specific jurisdiction applicable in product defect cases, the Court held that the nonresident manufacturer’s general business activities in Utah, which were unrelated to the subject of the lawsuit, were insufficient to establish specific personal jurisdiction.
In this product liability case, the supreme court rejected the “passive retailer” immunity doctrine of Sanns v. Butterfield Ford, 2004 UT App 203, 94 P.3d 301, as a misreading of the Liability Reform Act. It held that, because the Act preserves the doctrine of strict liability, all parties in the product’s chain of distribution remain strictly liable for sale of a dangerously defective product. To prevent total fault from exceeding 100%, the court held that fault should be allocated on the basis of duty. Since all strictly liable parties have breached the same duty, they should be treated as a single unit for purposes of fault apportionment. The passive retailer then has an implied indemnity claim against the manufacturer for any amount it might be required to pay under the strict liability claim.
The Utah Worker’s Compensation Act has a provision that limits the time an injured worker has to prove a claim to twelve years from the date of the accident. Petitioners, two workers who sought permanent disability benefits more than twelve years after the accident leading to their injury, argued that the provision was an unconstitutional statute of repose under the Open Courts Clause of the Utah Constitution. The Utah Supreme Court agreed that the statute acted as a statute of repose, as it was capable of cutting off a claimant’s right to assert a claim. However, the statute of repose was not unconstitutional because the statute was enacted for the valid legislative purpose of ending prolonged liability for insurance companies and employers, and the twelve-year cut-off was not arbitrary or unreasonable.
The defendant filed a petition for extraordinary relief arguing that the parole board violated his due process rights by classifying him as a sex offender and requiring that he complete sex offender treatment as a condition of his parole. The supreme court held that before it can take the refusal of an inmate to participate in sex offender treatment into consideration in deciding whether to grant parole, the parole board must provide timely written notice of the allegations, the opportunity to call witnesses, and a written decision explaining the basis for the determination.
In this appeal from the district court’s dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction, the Tenth Circuit provides a thorough overview of specific personal jurisdiction jurisprudence, including the three means by which a plaintiff may establish the requisite “personal direction” by the defendant. The case involved claims against the manufacturer of an aircraft’s engine parts following a crash on a flight from Colorado to Idaho. The defendant-manufacturer is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Alabama. The case was brought in Colorado. The defendant-appellant’s website allowed fixed-base operators (FBOs) to obtain unlimited access to its online service manuals in exchange for an annual fee. A Colorado-based FBO who participated in the program serviced the aircraft involved in the crash. The Tenth Circuit held the defendant-appellant’s website, its online service manuals, and the service company’s participation in the FBO program wereinsufficient to establish specific personal jurisdiction under any of the three “purposeful direction” tests – continuing relationships, market exploration, or harmful effects.
Farrell argued that Officer Montoya had violated her Fourth Amendment Rights by firing three shots at her minivan as she drove away from a traffic stop. The Tenth Circuit held that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity against a claim of excessive force. Under the Fourth Amendment, a claim for excessive force requires a seizure of the suspect. A seizure can only occur if the suspect submits to police authority, and it must be more than a temporary halt. Because the minivan was fleeing when Montoya fired the shots, no seizure occurred, and a claim for excessive force could not succeed.
In this case, the Utah Supreme Court held the doctrine of equitable conversion protects a buyer’s interests in land when a land sale contract becomes capable of specific enforcement by the buyer, including where buyer-friendly conditions have yet to be satisfied.
The defendant conditionally pled guilty to possession of unauthorized credit cards with intent to defraud. Reversing the denial of the motion to suppress, the Tenth Circuit held that an officer unreasonably expanded the scope of an otherwise permissible traffic stop when the officer took credit cards out of the defendant’s bag and examined them without probable cause to support a credit-card offense.
The court vacated a restitution order against the defendant who was convicted of computer crimes for stealing and disseminating his bosses’ emails. The court held it was plain error for the district court to include in the restitution figure some amount for time spent by the company’s employees while participating in the criminal case against the defendant – regardless of whether they appeared voluntarily or pursuant to a subpoena.
Bajio was required to indemnify Hofheins for lease payments pursuant to their asset purchase agreement. Bajio failed to make the lease payments, and the property owner sued Hofheins. Hofheins then brought a third party action against Bajio for indemnification. Bajio argued that the Hofheins’ failure to tender the defense precluded Bajio from being required to indemnify the Hofheins, and the third party action should have been dismissed under Rule 41(b). The court of appeals disagreed, holding that the failure to tender a defense imposes on the indemnitee the necessity of establishing that it is entitled to indemnity from the indemnitor, but it does not release the indemnitor from its obligation.
Plaintiffs asserted a civil rights claim based on a warrantless search of Utah’s prescription drug database in the course of a theft investigation. On appeal, the Tenth Circuit held that a detective who accessed a state-run prescription drug database without a warrant was entitled to qualified immunity because the right to privacy in prescription records was neither absolute nor clearly established at the time of the alleged conduct.
The Utah Supreme Court dismissed this appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction. The timeliness of the notice of appeal hinged on the timeliness of a Rule 59 motion for new trial, which appellant relied on to toll the time for appeal. Appellant had filed his memorandum in support just before midnight on the deadline to do so, but the motion was not filed until just after midnight the following day. Utah’s electronic filing system and its guidelines establish that the filing date and time is when a filing is received and posted in the electronic system, even if there are technical difficulties that created a delay from the actual filing. The court held that the motion filed shortly after midnight was untimely, even though the memorandum was filed before midnight. The memorandum did not constitute a “motion”; and Rule 6(b)(2) prohibited the district court from extending the time for father to file his Rule 59 motion.
In the midst of divorce proceedings, Husband transferred the couple’s marital home to his mother, intending to void Wife’s claim to the home. Before the divorce was finalized, Husband died. At trial, the court held that the transfer was fraudulent, and awarded the home to Wife. Mother appealed, arguing there was no ongoing debtor-creditor relationship as required under the Utah Fraudulent Transfer Act (UFTA) as this relationship was extinguished upon Husband’s death. Affirming the trial court’s holding, the Utah Supreme Court held that although the UFTA does require an ongoing debtor-creditor relationship, the death of a spouse during a divorce proceeding does not abate the action in regards to property rights that have been determined by the court, and therefore the debtor-creditor relationship was not extinguished upon Husband’s death, and the claim survived against Husband’s estate.
Two juvenile defendants accused of aggravated sexual assault appealed the denial of a motion to suppress post-Miranda statements to detective. The supreme court held that the juveniles knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waived their Miranda rights, given the totality of the circumstances, even though parents were not present during the interview. In a footnote, the court observed that best practices might include videotaping the interview, notifying parents, inviting a parent to be present, and taking additional steps to ensure that the juvenile understood the import of the Miranda warning.
The juvenile court granted a request for an order of protective supervision, based on its finding that the mother exhibited hatred of and disgust toward the father, which caused emotional harm to the children. Reversing in part and remanding, the court of appeals held that insufficient evidence supported a finding of abuse, where there was no indication that a disagreement over a prom dress or purported custodial interference caused the child to suffer emotional harm that resulted in a “serious impairment in [their] growth, development, behavior, or psychological functioning.” Utah Code Ann. § 78A-6-105(24)(b).
Under the Plea Withdrawal Statute, a defendant must move to withdraw his or her guilty plea prior to sentencing or pursue relief under the Post-Conviction Remedies Act. In this case, the defendant argued that the Plea Withdrawal Statute infringed upon his right to appeal a criminal case under the Utah Constitution. The supreme court held that the Plea Withdrawal Statute does not unconstitutionally foreclose a defendant’s right to appeal, because it merely set out procedural requirements for preserving a direct appeal of a motion to withdraw a guilty plea.
Following the mother’s death, a stepfather filed a petition requesting custody of three minor children under Utah’s Custody and Visitation of Persons Other Than Parents Act, which allows a non-family member to seek custody if the biological parent “is absent” or “is found by a court to have abused or neglected the child.” Utah Code Ann. § 30-5a-103(2)(g). The district court dismissed based on its conclusion that the father alleged a pattern of visiting the children once a month. Reversing, the court of appeals concluded that the statutory language implied a present-tense inquiry. Where the stepfather alleged sufficient facts for a factfinder to conclude that the biological father was not presently present on the exact date of the filing of the petition, the district court erred in dismissing the petition.
In this contractual dispute, the defendant argued that the first breach rule excused its non-performance under a royalty payment provision. Giving effect to each part of the contract, the court of appeals held that the defendant could not invoke the first breach rule to excuse its non-performance, where the contract contained specific dispute resolution provisions, which the defendant failed to follow.
In this appeal, the Utah Court of Appeals was asked to interpret the interplay between the Governmental Immunity Act’s (1) waiver of immunity for injuries proximately caused by the negligent act or omission of a governmental employee and (2) retention of immunity for injuries that arise out of or in connection with certain enumerated conduct, including assault or battery. The case involved claims by a student against his school district for negligent hiring, supervision, and retention of a former teacher who had initiated a sexual relationship with him. The court of appeals held that if an immunity-invoking condition is at least “a proximate cause” of the claimed injury, then the government entity is immune from suit.
The court of appeals concluded that in appropriate cases, the probable cause standard required for bindover can be satisfied by circumstantial evidence regarding drug identity, and that it is not always necessary to present evidence of drug identity at a preliminary hearing. The State had not presented scientific evidence as to the identity of the drug.
A shareholder brought this action against the company’s board of directors and several of its officers for authorizing and receiving spring-loaded, stock-settled stock appreciation rights. Because there was no allegation the defendants intended to circumvent the company’s compensation plan, the district court dismissed the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6). On appeal, the Utah Supreme Court engaged in a detailed analysis of what is required to state a claim against directors and officers under Utah’s Revised Business Corporation Act. Applying that standard to this case, the court affirmed the dismissal.
In its January 12, 2017 opinion in this matter, the court reversed summary judgment granted to the defendant in the underlying contract dispute on statute of limitations grounds. The court reasoned that plaintiff’s complaint was not time-barred because the statute began to run on the maturity date of the loan of the installment contract. The court granted a petition for rehearing and changed the result from a reversal to an affirmance of the summary judgment. The court concluded that its reasoning for the earlier decision was sound, but that it could not consider the winning argument because the appellant had not preserved it and had not raised it on appeal.
Pedestrians that were struck by a car on an unlit street alleged the city was negligent in failing to repair its streetlights. After dismissal on summary judgment, the plaintiff’s filed a Rule 59 motion to alter or amend the judgment. The district court ruled against the motion, and held that it was an inappropriate motion to reconsider. Plaintiffs then appealed the summary judgment decision. Defendants argued that because the Rule 59 motion was deemed an inappropriate motion to reconsider, it had not tolled the time to appeal, and the appeal was therefore untimely. The Utah Court of Appeals held that because the motion for relief was styled as a Rule 59 motion, and it plausibly requested the relevant relief, the motion, was procedurally proper and tolled the time for appeal.
The federal court certified the question whether a company that had purchased liability coverage for an employee’s vehicle was also required to purchase underinsured motorist insurance. The Utah Supreme Court held that any vehicle that is covered by a policy’s liability insurance must also be covered by underinsured motorist insurance, unless the coverage is waived by a formal acknowledgment.
This appeal arose out of a city’s denial of a billboard owner’s sign relocation request. Affirming, the supreme court clarified that it would no longer defer to a local agency’s interpretation of its own ordinances and would instead review for correctness.
Neighboring landowners each filed suit to quiet title to a strip of land adjoining their respective properties. On appeal, the prevailing landowner argued the appellants lacked standing because they had failed to demonstrate an interest in the property. Because the trust raised this challenge to the appellants’ standing, appellants had the burden of “demonstrat[ing] how they are aggrieved by the district court’s judgment and how possession of [the] quitclaim deed [they relied on] provides sufficient interest in the matter to invoke th[e] court’s jurisdiction.” The appellants’ limited briefing on this issue was insufficient to carry this burden. As a result, the court of appeals dismissed the appeal of the district court’s summary judgment ruling for lack of jurisdiction.
In this appeal from the issuance of a preliminary injunction, the Tenth Circuit applied its recent holding in Fish v. Kobach, 840 F.3d 710 (10th Cir. 2016) and reversed. Under Fish, issued six weeks after the district court’s issuance of the preliminary injunction, it was error to relieve the plaintiff of the obligation to establish irreparable injury on the basis that the two statutes at issue provided for, but did not mandate, injunctive relief as a remedy.
A buyer purchased the property at issue at a foreclosure sale resulting from an order authorizing the sale entered in a prior proceeding. The original owner had appealed that order but did not seek to stay it pending appeal, and the sale occurred while the appeal was pending. In the present case, the Utah Supreme Court held that the buyer did not take the property subject to the resolution of the first appeal. “[A]n appellant who takes no action to preserve his interests in property at issue on appeal has no recourse against a lawful third-party purchaser.”
The court overruled its prior holding in State v. Brooks and held that Utah R. Evid. 804 precludes the admission of preliminary hearing testimony at trial as a matter of law because defense counsel does not have a similar motive to develop testimony at the preliminary hearing as they do at trial. Regardless, the court affirmed the appellant’s felony conviction, finding that the admission of preliminary hearing testimony at trial was harmless.
Plaintiffs asserted a First Amendment challenge to a Wyoming statute prohibiting trespass on private land while in the course of collecting resource data from public land. As a matter of first impression, the Tenth Circuit held that the statute was subject to First Amendment protection because the statute regulated the creation of speech.
This appeal arose out of a class action suit alleging that Cox Communications, a cable service provider, had illegally tied its premium cable services, such as interactive program guides, pay-per view programming, and recording or rewinding capabilities, to its own set top box, in violation of the Sherman Act. The Tenth Circuit affirmed, holding that there was insufficient evidence that the tie of services to the set top box had foreclosed a substantial volume of commerce, as the tie didn’t foreclose any commerce, nor did it prevent or discourage other competitors from entering the market.
In this appeal of an agency action, the supreme court reminded administrative tribunals of their “independent obligation” to assess a party’s standing before reaching the merits. Conducting an independent review on appeal, the court held that an environmental organization possessed standing as an association, where its director and members made a sufficient showing that their recreational, aesthetic, and other interests in the land would be harmed by the expansion of mining operations in the absence of relief.
This case arose out of a challenge to fracking regulations promulgated by the Bureau of Land Management. The Tenth Circuit abstained from exercising its jurisdiction based on the prudential ripeness doctrine because (a) the current administration had announced its intent to rescind the regulations, and (b) withholding review did not impose a hardship on the parties seeking review of the lower court’s decision.
This appeal arose from a city council’s denial of a conditional use permit to operate a bed and breakfast in a residential neighborhood. The plaintiff appealed the council’s decision to the district court, which reversed it, and the council sought review from the Utah Supreme Court. The Court clarified that, contrary to what it had suggested in some cases, in cases like this one it reviews the decision of the district court and not that of the underlying administrative body. On the merits, the Court vacated the district court’s decision and remanded with instructions to the district court to remand to the council to generate more detailed findings of fact and conclusions of law.
In this case, Husband sought termination of alimony because Wife had cohabited with her boyfriend, although she was not cohabiting with him at the time of filing of the motion to terminate. Utah Code § 30-3-5(10) provides, “alimony to a former spouse terminates upon establishment by the party paying alimony that the former spouse is cohabitating with another person.” The Utah Supreme Court held that the plain language of the cohabitation statute, and particularly the word “is,” requires that the former spouse be cohabitating at the time of filing.
In an appeal from a criminal conviction, the defendant challenged the district court’s refusal to allow him to question the victim about her plea in abeyance and uncharged arrest for giving a false name to a police officer under Rule 608 of the Utah Rules of Evidence. The court of appeals held that the limitations placed on defendant’s cross-examination were harmless, because defendant was able to question the victim about the facts underlying the arrest, and her testimony was corroborated by other witnesses whose credibility was not attacked.
The plaintiffs in this suit all received parking tickets from Salt Lake and brought suit alleging that the notice provided was insufficient to apprise them of the right to challenge the ticket. Affirming dismissal, the Utah Supreme Court held that, although the City’s parking violation notices contained certain misstatements, they were sufficient to apprise the plaintiffs of their rights and opportunity for a hearing. Because the plaintiffs had received adequate notice, they were required to exhaust their administrative remedies, which they had failed to do.
The Utah Court of Appeals dismissed an insurance company’s subrogation action for lack of standing. The Utah Supreme Court granted certiorari and held that an insurance company had the right to file the subrogation action in its own name pursuant to the express terms of the insurance policy, and it clarified the distinction between a right of subrogation arising under contract and one arising under the right of equitable subrogation.
After a divorce, the husband placed ownership of his home into a single member LLC, and then failed to pay certain judgments. The court of appeals held that under the plain meaning of the statutory homestead exemption, the exemption could not be claimed by the LLC.
The court of appeals held that it was an abuse of discretion for the district court to make its alimony determination by assessing the wife’s needs and calculating her actual expenses at the time of trial, rather than the standard of living established during the marriage. The district court’s conclusion that the parties’ combined resources were insufficient to sustain the marital standard was not a sufficient justification to bypass the traditional needs analysis which requires consideration of the marital standard.
The supreme court held that the juvenile court erred by adopting a per se rule that striking a child with an object (in this case, a belt), without any additional evidence of harm, constituted abuse.
As a matter of first impression, the Tenth Circuit held obtaining historical cell-service location information under the Stored Communications Act did not require a warrant, because cell-phone users do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in location data voluntarily conveyed to cell-service providers.
Holm was convicted of negligent homicide resulting from a traffic accident. During voir dire, Holm was not allowed to ask follow-up questions of individuals who had indicated they or someone close to them had been involved in a serious car accident. The court of appeals reversed the conviction, holding that as proposed voir dire questions draw closer to probing potential bias, the court’s discretion in deciding whether to allow the questioning narrows, and when requested voir dire questions go directly to the existence of actual bias, the court’s discretion disappears.
This case involved a claim arising under the Reimbursement Act, which allows public employees to recover fees and costs for criminal charges arising out of or in connection with acts under color of the employee’s authority. The supreme court held a teacher was entitled to reimbursement of fees and costs incurred in successfully defending charges of aggravated sexual abuse, because the criminal information alleged that the former employee committed the acts while acting in a position of special trust as a teacher.
The defendant and the State had entered a plea agreement the weekend before trial was set to begin. Before presenting that agreement to the district court, the State withdrew it on the basis the alleged victim objected to the agreement. Relying on contract law principles, the court held that “[t]he State may withdraw from a plea bargain agreement at any time prior to, but not after, the actual entry of defendant’s guilty plea or other action by defendant constituting detrimental reliance on the agreement.” Because there was not sufficient evidence of detrimental reliance in this case, the State could properly withdraw the agreement.
This appeal centered on whether a payment error affected the timeliness of a personal injury claim against a municipality. The supreme court reiterated that failure to file a timely undertaking did not present a jurisdictional issue, and held that dishonor of payment did not affect the timeliness of the undertaking under the Governmental Immunity Act.
In this appeal of a criminal conviction, the supreme court held that trial counsel’s assent to an erroneous jury instruction prejudiced the defendant, but that prejudice cannot be presumed in the case of an erroneous jury instruction. The court also rejected the defendant’s argument that the phrase “an unlawful user of a controlled substance”—the basis of the charge of possession of a firearm by a restricted person—was unconstitutionally vague with respect to him. In doing so, it adopted an interpretation that has been accepted by many federal courts in connection with the similar federal statute: that there must be a “temporal nexus between the gun possession and regular drug use.”
In this appeal from the juvenile court’s order terminating parental rights of the child, the mother argued, among other things, that the child should have been placed with family or a member of her tribe as prescribed in the Indian Child Welfare Act. The court of appeals affirmed the termination order, holding that bonding with a foster family can qualify as “good cause” where, as here, the initial placement did not violate the ICWA.
Plaintiff petitioned for a writ of certiorari to resolve whether a court may grant summary judgment on a gross negligence claim in the absence of a standard fixed by law. The Utah Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals, holding that summary judgment dismissing a gross negligence claim is appropriate where reasonable minds could only conclude that the defendant was not grossly negligent under the circumstances, regardless of whether the standard is fixed by law.
The defendant social worker appealed from the district court’s denial of her motion for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity in this case involving a substantive due process claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff asserted that claim under the “state-created danger” theory, on the basis the social worker had temporarily placed him with his biological father – a registered sex offender who sexually and physically assaulted him – as a dependent or neglected child while in his mother’s custody. After providing a useful discussion of the state-created danger theory, the Tenth Circuit held the social worker’s conduct violated clearly established law, such that she was not entitled to qualified immunity.
On a petition for certiorari from the Utah Court of Appeals in a case previously mentioned in these appellate highlights, the Utah Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision that it lacked jurisdiction to divide fees between a lawyer and his former law firm because the law firm had failed to properly intervene in the case. The supreme court assumed the law firm had failed to properly intervene, but held the lawyer had waived any objection to the propriety of the intervention by “essentially acquiescing in the litigation over the merits of the firm's fee claim and by actively advancing his own competing claim to an award of fees.”
The district court revoked the defendant’s supervised release in part because it found, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant had knowingly been in possession of child pornography. Under 18 U.S.C. § 3583, revocation of parole for possession of child pornography triggers a mandatory minimum sentence of five years’ re-incarceration. The 10th Circuit overturned the sentence, holding that § 3583 violates the Sixth Amendment because it punishes the defendant with re-incarceration for conduct of which he has not been found guilty by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.
In an interpretation of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the Court rejected the application of state law for acknowledging or establishing paternity, and held that a federal standard applies. Specifically, the Court held that a standard of reasonability applies to the time and manner in which an unwed father may acknowledge or establish his paternity, as ICWA is silent both as to these requirements, and a reasonable standard is consistent with ICWA’s liberal administration.
The plaintiff–employee appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants on her failure-to-accommodate claim under the American’s with Disabilities Act and her genetic information discrimination claim under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. In evaluating the employee’s ADA claim, the Tenth Circuit held that a failure-to-accommodate claim does not required any evidence of discriminatory intent and, thus, is not properly characterized as a circumstantial evidence claim subject to the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework or a direct evidence claim.
In this divorce case, the wife had estimated her housing needs for the purpose of alimony. The trial court rejected her estimate based on its concern that she may not be able to continue living with a friend and, as a result, her figures were neither credible nor relevant. Relying on Dahl v. Dahl, 2015 UT 79, the trial court imputed needs based upon the amount claimed by the husband. On appeal, the husband argued the court should have been bound by the wife’s estimate. The court of appeals held the trial court did not abuse its discretion by imputing a housing amount equal to that claimed by husband for the purposes of determining alimony, where there was no credible and relevant evidence of wife’s need.
The court of appeals reversed the district court’s decision not to terminate alimony, which was based on the district court’s conclusion that the wife was not “cohabitating” with her boyfriend, with whom she lived. The district court erred in considering whether the wife and her boyfriend held themselves out as husband and wife or had a reputation for being married, because those were legally irrelevant considerations.
This case involved a dispute over the interpretation of Utah’s Permanent Disability Statute (Utah Code § 34A-2-413). The statute requires an employee to satisfy six elements to be considered permanently disabled. One of the elements is that the injury “limit the employee’s ability to do basic work activities.” The court of appeals interpreted this to mean any limitation, no matter how slight. The supreme court overturned, holding that the element is satisfied only when “the impairment meaningfully inhibits the employee from exercising a common core of capabilities.”
This was an appeal from a district court’s decision to remand a case after concluding that the defendant had waived its rights to remove. The 10th Circuit affirmed, holding that by filing a motion to dismiss in state court, even only an hour prior to filing a notice of removal, the Defendant had waived its rights to remove.
The court answered a certified question from the federal district court regarding whether Utah Code § 78B-2-201(1) and its predecessors are statutes of limitations or statutes of repose. The court held that these statutes are statutes of repose by their plain language, but it construed them as statutes of limitations with respect to the State’s right of way claims under Revised Statute 2477, because to do otherwise would lead to the absurd result of the State automatically losing title to its rights of way without any opportunity to prevent the loss.
The defendant asked to withdraw his guilty plea, arguing that it was not knowingly and voluntarily made due to misleading statements made by the prosecution that had undermined the voluntariness of the plea. The court of appeals agreed, holding that the district court too narrowly focused on Rule 11 requirements, and should have considered the totality of the circumstances, including the defendant’s reasonable reliance on the prosecutor’s misleading statements.
After the husband obtained a judgment against his ex-wife in their divorce proceeding due to her failure to convey real property the divorce court had awarded to him, the husband brought this suit against his wife and daughters alleging fraudulent conveyance and seeking to quiet title. Upon motion by the husband, the Court ordered alternative service by publication. When the wife did not appear, the district court entered default judgment and a writ of execution on three of the wife’s properties, including the property at issue. The wife appeared through counsel later that month and moved to set aside the default under Rule 60(b). The district court denied this motion. The three properties were then sold at a sheriff’s sale. The court of appeals held that the wife did not receive the notice required by due process because the husband had not acted diligently and taken all reasonably practical steps to give the wife actual notice. The district court therefore lacked jurisdiction over the wife and the judgment, as well as the sheriff’s sale and deed based on that judgment, was void.
An acquaintance of the defendant told police that the defendant admitted to killing the victim, but at trial the acquaintance testified that he had no recollection of making this statement. The trial court admitted a recording of the acquaintance’s statement into evidence, and the jury ultimately convicted the defendant of aggravated murder. The defendant argued on appeal that the admission of the recorded statement violated his Sixth Amendment right of confrontation because the acquaintance was unavailable for examination due to his amnesia. The court rejected this argument, concluding that unavailability under the confrontation clause is narrow and literal. A witness is unavailable if he does not testify but is available if he does. The court also rejected the defendant’s constitutional challenges to Utah’s aggravated murder sentencing scheme, and accordingly affirmed his conviction.
The court here affirmed a decision allowing the joinder of a co-holder of a promissory note after the statute of limitations had expired because there was identity of interest between the plaintiffs and the debtor did not suffer any prejudice. Although the court recognized that privity of contract is not alone sufficient to create identity of interest, here, where RADC and Utah First were co-holders of a single note, and the action was to recover the entire amount on the note, there was sufficient identity of interest for relation back.
The court of appeals held the district court erred in applying Utah R. Civ. P. 26(a)(1)(C) to exclude evidence of damages at trial. The court concluded that the initial disclosure provided adequate notice of plaintiff’s method for computing damages because the disclosure indicated that plaintiff was entitled to 30% of the price of a company based upon his ownership interest.
The Tenth Circuit held that the plaintiffs have the burden to prove losses to a retirement plan resulting from an alleged breach of fiduciary duties under ERISA, and rejected the argument that a burden-shifting framework should be applied. Accordingly, the court affirmed summary judgment granted to the defendants because plaintiffs failed to present non-speculative evidence of losses to the plan.
The Utah Supreme Court announced a “strong presumption that legal malpractice claims are voluntarily assignable.” It explained that the public policy rationales relied on in other jurisdictions to support non-assignability are largely inapplicable or are not persuasive in this state given developments to Utah’s Rules of Civil Procedure and Rules of Professional Conduct. The Court did not foreclose the possibility that certain assignments of malpractice claims would present such public policy concerns such that they would not be valid. However, this case did not present any circumstances to rebut the strong presumption in favor of validity.
In resolving two separate actions involving challenges to Amendment 64 of the Colorado Constitution (which legalized recreational use of marijuana), the 10th Circuit did not reach the question of whether Amendment 64 was preempted by the Federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), stating that private landowners had no viable cause of action to privately enforce the CSA’s alleged preemption.
The court held that “[a] person violates Utah Code section 41-6a-517 if he or she operates or is in actual physical control of a motor vehicle with any measurable amount or metabolite of a controlled substance in his or her body.” Section 41-6a-517 does not require an additional finding of impairment, the statute does not create a status offense that violates the Eight and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, and the statute does not violate the Utah Constitution’s uniform operation of laws provision. Id.
In this petition for judicial review of the Retirement Board’s order denying the petitioner retirement benefits, the Utah Court of Appeals interpreted the Utah Retirement System forfeiture statute, Utah Code § 49-11-501. It held that because “service credit requires both types of contribution, all of the service credit earned during the period of member contributions is ‘based on’ the member contributions.” Accordingly, the Board correctly held that by withdrawing all of his member contributions, the petitioner forfeited all of his service credits earned during that employment.
In this appeal of denial of a post-conviction petition challenging a conviction for dealing in materials harmful to minors, the supreme court held the defendant had been deprived of effective assistance of counsel where his attorney failed to raise a First Amendment defense. Discussing the First Amendment at length, the supreme court concluded that the drawings sent to defendant’s daughter were not obscene, because the drawings were not aimed at appealing to a prurient interest in sex of a minor.
The plaintiff prisoner was forbidden from participating in group prayer with other inmates due to prior terrorist activity. The Tenth Circuit held that the Government cannot rely on Special Administrative Measures to demonstrate the state’s compelling interest required by RFRA, because the furtherance of a compelling governmental interest is an affirmative defense and the burden is placed on the government to demonstrate the interest.
A criminal suspect involuntarily committed to a mental health facility by the state for reasons unrelated to the investigation is not in custody for Miranda purposes, because a reasonable suspect would feel free to end the interrogation, even if he or she could not leave the facility, and was not subject to coercive pressures usually present when officers take someone into custody.
The Utah Supreme Court held that an order of complete restitution as part of a plea in abeyance was a final, appealable order and the court of appeals had jurisdiction to hear such an appeal. The court emphasized the difference between a complete order of restitution and court-ordered restitution, the former being the entire amount necessary for complete restitution, and the latter taking into account the defendant’s circumstances and ability to pay. The court stated that a court must make separate determinations for the two kinds of restitution, and that to merge them into one order constitutes error.
The plaintiff, who was paid above minimum wage, argued that her employer was required to turn over to her a share of all tips collected paid by catering customers. In support of this argument, she relied on a Department of Labor regulation purporting to interpret the tip-credit provision of the FLSA. The Tenth Circuit held that the DOL lacked authority to promulgate the regulation because there was no “gap” in the statute to fill.
The court held that officer safety concerns justified a voluntary interaction during a traffic stop, in which the officer requested a passenger’s identification, and the seconds-long extension of the traffic stop resulting from running the identification did not unreasonably prolong the stop.
On remand from the Court’s prior ruling in Veysey v. Veysey, 2014 UT App 264, 339 P.3d 131, the district court held that laches barred the majority of the mother’s claim for reimbursement of daycare expenses even though the statute of limitations had not yet run.
In this discrimination case, the employer argued that employee failed to exhaust administrative remedies because the complaint contained a quid pro quo harassment claim that was absent from the charge of discrimination. The Tenth Circuit held that the discrimination charge satisfied the exhaustion requirement where it placed the employer on notice of a claim based on sex-based remarks and discrimination, even though it did not specifically mention a quid pro quo harassment.
Overruling a prior interpretation of Utah Code section 76-1-404, the court formally abandoned the “dual sovereignty doctrine,” which had permitted subsequent criminal prosecutions by different sovereigns for the same offense. In doing so, the court determined that the Blockburger-Sosa test was the appropriate standard for determining whether section 76-1-404 operated as a bar to subsequent prosecution. The court then held that 76-1-404 barred a state prosecution for sexual exploitation of a minor where the federal government had already convicted the defendant based on the same offense and same conduct.
The court set aside a civil penalty of $413,750 assessed against the petitioner for securities fraud, and returned the case to the agency to reconsider the fine amount. The court held that although the Utah Securities Commission had authority to impose a fine, it could not impose a fine plus targeted assessments for other issues (in this case, investor losses and investigation costs).
The defendant was convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9) by possessing a firearm after having previously been convicted of a misdemeanor crime for domestic violence. The Tenth Circuit held that a misdemeanor violation of a municipal ordinance did not qualify as a “misdemeanor under… State… law” for the purposes of applying the statute, and accordingly reversed and instructed the district court to vacate the defendant’s conviction and sentence and to dismiss the indictment.
The court affirmed the Utah Motor Vehicle Enforcement’s decision to deny Tesla Motor UT, Inc.’s application for a license to sell new motor vehicles, holding that Utah Code §§ 41-3-101 (licensing act) and 13-14-101 (franchise act), when read together, prohibit a wholly owned subsidiary of a motor vehicle manufacturer from obtaining a license to sell the manufacturer’s new motor vehicles in stores in Utah.
The Unanimous Verdict Clause of the Utah Constitution does not require unanimity as to theories, methods, or modes of the crime. Rather, all that is required is unanimity as to guilt—that the prosecutor has proven each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
A member of the jury venire made comments that prejudiced the entire jury pool. The court held that trial counsel’s failure to timely move for a mistrial, before the jury was sworn, constituted ineffective assistance of counsel.
Utah Code § 76-1-401 prohibits the State from prosecuting a defendant in separate actions for conduct that may establish separate offenses under a single criminal episode. The court adopted a totality of the circumstances test with enumerated factors to determine whether conduct aims at a single criminal objective. Applying this new test, the court concluded that the petitioner’s wage and tax crimes did not have a single criminal objective.
The district court dismissed three section 1983 claims and five state-law claims for lack of standing. On appeal, the Tenth Circuit held that (a) the plaintiff lacked prudential standing to assert due process or takings claims that belonged to a prior owner of the property, and (b) the district court should have simply declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over remaining state law claims after dismissing the federal claims.
After filing suit against BOSC in state court, the Board voluntarily dismissed the suit and sought to enforce an agreement to arbitrate. BOSC opposed, arguing the Board had waived its right to arbitrate by filing the suit. The Court held that the Board had not waived its right to arbitrate, because it was not improperly manipulating the judicial process, litigation had not proceeded too far, significant inefficiencies would not result, and neither party was prejudiced by the delay.
The court of appeals affirmed the dismissal of the appellants’ claims for premises liability and negligence arising from an accident in a West Valley City swimming pool, concluding that the appellant failed to sufficiently plead a waiver of immunity under the Governmental Immunity Act. On the premises liability claim, the court concluded that governmental immunity is only waived for defective or dangerous conditions of a building, which does not extend to the conditions inside the building or conditions unrelated to the structure of the building, such as the condition alleged by the appellant (another teenager obstructing her swim lane). The court concluded that the negligence claim was barred by the public duty doctrine, and that the appellant had not established the special relationship with West Valley City necessary to support her claim.
The defendant pled guilty to a felony drug charge, and agreed to be sentenced in accordance with a sentencing range established by the Sentencing Commission. After the sentencing, the Sentencing Commission lowered the sentence range. The 10th Circuit held that if a plea agreement calls for a defendant to be sentenced within a particular sentencing range, “the district court’s acceptance of the agreement obligates the court to sentence the defendant accordingly,” and the court has authority to reduce the sentence under 18 U.S.C. § 3582(c)(2).
Discussing experiential expert testimony, the court of appeals held the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding excerpts of an expert’s deposition, where the expert failed to explain how prior experience supported the particular opinion at issue.
The court of appeals affirmed the dismissal of an attorney’s defamation complaint against a former client who posted an unfavorable review online. The court analyzed the review in detail and concluded that the majority of the statements in it could not be objectively verified, which weighed in favor of the court’s ultimate determination that the unfavorable online review expressed an opinion and was not defamatory under Utah law.
This appeal arose out of a conditional plea entered after the district court concluded that evidence of similar prior acts involving the defendant and other victims was admissible under the doctrine of chances. The supreme court held that the doctrine of chances was not limited to rebutting charges of fabrication, but instead could be used to prove elements of the offense. In doing so, the court clarified that courts should first evaluate whether the four foundational requirements of the doctrine have been met and, if so, independently analyze whether the evidence is admissible under rule 403.
In this direct criminal appeal, the defendant argued that the loss or destruction of video footage of the assault for which she was charged violated her due process rights. The court applied the due process analysis applicable to such a claim, outlined in State v. Tiedemann, 2007 UT 49, ¶ 44, 162 P.3d 1106. In doing so, the court reaffirmed that the Tiedemann test encompasses a threshold requirement that the defendant demonstrate there is a reasonable probability that the lost or destroyed evidence would have been exculpatory.
The court reconciled two seemingly conflicting provisions of Utah’s underinsured motorist coverage statute: one saying that underinsured motorist coverage is “secondary to the benefits provided by” workers’ compensation; and the other saying that underinsured motorist coverage “may not be reduced by benefits provided by workers’ compensation insurance.” The court held that under these provisions the UIM insurer was required to fully compensate the injured driver within its policy limits, but only for damages in excess of what workers’ compensation paid, so as to avoid an inappropriate double recovery.
In this suit over an employment contract, the defendant asserted a counterclaim, seeking a setoff (but no net damage award). Neither party prevailed on their claims at trial. The court of appeals held that, although he had not prevailed on his claims, Olson was the prevailing party for purposes of a contractual attorney’s fee award, because he had achieved his optimal outcome: zero recovery.
In this divorce case, the district court concluded, on summary judgment, that husband’s business interests were separate property. Surveying the exceptions to the general presumption that separate property will not be divided, the court of appeals affirmed, holding that wife’s maintenance of the marital household, standing alone, was insufficient to demonstrate contribution to the opposing party’s pre-marital business interests. The court left open the issue of whether a correctness or deference standard of review would apply to a district court’s pre-trial categorization of marital property.
A Utah resident agreed to construct two gazebos and a shed on defendant’s property in Montana. The court of appeals rejected the defendant’s claim that the Utah forum selection clause in the contract was unenforceable. The court held that, although one of the parties was a business entity and the other an individual, there was no reason to conclude that the forum selection clause was unreasonable or unfair; and that Utah’s exercise of jurisdiction over the subject matter only requires a rational nexus to the case or parties.
This appeal presented the question of whether a state employee who acts without state authority can nevertheless be entitled to qualified immunity in a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In this divided opinion, the three judges agreed that the district court’s decision holding the defendant district attorney was not entitled to qualified immunity must be reversed. They disagreed, however, as to whether and to what extent the court should adopt the “scope-of-authority” exception to qualified immunity, and whether to even reach that issue in this case. Judge Hartz, who drafted the lead opinion, concluded the exception should apply, if at all, only when the authority under state law is clearly established. Because the district attorney’s authority under New Mexico law was not clearly established, the exception would not apply even under Judge Hartz’s reasoning.
In this appeal of a dispute arising out of the use of a driveway in Big Cottonwood Canyon, the court of appeals held that the district court correctly awarded the claimant a prescriptive easement for the purpose of using the driveway to access the claimant’s property, but erred in determining that the claimant was entitled to use the driveway for parking purposes. In doing so, the court engages in a thorough discussion of the standards governing prescriptive easements, adverse possession, and continuous use.
The central issue here was whether the juvenile court had subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate parentage after the mother had voluntarily relinquished her parental rights. The court of appeals denied the State’s petition, concluding that the juvenile court’s jurisdiction extended to the father’s petition to adjudicate parentage pursuant to the joinder provision of the Utah Uniform Parentage Act because the petition had been joined with the child welfare proceeding before the Mother relinquished her parental rights.
Affirming a summary judgment, the court of appeals held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by striking a declaration that (a) directly contradicted the declarant’s sworn deposition testimony and (b) contained conclusory and speculative statements that lacked specificity or foundation.
The parties’ handwritten settlement agreement after mediation stated that it was subject to drafting a final agreement that would include a non-disparagement provision and other terms. One party sent the other a draft of a more formal agreement shortly after the mediation, and roughly a month later, the other party responded that they could not agree to the terms as drafted and that they were terminating the proposed mediation agreement. The court of appeals affirmed enforcement of the settlement agreement, noting that the repudiating party could not rely on its own failure to follow through with reasonable efforts to craft the contemplated written agreement to defeat the condition of drafting a more formal agreement.
The defendant challenged the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the plaintiff on the first two elements of his slander of title claim—publication of a slanderous statement disparaging the claimant’s title and that the statement was false. The defendant claimed, among other things, that he had a valid attorney’s lien on the plaintiff’s property. The court affirmed the district court’s holding that the defendant attorney did not have a valid statutory attorney’s lien. It explained, “An attorney’s single comment concerning property not at issue in the divorce and not owned by the client, made in the course of performing extensive divorce-related work for the client, is too tenuous to connect the legal work to the Property.”
Decedent was required under a divorce decree to designate petitioner as his life insurance beneficiary until their minor children reached the age of 18, but he had violated the order and changed the beneficiary to his current spouse shortly before he died. The insurer paid the death benefit to the designated beneficiary, and six years later the ex-wife sought an order requiring benefits to be paid to her. The court held that the plain language of the applicable statute required PEHP to pay life insurance benefits to the man’s last named beneficiary, which it had done, and the divorce decree was not part of the insurance contract, so no second payment was required.
The United States argued for the first time on appeal that evidence of a firearm was admissible under the attenuation doctrine, as established in Utah v. Strieff, a 2016 United States Supreme Court decision issued after the appeal was filed. Although the 10th Circuit recognized that the Strieff decision came out after the appeal was filed, it held that the attenuation argument was waived, as the United States could have raised the argument below, just as the State of Utah had done in the Supreme Court case.
The validity of a contractual provision that released a business broker from any liability for the buyer’s reliance on its statements depends on allegations or proof of fraud, not on the breadth of the clause, repudiating a prior memorandum decision of the court that suggested otherwise.
Utah Code § 31A-22-303(1), which requires motor vehicle liability insurance policies to cover damages or injuries to third parties resulting from a driver’s unforeseeable loss of consciousness while driving, overrides the common law “sudden incapacity” defense and imposes strict liability in circumstances where a driver suddenly and unforeseeably becomes incapacitated. The driver’s liability under these circumstances is capped by the limits set forth in the applicable insurance policy.
An employee of the IRS was struck by a co-employee while walking into work in the employer’s parking lot. The court held that because the accident occurred on the employer’s premises, in a parking lot dedicated to its employees, workers’ compensation provided the exclusive remedy.
Appealing a conviction for aggravated robbery, the defendant argued that the juvenile judge should have been required to recuse herself for lack of impartiality under Utah’s Code of Judicial Conduct prior to binding the defendant over to stand trial as an adult. The court held that the judge’s marriage to the chief criminal deputy in the prosecuting entity’s office gave rise to an appearance of impropriety, and that the defendant was entitled to another bindover hearing, even in the absence of a showing of prejudice.
In this appeal involving admissibility of evidence of the defendant’s past misconduct, the Supreme Court repudiated the “scrupulous examination” line of cases previously used to review decisions under Rule 404(b) of the Utah Rules of Evidence. Instead, “appellate courts should simply assess whether the district judge made an error in admitting or excluding the evidence in question.”
Faced with clear evidence that the defendant was evading service of process, the court of appeals upheld service by publication against a due process challenge, holding the plaintiff had been reasonably diligent in its efforts to serve the defendant.
Discussing the disclosure requirements for non-retained experts for the first time since the 2011 revision to the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure, the court of appeals held that the district court abused its discretion by allowing a party to present opinions of a non-retained expert, because the party failed to provide a summary of the witness’s testimony, as required by Rule 26, until four days prior to trial.
In this bankruptcy appeal, the Tenth Circuit adopted the minority view that only affirmative acts to gain possession of, or to exercise control over, property of the estate violate the automatic stay.
In this appeal from an order of dismissal on the basis of qualified immunity, the Tenth Circuit held as a matter of first impression that the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination applies when the self-incriminating statements are used during a probable cause hearing. However, because this was not clearly established at the time the plaintiff’s statements were obtained and used against him during the probable cause hearing, the court affirmed the district court’s ruling that the officer defendants were entitled to qualified immunity.
A convicted serial bank robber asked to attend in-patient drug treatment prior to sentencing. after undergoing inpatient treatment. The defendant’s apparent success in the treatment program led the district court to sentence him to the 33 days he previously served in pretrial detention. The government appealed, arguing that the sentence was subjectively unreasonable. The Tenth Circuit Court agreed, holding that the sentence was unreasonably short based on the statutory sentencing factors. The district court, in its commendation of the defendant’s sobriety, gave too little value to deterrence, incapacitation, and respect for the law.
This appeal arose from two district court orders awarding millions of dollars of attorney’s fees against the man who filed a qui tam case that lasted over 20 years and involved more than 300 natural gas industry defendants. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the award of attorney fees against the plaintiff under the fee-shifting provision of the False Claims Act, finding that the complaint was clearly frivolous and lacking in evidentiary support. However, the court reversed the district court’s award of attorney fees related to an earlier appeal, explaining that the district court lacked jurisdiction to award appellate-related fees and noting that defendants failed to request the fees from the Tenth Circuit.
The plaintiff had signed an agreement with one of the defendants that contained the following provision regarding arbitration: ”The arbitration shall be administered by JAMS and conducted in accordance with its Streamlined Arbitration Rules and Procedures, except as provided otherwise herein.” The Tenth Circuit held that the parties to the agreement clearly and unmistakably intended to arbitrate arbitrability of the claims when they incorporated the JAMS Rules into the agreement.
After defendants’ convictions for failure to file tax returns were overturned, the district court denied their request for a refund of tax penalties and interest they had paid pursuant to a restitution order. The court held that the order of acquittal eliminated the court’s jurisdiction to impose restitution, and the Steeds were entitled to a refund. However, because the Steeds voluntarily entered into a private pay-to-stay contract with the Wasatch County Jail, they were not entitled to a refund of the costs of incarceration. In addition, they were not entitled to a refund of supervision fees paid to Adult Probation and Parole, as the Steeds actually received the State’s supervision services—a result the court characterized as “troubling at an intuitive level.”
Uintah County sold property at a tax sale without providing the required notice of the sale to the holder of mineral rights on the property. The mineral interest owner filed suit challenging the validity of the tax sale 13 years later, and the new owners of the property raised a four-year statute of limitations defense under Utah Code § 78B-2-206. The Court held that the statute of limitations did not apply because the sale was conducted in violation of the mineral right owner’s due process rights, and the tax title was void to the extent it purported to convey the mineral rights on the property.
The Utah Supreme Court answered the question left open in Federal National Mortgage Association v. Sundquist, as to the appropriate remedy for a violation of Utah Code § 57-1-21, which requires a trustee of a nonjudicial foreclosure sale to maintain an office within the state of Utah. In doing so, the Court distinguished between void, voidable, and valid trustee’s deeds. Because the defendants had not presented any evidence the trustee’s deeds violated public policy, the district court erred in holding that it was void. And, because the defendants had not shown that they suffered prejudice as a result of Recon Trust’s failure to have an in-state office, the trustee’s deed was valid, not voidable.
In a dispute over election results, the court held that Utah Code § 20A-4-403(2)(a)(ii) unconstitutionally extended the Court’s original jurisdiction, because the Legislature cannot alter the Court’s original jurisdiction by statute.
This appeal arose out of a dispute over the proceeds of a life insurance policy. Before his death, the policy owner disinherited and divorced his spouse, but he failed to change the beneficiary designation. The Supreme Court held that, in the absence of express terms that reference divorce in a life insurance policy, there is a statutory presumption that a beneficiary designation of a former spouse is revoked upon divorce. The presumption may be rebutted by the express incorporation of language from Utah Code § 30-3-5(1)(e) in the divorce decree.
Trial counsel’s failure to provide the defendant a meaningful opportunity to participate in the in-chambers voir dire of potential jurors, either by being physically present or through discussion after, constituted deficient performance. Without deciding whether voir dire is, as a general matter, a critical stage of trial at which a defendant has a right to be present at all times, the court held that the in-chambers voir dire in this case was sufficiently important that the defendant had a right to participate.
Thornton appealed a district court’s decision basing the length of Thornton’s sentence, in part, on the treatment and vocational services he would receive in jail. The Tenth Circuit held that the district court erred by improperly relying on the availability of in-custody rehabilitation as a justification for the denial of a downward variance, in violation of clearly established precedent forbidding judges from using imprisonment as a means to promote correction or rehabilitation.
In this child abuse conviction, the court held that it was error to allow a video recording of a Children’s Justice Center interview of the victim into the jury room during deliberations, reasoning that the recording was testimonial in nature. The court determined, however, that the error was harmless as the jury did not appear to give overemphasis to the interviews.
The court held that denial of counsel to the indigent father in this appeal from a parental-rights termination order violated the father’s federal due process rights. The father did not preserve the constitutional argument for appeal, but the court found that the exceptional circumstances exception to the preservation rule applied in the narrow circumstances of this case.
In this privately-initiated parental termination proceeding, the mother had requested appointed counsel. The court held that Utah Code § 78A-6-1111(2), which prohibits the appointment of counsel in private proceedings, was not facially unconstitutional, but agreed that the district court erred by relying on the statute to deny the mother’s request for court-appointed counsel, rather than considering the mother’s due process rights as set forth in Lassiter v. Department of Social Services, 452 U.S. 18, 27-32 (1981).
New York Ave. LLC entered into a contract to purchase land from the Harrisons. New York Ave. exercised an option to extend the closing date of the contract by making monthly payments, and argued that the contract allowed these extension payments to continue indefinitely. The court held that to allow New York Ave. to postpone the closing date indefinitely would defeat the purpose of the contract, and that, in the absence of a specified date, “the law implies that it shall be done within a reasonable time.”
After reconsidering prior precedent in light of intervening Supreme Court authority, the Tenth Circuit “departed from” Salco Corp. v. Gen. Motors Corp., 517 F.2d 567 (10th Cir. 1975), and held instead that to prove a conspiracy to monopolize under Section 2 of the Sherman Act, the plaintiff must identify the relevant market.
The court reversed the defendant’s conviction and remanded the case for a new trial, finding that the trial court’s admission into evidence of details of the defendant’s prior conviction for unemployment fraud was an abuse of discretion that prejudiced him.
Appealing convictions of aggravated burglary and aggravated assault, the defendant argued an order authorizing force in obtaining a DNA sample violated his right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures. Affirming, the Court of Appeals held the district court acted within its discretion when it authorized use of force in obtaining a buccal swab under Rule 16, where probable cause supported retrieval of the DNA.
In this appeal of an order remanding a class action, the Tenth Circuit broadly defined the term “in controversy” for the purposes of the Class Action Fairness Act, and held that federal jurisdiction existed when the defendant explains plausibly how a class may lawfully recover in excess of the statutory minimum under the plaintiff’s own allegations.
The defendant argued that the district court erred in revoking probation, in part because Adult Probation & Parole was not supervising him at the time of the violation. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (a) inaction of the agency charged with supervision did not terminate probation, because the authority to terminate probation rests with the judiciary, and (b) the lower court did not err in finding the violation was willful, because the defendant could not have reasonably believed that he was no longer on probation under the facts of the case.
The Tenth Circuit held that the exercise of authority by SEC administrative law judges was unconstitutional in violation of the Appointment Clause. Citing the ALJ’s significant discretion when presiding over enforcement hearings, the Court held that ALJs are inferior officers, rather than employees, and are thus required to be appointed.
Reversing and remanding a sentence, the Tenth Circuit held the district court committed plain error when it applied a discretionary downward variance for the purpose of making the defendant eligible for a rehabilitative drug program.
In a dispute over water and boundaries, the Utah Court of Appeals upheld an award of attorney fees as a sanction for bad faith in instigating the litigation without an honest belief in its merits. The court held that a prevailing party under the bad faith litigation statute is able to recover its fees incurred at the appellate level to defend its award of fees in the district court, as well as fees incurred in defense of the original claim.
Extending a prior decision, the Tenth Circuit concluded that a defendant may knowingly and voluntarily waive his or her right to seek a reduction in sentence pursuant to 18 U.S.C.A. § 3582(c)(2) by entering into a plea agreement with the United States.
The court affirmed the district court’s holding that the University, as an arm of the State, had sovereign immunity for the plaintiffs’ claim under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act. It rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the Act itself waived the State’s sovereign immunity, and rejected their argument that the Act was enacted pursuant to the Thirteenth Amendment, such that sovereign immunity did not apply.
This appeal arose from a dispute over a real estate sales commission. The defendant who lost at trial filed several Rule 60(b) motions seeking to vacate the judgment, including an argument that the court lacked jurisdiction because the principal broker of the real estate agency (which operated under an assumed name) was not a plaintiff, and therefore the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue for the commission. The court rejected these arguments, holding that the plaintiffs had traditional standing to sue, and that their lack of legal capacity to sue under the Assumed Name statute did not deprive the court of jurisdiction.
The Utah Supreme Court held that, under Utah R. Evid. 505, when the government invokes the confidential informant privilege, all charges for which that testimony is necessary must be dismissed. The court abandoned a common-law multi-factor test governing the admission of testimony from a confidential informant. The inquiry is limited to “whether an informer may be able to give testimony necessary to a fair determination of the issue of guilt or innocence in a criminal case.”
The court affirmed the defendants’ felony convictions for child kidnapping and aggravated murder. Among other things, the court abandoned the factors test described in prior case law and held that Utah R. Evid. 403’s balancing test is the standard that a district court should employ to assess the admissibility of allegedly gruesome photographs.
In an appeal from a denial of a motion seeking relief from court order under Utah Rules of Civil Procedure 60(b), the Utah Supreme Court held that Rule 60(b) motions must be filed under their appropriate headings. Specifically, Rule 60(b)(6) is not a catch-all when the grounds for setting aside the judgment are covered under 60(b)(1)-(5). The court affirmed the denial of the motion.
This is the second appeal from the district court’s order of contempt issued against the defendants based on their failure to comply with an order requiring them to deposit all rents collected with the court. In this appeal, defendants sought, among other things, to challenge the validity of the underlying district court order. The court of appeals agreed with the district court that the collateral bar doctrine precludes defendants from waiting until after they violated the order to challenge its validity. In doing so, the court made clear that the collateral bar doctrine is part of Utah jurisprudence.
The Supreme Court analyzed whether a parolee could assert a Fifth Amendment challenge to the revocation of his parole based upon his participation in a sex offender treatment program that required the disclosure of past charged or uncharged sex offenses. Reversing the district court, the Supreme Court held that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment in favor of the State on the Fifth Amendment claim. Among other things, the Supreme Court recognized that “a threat to revoke a defendant’s parole constitutes compulsion for purposes of the Fifth Amendment.”
In a suit by landowners against a board of county commissioners, the landowners alleged that their due process rights had been violated, as they had been required to rezone their property prior to the adoption of the regulation. The 10th Circuit held that a board of commissioners is not required to hold public hearings prior to adopting zoning regulations so there was no procedural due process violation, and the behavior of the board was not sufficient to shock the conscience, and thus there was no substantive due process violation.
The Utah Supreme Court reaffirmed that in order to qualify for certification under Rule 54(b), a decision must constitute a “judgment as to one or more but fewer than all of the claims or parties” at issue in the case. Because the district court’s order granting partial summary judgment in favor of the defendant did not finally dispose of any claim and did not finally adjudicate the interests of a party, the court held that Rule 54(b) certification was improper. It accordingly dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.
A group of unsuccessful voter registration applicants brought suit against the state of Kansas, alleging that the state’s law requiring documentary proof of citizenship was preempted by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The Tenth Circuit agreed, holding that the NVRA’s attestation requirement established the presumptive minimum amount of information that a state needed to carry out its eligibility-assessment and registration duties. In order to rebut this presumption and require documentary proof of citizenship, the state must make a factual showing that the attestation requirement is insufficient for these purposes. Kansas failed to make this showing, and thus the NVRA preempted the state law.
This appeal involved a post-judgment motion to modify the 1910 Morse Decree, the final decree that adjudicated the right to use the waters of Little Cottonwood Creek. The district court denied the post-judgment motion to modify, holding it did not have authority to reopen the hundred-year-old case to modify the final judgment. The Utah Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not have common law authority to modify the Morse Decree through a post-judgment motion, and the Morse Decree itself did not authorize the motion.
The district court granted a motion to suppress evidence obtained while a warrant application remained pending. The Court of Appeals reversed based upon the inevitable discovery doctrine and a four-factor test articulated by the Tenth Circuit. Reversing the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court held that the City failed to carry its burden of showing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that evidence would have been inevitably discovered in the absence of a warrant. In doing so, the Supreme Court declined to apply the Tenth Circuit’s four-factor test.
After taking his ex-girlfriend’s purse, the defendant fled the scene. His ex-girlfriend dove into his vehicle’s passenger window and climbed in while the defendant continued to drive. The defendant was subsequently convicted of aggravated robbery based upon the use of the car as a deadly weapon. On appeal, the Supreme Court held that a defendant may be convicted of aggravated robbery for using an object in a manner capable of causing serious bodily injury or death, even if the object is not ordinarily considered a weapon.
The Tenth Circuit held that the testimony of a Rule 30(b)(6) witness is merely an evidentiary admission, rather than a judicial admission. The plaintiff challenged the district court’s refusal to instruct the jury that it was required to reject the trial testimony of the defendant’s former CEO because that testimony was inconsistent with his deposition testimony under Rule 30(b)(6). The court rejected this argument, as the proposed jury instruction was not an accurate statement with respect to the “binding” nature of 30(b)(6) deposition testimony.
An individual, acting as personal representative and sole heir of her deceased husband, brought an action against herself for negligently causing her husband’s death. The Utah Supreme Court held that the wrongful death and survival action statutes unambiguously allow a person acting in the legal capacity of an heir or personal representative to sue him or herself in an individual capacity for negligently causing a decedent’s death or injury.
The Executive Director of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality dismissed a request for agency action. Rather than addressing alleged deficiencies in the Executive Director’s final order in their opening brief, the petitioners instead challenged underlying steps in the agency process. The court struck the portions of the petitioners’ reply brief in which they, for the first time, addressed the Executive Director’s final order. The petitioners’ failure to challenge the appropriate decision in their principal brief led the court to dismiss the appeal on the basis that the petitioners had not met their burden of persuasion.
Prior to this case, a party could receive a preliminary injunction by showing that the case presents a serious and important question, if a strong showing is made that the other elements of the preliminary injunction test are met. In response to a Supreme Court decision, the court held that a showing of likelihood of success is always required, and the relaxed “serious question” test is no longer permissible.
Appealing the grant of a civil stalking injunction, the defendant argued the district court erred in considering an incident involving the defendant brandishing a gun against a non-party with connections to the plaintiff. Affirming, the Court of Appeals held that the statutory grounds for issuing a civil stalking injunction may include a threat against a business associate, even if the victim was not physically present at the time of the incident.
The Court of Appeals rejected defendant’s argument that exhibits submitted by an opposing party in the context of Rule 60(b) must be accompanied by a sworn affidavit. At the same time, however, the Court of Appeals reiterated that the district court could consider evidence only if the evidence had been properly authenticated under Utah Rule of Evidence 901 and qualified for a hearsay exception.
In an appeal from convictions for murder and obstruction of justice, defendant argued the lower court erred in excluding portions of a police interview in which defendant stated he fought with victim based on victim’s statements about an affair with his brother. Affirming, the Court of Appeals held, as a matter of first impression, that Rule of Evidence 106 permits admission of hearsay statements that do not otherwise qualify for exception to the hearsay rule, so long as the hearsay statement satisfies Rule 106’s fairness standard.
In this consolidated case, the Utah Supreme Court held that an enforceable forum selection clause does not preclude application of Utah’s borrowing statute. The forum selection clause required that the case be governed by all of Utah’s law, both procedural and substantive. The Court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the borrowing statute applies only when the claim is not actionable in the foreign jurisdiction solely because of the lapse of time.
The court overruled Panos v. Smith’s Food & Drug Centers, Inc., 913 P.2d 363 (Utah Ct. App. 1996), and held that a dismissal for failure to prosecute under Utah R. Civ. P. 41(b) is with prejudice unless the judge specifies otherwise in the order.
The court concluded that the claims procedure provided in the Unclaimed Property Act, Utah Code §§ 67-4a-101 et seq., is the exclusive method for a judgment creditor to obtain a judgment debtor’s unclaimed property that is held by the State.
A lawful permanent resident appealed an order of removal based upon his conviction for failure to stop at the command of a police officer. Extending the Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson v. United States, --- U.S. ---, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), the Tenth Circuit vacated the order of removal and held that the Immigration and Nationality Act’s residual definition of “crime of violence” was unconstitutionally vague.
The Tenth Circuit dismissed this appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The defendants’ motion for reconsideration of the denial of their motion to dismiss, which was filed eight months after that decision, did not toll the time for appeal of that decision. By identifying the denial of the motion to dismiss as the order being appealed, the defendants did not sufficiently express an intent to appeal the denial of the motion for reconsideration. The appeal was therefore untimely and the court lacked jurisdiction.
In this appeal from the denial of an ex-husband’s motion to dismiss a protective order that his ex-wife had obtained against him, the Utah Court of Appeals considered whether the ex-husband had properly preserved his arguments for appeal. The ex-husband had failed to object to the commissioner’s recommendation that the protective order remain in place. The court agreed with the ex-husband that the procedure for filing an objection to a commissioner’s order outlined in Utah R. Civ. P. 108 is optional. The husband accordingly was not required to file an objection in order to preserve his right to appeal. But, the failure to file an objection limited the ex-husband’s ability to challenge the factual basis of the commissioner’s decision on appeal.
In this appeal from the denial of an ex-husband’s motion to dismiss a protective order that his ex-wife had obtained against him, the Utah Court of Appeals considered whether the ex-husband had properly preserved his arguments for appeal. The ex-husband had failed to object to the commissioner’s recommendation that the protective order remain in place. The court agreed with the ex-husband that the procedure for filing an objection to a commissioner’s order outlined in Utah R. Civ. P. 108 is optional. The husband accordingly was not required to file an objection in order to preserve his right to appeal. But, the failure to file an objection limited the ex-husband’s ability to challenge the factual basis of the commissioner’s decision on appeal.
This suit involved a dispute over an assignment of the right to receive rental payments. Wolf Mountain, as payment for attorney fees, had assigned its rights to receive rent from a property in Summit County to Kirton McConkie. The property was being leased by ASC Utah. In a separate suit, ASC Utah obtained a $60 million judgment against Wolf Mountain, which ASC Utah then used to set off its rent payments under the lease. The Court of Appeals held that even though Kirton McConkie’s interest was assigned prior to the setoff, the assignment did not sever the right to receive rent from the other obligations under the lease, so Kirton McConkie’s assignment was subject to ASC Utah’s right to set off the rent.
The court rejected a constitutional challenge and reaffirmed its case law holding that Utah’s Plea Withdrawal Statute, Utah Code § 77-13-6, procedurally cuts off a defendant’s right to a direct appeal post-sentencing. The court explained that a defendant may pursue claims challenging an invalid plea collaterally through post- conviction proceedings.
This appeal arose from the district court’s denial of a petition under admiralty jurisdiction to limit a boat rental company’s liability for a recreational boating accident under the Limitation of Liability Act, 46 U.S.C. §§ 30501-12. The Tenth Circuit held that the boat rental company owed no duty to its customers to monitor and report weather forecasts, or to monitor the weather and make the decision for its customers as to whether it is advisable to venture onto the lake.
UDOT’s condemnation of 65 acres of land in order to resolve litigation by private litigants challenging the Legacy Parkway environmental assessment was upheld as fulfilling a state transportation purpose, but because the land was being banked for “future mitigation credits” for non-Legacy projects, the court held that the trial court should have considered the enhancive value attributable to the completion of the Legacy Highway in determining just compensation for the taking. The court also addressed the effect of an appellee’s failure to brief an issue, holding that while failure to brief does not result in a technical default, it nevertheless may be treated as an acknowledgement of the correctness of the appellant’s arguments.
Defendant appealed the district court’s decision to revoke his probation. At issue was whether the appeal was moot, as defendant had already served his sentence. The Court of Appeals held that the presumption in criminal convictions of collateral legal consequences, which allows an otherwise moot case to be appealed, does not apply to the revocation of probation. Defendant must demonstrate actual and adverse collateral legal consequences to survive mootness.
Defense counsel argued that his client was denied his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel, because counsel was not allowed to review classified documents prior to his client’s sentencing. The Tenth Circuit held that where defense counsel’s conduct has only been partially restricted by the trial court there is no presumptive Sixth Amendment violation. Because there was no presumption, the burden was on counsel to demonstrate the prejudice caused by his inability to review the classified documents.
The court affirmed the dismissal of this lawsuit against a resident of Japan for lack of general personal jurisdiction. The court held that the defendant’s pro se response to the complaint was not a responsive pleading, and therefore the defendant did not waive his objection to personal jurisdiction by failing to raise it in the response. The court further held that, although the defendant owned property in Utah, he was domiciled in Japan and the property was unrelated to the plaintiff’s cause of action, so the defendant lacked sufficient contacts with the State of Utah to support the exercise of general personal jurisdiction over him.
The Tenth Circuit rejected the defense of qualified immunity in this case brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, involving the search of a vehicle following a traffic stop. The officers’ reliance on the fact the plaintiff was from Aurora, Colorado, a “drug source” and “home to medicinal marijuana dispensaries,” was impermissible.
In an action to decide whether a trust deed survived when the trustee accepted title to the subject property in lieu of foreclosure, the Utah Court of Appeals held that once the trust deed has been released, the ancillary obligations of the trust deed cannot be enforced, as the trust deed ceases to exist. The trust deed cannot survive without the debt obligations, even though other obligations, such as the duty to defend against other interests, have not been met.
In this case, the Utah Supreme Court adopted a cause of action for parents’ right of filial consortium due to tortious injury to their minor child. The cause of action is derivative of the child’s cause of action. In order to recover under such a claim, the injury to the child must meet the requirements of Utah Code § 30-2-11(5).
The plaintiffs’ suit against Provo City was timely when initially filed, but the complaint was dismissed without prejudice because the plaintiffs failed to submit an “undertaking” or bond as required by statute. By the time the plaintiffs refiled, it was beyond the one-year filing requirement of the Governmental Immunity Act. The Court held that Utah Code § 78B-2-111 (the Savings Statute) could not sustain the timeliness of a re-filed suit against a governmental entity, because the Governmental Immunity Act speaks comprehensively to the timing of such a suit in a manner precluding operation of the Savings Statute.
In this appeal of a paternity dispute, the Supreme Court held the district court lacked jurisdiction to determine paternity under the Utah Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), where the child lived in Utah for eight days after being born within the state, relocated to Illinois with the adoptive parents before the filing of the petition, the adoptive parents resided in Illinois for longer than five years, neither of the biological parents lived in Utah, and an Illinois court was capable of exercising jurisdiction under the uniform act.-
This appeal arose from a trademark dispute over whether a manufacturer’s use of colors in its product packaging is a protected mark under section 43(a) of the Lanham Act. The Tenth Circuit held that the use of color in product packaging can be inherently distinctive only if specific colors are used in combination with a well-defined shape, pattern, or other distinctive design.
Evaluating whether notice of removal was timely, the Tenth Circuit held, as a matter of first impression, that a pre-suit communication referencing the amount of purported damages does not trigger the notice period for seeking removal from state to federal court, unless the communication is clearly incorporated into the complaint. At the same time, however, the Tenth Circuit held a state civil cover sheet indicating damages exceeded $100,000 triggered the time for filing a notice of removal.
A biological father appealed the denial of his motion to intervene in the adoption proceedings for his baby daughter. The Utah Supreme Court held that the pre-birth notice that the mother intended to place the baby up for adoption was inadequate because it provided that the father may lose certain rights rather than informing him that certain rights, including the right to contest the adoption, would be irrevocably lost.
While the appeal was pending in this case, the Supreme Court revised the common law requirements of intentional interference with economic relations in the case of Eldridge v. Johndrow,2015 UT 21. The new standard is that” [i]n the absence of any improper means, an improper purpose is not grounds for tortuous interference liability.” Although the jury instruction incorporating the improper purpose standard was correct when given, this case was pending on appeal when Eldridge was decided. The Supreme Court applied Eldridge retroactively on the basis that “parties to other cases pending on appeal are also entitled to the benefit of such a change in the law.” Id. ¶ 6 (emphasis added).
In this commercial real estate dispute, the Court of Appeals held the district court did not abuse its discretion when it excluded an expert as a Rule 37 sanction for willful non-compliance with a prior scheduling order and Rule 26’s expert designation requirements. The Court of Appeals then held, as a matter of first impression, that the district court correctly concluded expert testimony was necessary for the calculation of square footage of commercial real property.
On a certified question from the Tenth Circuit, the Utah Supreme Court clarified the measure of damages for breach of an oil and gas lease. The Court held expectation damages for breach of an oil or gas lease should be treated the same as any other lease. The Court also concluded that trial courts may, in their discretion, allow parties to submit post-breach evidence for the purpose of establishing and measuring expectation damages arising out of the breach of an oil and gas lease.
The board of an owners’ association for an industrial park sued some of its members for breach of the governing CC&Rs after they built a cell phone tower on their lot, despite having been denied permission from the board to do so. The district court applied a presumption that restrictive covenants are not favored in the law and are strictly construed in favor of the free and unrestricted use of property, and held that the association did not have the right to limit the number of cell phone towers in the park. Reversing, the Court held that the district court erred in strictly construing the CC&Rs rather than applying neutral principles of contract construction.
This case serves as a warning and reminder to litigants about the effect of the two dismissal rule under Utah R. Civ. P. 41(a). Yknot voluntarily dismissed claims that it filed against Stellia twice - once in federal district court and the second time in state court. Stellia then sued Yknot in a new state court action, and Yknot attempted to assert as counterclaims the claims it had previously dismissed. The Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of the counterclaims based on Rule 41(a), which provides that “a notice of dismissal operates as an adjudication upon the merits when filed by a plaintiff who has once dismissed in any court . . . an action based on or including the same claim.”
This appeal centered on a notice of claim provision contained in the Governmental Immunity Act of Utah. The district court held that “it is not unreasonable that [the plaintiff] might take a month or more to identify the entity responsible for maintaining the parking structure,” and highlighted the importance of reasonable diligence in searching out the parties. The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed, stating that “the statute affords some limited latitude where the identity of the responsible party as a governmental entity is in question.” The claimant must know 1) that they had a claim against the governmental entity and 2) the identity of the governmental entity.
In this divorce case, the Court of Appeals reversed the temporary support order and alimony award because the district court failed to make specific, detailed findings regarding expenses. The Court also held a property division order which set no minimum monthly payment, contained a “meager” interest rate, and allowed the judgment creditor to wait a significant period before beginning substantive payments, was inequitably structured.
After observing a probationer step into the defendant’s car in violation of her 11:00 p.m. curfew, two police officers called the probation officer. The probation officer asked the officers to approach the probationer to “find out what’s going on,” which they did by pulling over the defendant. Incident to the officer’s investigation of the probationer’s probation violation, the officers discovered the defendant had drug paraphernalia on her person. The Utah Court of Appeals held (1) “police officers may investigate, search, and seize probationers under the direction of probation officers,” and (2) “a driver may be lawfully detained incident to a traffic stop initiated for the purpose of investigating a passenger’s parole or probation violation.”
The defendant was sentenced to 121 months in prison and three years of supervised release for receipt and distribution of child pornography. The conditions of his supervised release were later modified to require that he submit to a sexual history polygraph answering whether he had committed sexual crimes for which he was never charged. The defendant refused this condition, subjecting him to potential revocation of his supervised release. The Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s order compelling the defendant to submit to the sexual history polygraph, holding that he faced real danger of self-incrimination if he answered the polygraph questions, and that the government had compelled him to be a witness against himself in violation of his Fifth Amendment rights.
After first assisting USA Power in obtaining water rights for its bid for a contract to build a power plant, a lawyer later assisted PacifiCorp in obtaining different water rights for its own bid, and PacifiCorp was ultimately awarded the contract. USA Power sued the lawyer for malpractice, alleging she had breached her fiduciary duties and damaged USA Power by helping PacifiCorp obtain water rights that were critical to PacifiCorp’s proposal winning out over USA Power’s. The court applied a high standard of causation, requiring USA Power to not only show that the lawyer disadvantaged it in the bidding process, but also that it would have benefitted in the specific way it claimed. This included requiring proof that, had the lawyer declined to assist PacifiCorp, PacifiCorp would either not have hired another lawyer or that another reasonably skilled and diligent lawyer would not have been able to duplicate the lawyer’s work for in locating water.
Upon moving to Oklahoma ten years after a conviction for sexual assault in Texas, the plaintiff became subject to the Oklahoma Sex Offender Registration Act, which requires regular reporting and limited the places that the plaintiff can live and be. Applying the intent-effects test, the Tenth Circuit held that the plaintiff had not shown the “clearest of proof” of a punitive effect of the restrictions and obligations, rejecting a claim that registration constituted retroactive punishment in violation of the United States Constitution’s ex post facto clause.
The Injured Workers Association of Utah and several of its member attorneys challenged the constitutionality of the statute delegating to the Labor Commission authority to regulate fees awarded out of a compensation award to attorneys representing injured workers in a worker’s compensation case and the sliding-scale fee schedule and cap adopted by the Labor Commission under that statute. The Utah Supreme Court held that both the statute and schedule are unconstitutional because the regulation of attorney fees falls within the power to regulate the practice of law, which belongs exclusively to the Utah Supreme Court and cannot be delegated.
Defendant appealed his conviction for discharging a firearm causing serious bodily injury. The victim of the gunshot wound testified at a preliminary hearing but left the country prior to trial. The Court of Appeals held the admission of victim’s preliminary hearing testimony at trial did not result in a violation of the Confrontation Clause because defendant failed to show that the structure of the preliminary hearing limited his opportunity to cross-examine the victim. The Court of Appeals acknowledged that a preliminary hearing may not afford an adequate opportunity for cross-examination in every case.
The Court of Appeals held that it was clear error for the trial court to determine that the parties’ negotiations created an enforceable settlement agreement based on a signed term sheet, where a recording of the meeting evidenced that the parties understood a settlement would not be entered into until the agreement was put into writing at some point in the future.
The Utah Court of Appeals held that Salt Lake City did not have the necessary notice to be liable for a pothole in a residential city-owned street that the plaintiff tripped over. Despite evidence that the pothole had existed for four months, City street sweepers had passed the pothole five times, and City sanitation workers collected garbage sixteen times before the plaintiff’s accident, the Court found that the City employees and the City did not have actual or constructive notice of the pothole. Specifically, the Court held that an employee’s notice will not be imputed to the City “without evidence that an employee had actual or constructive notice of the pothole.” To impute constructive notice on the City’s employees and therefore the City, the plaintiff had to do more than merely demonstrate that the pothole existed long enough that the City should have discovered it.-
The plaintiff was represented by a lawyer who worked for two different law firms while the case was pending. After the lawyer switched firms, the first firm asserted a lien on a portion of the settlement funds by filing a notice of lien. However, the firm never moved to intervene in the action. After the case settled, the firm objected to dismissal until its lien issues were resolved. The court entertained motions from both firms and the lawyer, and ultimately awarded a portion of the funds to the firm. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the district court lacked jurisdiction to make orders with regard to these post-judgment motions brought by non-parties in the underlying case.
In this boundary dispute case, the Utah Supreme Court held that Utah’s boundary by acquiescence doctrine does not require a claimant to prove occupancy on both sides of a visible line, so the non-claimant’s occupancy is “immaterial to the occupation element.“ The doctrine requires a claimant to show: “(1) a visible line marked by monuments, fences, buildings, or natural features treated as a boundary; (2) the claimant’s occupation of his or her property up to the visible line such that it would give a reasonable landowner notice that the claimant is using the line as a boundary; (3) mutual acquiescence in the line as a boundary by adjoining landowners; (4) for a period of at least 20 years.”
A state employee claimed her former employer violated her right to free political association under the First Amendment. Among other things, the court held the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework does not apply to First Amendment retaliation claims.
This lengthy decision arose out of various tort claims brought against the UEP Trust. Among other things, the Court (a) held a trust could be liable for the acts of a trustee acting within the scope of the trustee’s responsibility under the Uniform Trust Act, and (b) endorsed the doctrine of reverse-veil piercing. In a notable departure from a prior case law, the Court also concluded that an employer may be liable under a theory of respondeat superior even when the agent’s conduct occurs away from the work space or outside a work shift under a standard articulated in the Restatement (Third) of Agency § 7.07(2).
Former county sheriff appealed criminal conviction for violating victim’s constitutional rights. On appeal, the Tenth Circuit considered whether the sheriff used unreasonable force or conducted a lawful arrest when the sheriff, who was not in uniform, chased the victim in an unmarked vehicle, brandished a firearm, pulled the victim from his vehicle, threw him to the ground, and slammed a badge into the victim’s cheek. As a matter of first impression, the Tenth Circuit held that the sheriff lacked probable cause for the stop, notwithstanding the victim’s flight and ensuing traffic violations, where the sheriff not only provoked the flight but also placed the victim in reasonable fear of harm. The Tenth Circuit went on to clarify that language in prior cases requiring more than a de minimis injury to establish excessive force applied narrowly to handcuffing claims.
The Tenth Circuit held, as a matter of first impression, that <strong>Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(e) is jurisdictional. </strong>Because the lower court lacked jurisdiction to entertain a motion to withdraw the defendant’s guilty plea after the imposition of a sentence, the Tenth Circuit vacated the judgment and remanded with instructions to reinstate the original sentence.
The Court of Appeals held, based on the language of the Restitution Act, that <strong>an order of restitution must be entered at the time of sentencing or within one year of sentencing. </strong>Concluding the statutory provision was mandatory and therefore jurisdictional, the Court of Appeals vacated a restitution order entered 15 months after conviction.
The Office of Professional Conduct (OPC) investigated allegations of professional misconduct against an attorney, and referred the matter to a screening panel of the Ethics and Discipline Committee of the Utah Supreme Court (Committee). The screening panel provided a notice of informal complaint (NOIC) to the attorney notifying him that the OPC believed he may have violated certain rules. At the hearing, the screening panel determined that the attorney had violated another rule (Rule 1.2-representation), which the attorney was unprepared to address because it was not listed in the NOIC. The attorney filed an exception to the screening panel’s determination and presented additional evidence that he had not violated Rule 1.2, but did not request a hearing. The Committee chair did not consider the additional evidence in ruling on the exception, and affirmed the screening panel’s determination. On appeal, the Supreme Court considered the additional evidence and reversed the Committee’s determination that the attorney violated the rules, finding that it was not supported by substantial evidence. The Court instructed the rules committee to propose changes to the rules to address its concerns over the procedural fairness and efficiency of new charges arising in screening panel hearings.
A Rule 7 appeal bond cannot cover costs of notifying class members of an appeal, or administrative costs in maintaining a settlement pending appeal. Several class members had objected to a settlement of claims against Western Union relating to how it handled failed wire transfers. The district court overruled their objections, certified the class, approved the settlement, and entered final judgment. The district court’s order required the objectors to post a bond of over $1 million in order to pursue an appeal of their objections, covering three categories of costs: $647,674 to send class members notice of the appeal, $334,620 in administrative costs to maintain the settlement pending appeal, and $25 for “printing and copying.” The Court decreased the amount of the bond to $5,000, which it deemed to be the reasonable cost of printing and copying.
These companion cases involve the same underlying fair value proceedings initiated by dissenting minority shareholders. In 2014 UT 60, the court affirmed the district court’s refusal to rule on URI’s motion for abatement of interest on the judgment under Rules 60(b) and 62. The court explained that district courts are not empowered to abate interest under those rules, and that the proper way to abate interest pending appeal would be to tender payment and then seek a satisfaction of judgment under Rule 58B.In 2014 UT 59, the court addressed the related issue of whether a judgment debtor waives his right to appeal by voluntarily paying a judgment. The general rule is that “if a judgment is voluntarily paid, which is accepted, and a judgment satisfied, the controversy has become moot and the right to appeal is waived.” The Court clarified that while this general rule remains valid, a judgment debtor may preserve his right to appeal as long as the intention of preserving the right to appeal is “made to appear” clearly on the record.The case also contains a useful discussion of the circumstances under which various valuation discounts may be applied in valuing dissenters’ shares.
Defendant was convicted of murder and robbery. Several months after his conviction, he filed for reinstatement of his right to appeal pursuant to Manning v. State and Rule 4(f) of the Utah Rules of Appellate Procedure. He claimed neither counsel nor the trial court informed him of the 30-day deadline to appeal. The court held that <strong>reinstatement of the right to appeal must be based on a showing by a preponderance of the evidence that neither the court nor counsel properly advised of right to appeal, and but for that failure, the defendant would have appealed.</strong>
In this case dealing with the common law public duty doctrine, the Supreme Court reversed in part prior case law and clarified that doctrine. Plaintiff was injured while she was a dancer on defendant college’s ballroom dancing team and was practicing with a partner. She sued the college, and the district court granted summary judgment on grounds that under the common law public duty doctrine, defendant college owed no duty of care to plaintiff because there was no special relationship. In Cope v. Utah Valley State College, 2012 UT App 319, the Court of Appeals reversed, finding there was a special relationship so that this exception to the public duty doctrine applied. In a significant decision, the Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeals but for different reasons. The Supreme Court held that the doctrine does not even apply to ballroom dancing instruction because that instruction is not a public duty “owed to the general public at large” or in the instant situation to the college’s student body and faculty. In the decision, however, the Court examined the common law public duty doctrine in depth, and affirmed its continued applicability in Utah despite the later adoption of the Utah Governmental Immunity Act. It also reversed a prior public duty case, Webb v. University of Utah, 2005 UT 80, 125 P.3d 906, to the extent that Webb states or implies the public duty doctrine applies to acts of a public entity, finding that the doctrine applies only a public entity’s omissions.
On certiorari, the Utah Supreme Court considered whether a panel majority of the Utah Court of Appeals erred in applying the “marital foundation” approach to determine the amount of a military pension that constitutes marital property. The Utah Supreme Court addressed, as a matter of first impression, how to determine the employee spouse’s monthly benefit subject to equitable distribution. The court considered the two approaches at the ends of the spectrum: the bright line approach and the marital foundation approach. Under the bright line approach, post-divorce increases in pension benefits are treated as post-divorce earnings and categorized as separate property. The marital foundation approach, on the other hand, treats all post-divorce increases in marital pension benefits as marital property. Given the district court’s role of making an equitable distribution of property, the court refused to adopt either approach, instead adopting a context-specific approach. Under this approach, district courts should evaluate all relevant factors and circumstances in making a determination as to the most equitable distribution of pension benefits.
The Tenth Circuit rejected the defendant’s argument that the sentencing guidelines’ use of the term “imprisonment for a term exceeding one year” impermissibly deviated from 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20)’s definition of “crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.” The latter expressly excludes convictions that have been expunged, or set aside, or for which the defendant has had his civil rights restored; whereas the former includes such convictions. The Tenth Circuit held that the sentencing guidelines’ definition and the statutory definition have different purposes and need not be consistent.
The Utah Supreme Court’s Ethics and Discipline Committee’s private admonishment of an attorney for failing to obtain informed consent for third-party payment of legal fees under rule 1.8(f) of the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct was reversed as unsupported by substantial evidence. While the court acknowledged substantial evidence would support a finding that no written consent was obtained, it held that “informed consent” may be oral. Because the Office of Professional Conduct bore the burden of showing noncompliance, its failure to inquire as to whether oral consent was obtained warranted reversal.
The defendant, who had pled guilty to unlawful sexual contact with a minor, appealed the denial of his motion to set aside his guilty plea. He had argued that his plea was not knowing and voluntary or that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because neither the court nor his lawyer had informed him of the sex offender registration requirement associated with his plea. The Utah Supreme Court rejected the defendant’s argument that the United States Supreme Court’s opinion in Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356, 130 S. Ct. 1473 (2010), abolished the distinction between direct and collateral consequences in contexts outside of deportation. The court then held that the sex offender registration requirement is a collateral, not direct, consequence of the defendant’s plea. Therefore, neither the court nor the defendant’s lawyer was required to advise the defendant of the registration requirement.
In the context of underinsured motorist (“UIM”) coverage, the Tenth Circuit held that UPS was not a self-insurer under Utah law, despite the fact that UPS maintained a “fronting” insurance policy where its deductible equaled its policy limits, essentially limiting the insurer’s obligation to pay any claim unless UPS was insolvent. The heirs of a deceased UPS driver argued that this type of policy constituted self-insurance because they could not gain UIM coverage from UPS if UPS was self-insured. The Court first held that the issue of whether a company is self-insured is an issue of law, not fact, an issue both parties missed. Next, the Court held that even though UPS’s deductible equaled its policy limits, it still qualified as an insured under Utah law. In reaching this conclusion, the Court looked to the definition of insurance under Utah Code § 31A-1-301(82), and concluded that because the agreement between UPS and its insurer involved “an arrangement for the distribution of a risk,” it qualified as insurance. Accordingly, because status “as an ‘ insured’ and ‘ self-insurer’ are mutually exclusive,” UPS could not be considered a self-insurer because it was an insured under its “fronting” policy.