Dillon v. Southern Management, 2014 UT 12 (Originally filed May 2, 2014; Amended May 13, 2014)
May 13, 2014
The Court affirmed summary judgment for the plaintiffs on their claims that the trust deed encumbering their property was invalid, that the defendant had slandered their title, and that the defendant was liable for damages under Utah Code § 57-1-38(3) and the trust deed. The Court clarified that in order to satisfy the malice element of a slander of title claim, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant had actual knowledge that the statements at issue were false. The Court then considered whether the district court erred in trebling the attorney fee award under Utah Code § 57-1-38(3)(a), which provides for “treble actual damages incurred . . . including all expenses incurred in completing a quite title action.” The Court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that “all expenses incurred” includes attorney’s fees. Such an interpretation would render subsection (3)(b), which provides for attorney’s fees, superfluous. Finally, as a matter of first impression, the Court held that the plaintiffs were entitled to attorney’s fees even though a non-party title insurance company had paid all of the fees. To hold otherwise would give the nonprevailing party an undeserved windfall.