Utah Appellate Highlights, Utah Supreme Court, November 2017

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.

Outfront Media, LLC v. Salt Lake City Corp.,
2017 UT 74 (Oct. 23, 2017)

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

Dircks v. The Travelers Indem. Co. of Am.,
2017 UT 73 (Oct. 17, 2017)

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.

Rawcliffe v. Anciaux,
2017 UT 72 (Oct. 11, 2017)

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.  

Wilson v. Educators Mut. Ins. Ass’n,
2017 UT 69 (Sept. 28, 2017)

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. 

Bivens v. Salt Lake City Corp.,
2017 UT 67 (Sept. 26, 2017)

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.

Scott v. Scott,
2017 UT 66 (Sept. 21, 2017)

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.

McElhaney v. City of Moab,
2017 UT 65 (Sept. 21, 2017)

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.

Rivers v. Exec. Dir. of the Utah Dep’t of Envtl. Quality,
2017 UT 64 (Sept. 20, 2017)

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.      

State v. Goins,
2017 UT 61 (Sept. 6, 2017)

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.

2DP Blanding, LLP v. Palmer
2017 UT 62 (Sept. 6, 2017)

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.”