Utah Appellate Highlights, Utah Supreme Court, May 2017

Jordan v. Jensen

2017 UT 1 (Jan. 10, 2017)

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.

Bank of America v. Adamson

2017 UT 2 (Jan. 11, 2017)

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 ReconTrust’s failure to have an in-state office, the trustee’s deed was valid, not voidable.

Brown v. Cox

2017 UT 3, (Jan. 11, 2017)

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.

Hertzske v. Snyder

2017 UT 4 (Jan. 18, 2017)

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.

Lancer Ins. Co. v. Lake Shore Motor Coach Lines, Inc.

2017 UT 8 (Feb. 15, 2017)

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.

State v. Thornton

2017 UT 9 (Feb. 21, 2017)

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.”

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.