Utah Appellate Highlights, Utah Appeals Court, May 2017

Express Recovery Services v. Olson
2017 UT App 71 (Apr. 27, 2017)

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.

Spencer v. Glover
2017 UT App 69 (Apr. 20, 2017)

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.

ConocoPhillips Co. v. Utah Dep’t of Transportation
2017 UT App 68 (April 20, 2017)

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.

Miller v. West Valley City
2017 UT App 65 (Apr. 13, 2017)

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.

State v. Courtney
2017 UT App 62 (Apr. 6, 2017)

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.

State ex rel. M.L.
2017 UT App 61 (Mar. 30, 2017)

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.

Judd v. Bowen
2017 UT App 56 (Mar. 30, 2017)

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.

Case summaries for Appellate Highlights are authored by members of Snow Christensen & Martineau’s Appellate Practice Group.  For more information, visit our Appellate Highlights page.