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The Supreme Court revoked certification in this case certified to it by a bankruptcy court to answer a question of state law because the issues were not adequately briefed and because of the potential impact of the automatic stay on the property settlement at issue in this case. The bankruptcy court certified two questions of Utah law concerning the overlap of family and bankruptcy law. The Court noted that the parties failed to provide the briefing needed to answer the questions here and that the martial property division at issue in this case may have violated the automatic stay that accompanies a bankruptcy petition’s filing. Accordingly, because of the insufficient briefing and the problematic procedural posture, the Supreme Court declined to answer the questions and revoked certification. View "In re Deborah Michelle Kiley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Bankruptcy, Family Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed the interlocutory appeal brought by Defendant challenging the district court’s decision to quash a subpoena Defendant sought seeking against his alleged victim to testify at his preliminary hearing, holding that the decision had been mooted and that the Court lacked jurisdiction to address the district court’s decision to bind Defendant over for trial. Defendant appealed the district court’s decision to quash the subpoena but did not appeal the district court’s determination that probable cause existed for him to face trial. Because the decision Defendant appealed had been mooted by the subsequent bindover and the Supreme Court lacked jurisdiction to consider the bindover decision, the Court dismissed this appeal and remanded the case. View "State v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s finding that Mark Haik lacked standing to challenge a change application that sought to add acreage to accommodate a private water system and the court’s denial of Haik’s motion to amend his petition, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion. Haik, who wanted water for his undeveloped canyon lots, challenged a change application that would add acreage to accommodate a water system that would serve ten homes in Little Cottonwood Canyon. After the State Engineer approved the application, Haik filed petition seeking a trial de novo of the State Engineer’s order. Haik also moved for leave to amend. The district court dismissed Haik’s petition, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction because Haik lacked standing where the change application did not directly impact Haik’s property or his water rights. The court also denied Haik’s motion to amend. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Haik lacked standing because he was not aggrieved by an order of the State Engineer; and (2) Haik’s motion to amend was properly denied because Haik did not attach a proposed amended petition and any amendment would be futile. View "Haik v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of reckless aggravated abuse of a vulnerable adult and interference with an arresting officer, holding that the district court did not err in excluding evidence of the victim’s prior sexual misconduct and correctly instructed the jury. Defendant received a sentence enhancement for his convictions because he qualified as a habitual violent offender. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in excluding the victim’s prior sexual misconduct evidence and in instructing the jury. The Supreme Court found no error as to these issues. Defendant also argued that Utah’s aggravated abuse of a vulnerable adult statute was unconstitutionally vague and that Utah’s habitual offender statute violated the Utah Constitution’s cruel and unusual punishment clause and the double jeopardy clause. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that Utah’s aggravated abuse statute is not unconstitutionally vague and that Utah’s habitual violent offender statute is constitutional. View "State v. Tulley" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the jury’s $2.75 million award for non-economic damages in this legal malpractice and breach of contract case, holding that the case did not qualify as one of the “rare” cases where non-economic damages can be recovered for breach of contract. Plaintiff sued Defendants for legal malpractice, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligent hiring, training, and supervision after Defendants failed to bring Plaintiff’s claim before the statute of limitations ran. The jury found in favor of Plaintiff on each of the claims, awarding her $750,000 in damages for breach of contract and $2.75 million for the emotional distress Plaintiff suffered as the result of the malpractice. The Supreme Court vacated the non-economic damages award, holding that, under either a breach of contract or breach of fiduciary duty theory, the district court erred in upholding the award for emotional distress damages. The Court also vacated the attorney fees award and held that the district court correctly denied Plaintiff’s litigation expenses. View "Gregory & Swapp, PLLC v. Kranendonk" on Justia Law

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In holding that the successor judge in this case had authority to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims for breach of contract and consequential damages and committed no reversible error by doing so, the Supreme Court repudiated any language in its precedent that suggests that a successor judge on a case is bound by nonfinal decisions and rulings made by his predecessor. Plaintiff, who was hired by the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) to work on different construction projects, filed various claims against UDOT and other contractors on the projects. UDOT moved for summary judgment on claims for breach of contract on the “Arcadia” project and claims seeking consequential damages. Judge Kennedy, the original judge assigned to the case, denied both motions. Judge Kennedy was then replaced in this case by Judge Harris. Judge Harris ultimately dismissed Plaintiff’s claims for breach of contract and consequential damages. Plaintiff filed this interlocutory appeal, arguing that Judge Harris violated the so-called coordinate judge rule, which Plaintiff alleged limits the discretion of a successor judge to revisit decisions of a predecessor. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) a successor judge has the same power to review nonfatal decisions that a predecessor would have had; and (2) Judge Harris did not commit reversible error by dismissing the claims at issue. View "Build v. Utah Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal in this labor dispute and vacated the the district court’s judgment, holding that the case was moot. A group of supervisors working for Utah Transit Authority (UTA) coordinated with a labor organization in an effort to unionize, which the UTA resisted. The union and supervisors subsequently filed an action seeking a declaration of their right to organize. After the district court entered a non-final order concluding that the supervisors had collective bargaining rights under Utah law, the supervisors voted not to unionize. Because the district court had not entered a final judgment, the case became moot. The district court then entered its final judgment, and UTA appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and vacated the judgment below, holding that the controversy became moot before the district court had entered its final judgment, and the district court should have dismissed the case as moot at that point. View "Teamsters Local 222 v. Utah Transit Authority" on Justia Law

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In this insurance dispute brought by Espenschied Transport Corp., the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment to Fleetwood Services, Inc. and Wilshire Insurance Company. Espenschied used Fleetwood to procure insurance. In 2003, Fleetwood obtained an insurance policy from Wilshire meant to cover all of Espenschied’s vehicles and trailers, but Fleetwood gave Wilshire an incorrect list not containing all of Espenschied’s insured vehicles. Therefore, Espenschied believed that certain equipment was covered by the insurance policy when, in fact, it was not. One of Espenschied’s trailers that was not on the policy schedule was involved in a deadly accident. In the resulting litigation, Wilshire refused to defend Espenschied, causing Espenschied to incur a consent judgment and attorney fees. Espenschied subsequently sued Fleetwood and Wilshire. In granting summary judgment, the district court concluded (1) Espenschied had suffered no damages; and (2) the trailer was not on Wilshire’s insurance policy and Fleetwood was not Wilshire’s agent, and Wilshire could have no vicarious liability because Fleetwood had no liability. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Espenschied was unable to raise a dispute of material fact as to damages; and (2) Espenschied failed to argue why Wilshire should have vicarious liability when Fleetwood had no liability. View "Espensched Transport Corp. v. Fleetwood Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case presenting the question of whether a treating therapist owes a duty of reasonable care to a nonpatient parent when treating that parent’s child for potential allegations of sexual abuse, the Supreme Court remanded this case for proceedings consistent with its opinion in Mower v. Baird, __ P.3d __ (Utah 2018), a companion case also decided today. As a result of the actions of Kayelyn Robinson, a therapist who treated Plaintiff’s child, Rocio Smith lost visitation with her children for several years and “endured personal defamation, lost income and employment, and incurred enormous legal expenses.” Smith filed suit against Robinson for malpractice and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The district court granted Robinson’s motion to dismiss the malpractice and negligent infliction of emotional distress claims. Smith appealed the district court’s decision on her malpractice claim. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for the district court to conduct proceedings consistent with its opinion in Mower. View "Smith v. Robinson" on Justia Law

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In this murder case, the Supreme Court clarified the correct standard for extreme emotional distress. Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder for viciously torturing his girlfriend, ultimately causing her death. Defendant argued that he was under extreme emotional distress at the time of the murder. On appeal, the court of appeals concluded that the trial court abused its discretion by not admitting statements under Utah R. Evid. 106 that Defendant made to a detective that he argued would have supported his claim for a reduced charge based on special mitigation for extreme emotional distress but that the error was harmless. The Supreme Court vacated the portions of the court of appeals’ decision that dealt with Rule 106 and the standard for extreme emotional distress, clarified the correct standard for extreme emotional distress, and affirmed the harmlessness determination of the court of appeals on affirmative grounds. View "State v. Sanchez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law