by
The Liability Reform Act (LRA), Utah Code 78B-5-817 through 823, does not immunize retailers - whether “passive” or not - from products liability claims in cases where the manufacturer is a named party. In so holding, the Supreme Court overruled the court of appeals’ conclusion to the contrary in Sanns v. Butterfield Ford, 94 P.3d 301 (Utah Ct. App. 2004). The court further held that the LRA does not upend longstanding precedent that retailers are strictly liable for breaching their duty not to sell a dangerously defective product. Plaintiffs asserted claims for strict products liability, breach of warranty, and contract rescission against R.C. Willey. The district court dismissed the tort and warranty claims under the “passive retailer” doctrine articulated in Sanns. R.C. Willey stipulated to liability on the rescission claim. The Supreme Court rejected the passive retailer doctrine and thus reversed the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims against R.C. Willey for strict products liability and breach of warranty. The court also vacated the district court’s decision declining to award attorney fees to Plaintiffs. View "Bylsma v. R.C. Willey" on Justia Law

by
Utah Code 34A-2-417(2)(a)(ii), a provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA) that limits the time an injured worker has to prove a claim, is a statute of repose but is nevertheless constitutional under the Open Courts Clause of the Utah Constitution. Section 34A-2-417(2)(a)(ii) provides that an employee claiming compensation for a workplace injury must prove that he or she is due the compensation claimed within twelve years from the date of the accident. Petitioners filed claims to receive permanent total disability benefits more than twelve years after the original workplace accident that led to their injuries. Petitioners’ claims were dismissed as untimely under the statute. In petitioning for review, Petitioners argued that the statute acts as a statute of repose and is unconstitutional under the Open Courts Clause. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 34A-2-417(2)(a)(ii) is a statute of repose but withstands Open Courts Clause scrutiny. View "Waite v. Utah Labor Commission" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court granting Defendants’ motion to suppress the result of a search executed pursuant to a search warrant. The warrant was signed by a magistrate and executed by the police. Defendants moved under the state and federal constitutions to suppress the result of the search, challenging the magistrate’s probable cause determination. The district court found that there was no probable cause but that the federal good faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied. When Defendants again moved to suppress, the court suppressed the evidence under the state constitution, concluding that there was no state good faith exception to the exclusionary rule. The Supreme Court reversed without reaching the questions of whether the court has recognized an exclusionary rule under the Utah Constitution or whether there should be a good faith exception to such a rule, holding that there was a substantial basis for the magistrate’s probable cause determination. View "State v. Rowan" on Justia Law

by
Utah Code 35-1-65, which provides that an injured worker who is temporarily totally disabled shall not receive compensation benefits over a period of eight years from the date of the injury, does not operate as an unconstitutional statute of repose under the Open Courts Clause of the Utah Constitution. Petitioner suffered a back injury while working for the Granite School District in 1982. An impartial medical panel concluded that Petitioner’s injury was the medical cause of a subsequent surgery in 2014, but an administrative law judge (ALJ) with the Utah Labor Commission denied Petitioner’s request for temporary total disability compensation on the ground that more than eight years had elapsed since the date of the injury. The Appeals Board of the Commission affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 35-1-64 does not abrogate any previously existing remedy and so is not subject to an Open Courts Clause challenge; and (2) the Workers’ Compensation Act is an adequate substitute remedy for Petitioner’s common law tort of action. View "Petersen v. Utah Labor Commission" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court dismissed Appellant’s appeal of the denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty plea to aggravated murder and other offenses and no contest plea to three counts of attempted aggravated murder. The district court denied the motion on the ground that the Plea Withdrawal Statute, Utah Code 77-13-6, provides that a “request to withdraw a plea of guilty or no contest…shall be made by motion before sentence is announced.” On appeal, Defendant challenged the constitutionality of the statute and contended that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when he entered the plea agreement. The Supreme Court held (1) the jurisdictional bar imposed by the Plea Withdrawal Statute does not deprive a defendant of his constitutional right to an appeal; and (2) Appellant did not timely move to withdraw his pleas, and therefore, Appellant forfeited his right to direct appeal. View "State v. Allgier" on Justia Law

by
The one-mile stretch of the Weber River at issue in this case is a “navigable water” under the Public Waters Access Act, and therefore, the public has a statutory right to recreational use to that stretch of the river. Utah Stream Access Coalition (USAC) filed this suit seeking a declaration that USAC has a right to use for recreation a one-mile stretch of the Weber River. USAC sought an injunction barring property owners and state officials from interfering with its members’ recreational use rights. The district court concluded that the disputed section of the river was navigable and issued an injunction preventing landowners and state officers from interfering with the recreational use rights of the public on this stretch of the river. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court determination that the disputed segment of the Weber River is navigable water under the Act, holding that there was sufficient evidence to support the determination that the relevant stretch of the river was commercially useful on a regular basis and not merely in an occasional season of high water. View "Utah Stream Access Coalition v. Orange Street Development" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the holding in Gailey v. State, 379 P.3d 1278, that the Plea Withdrawal Statute “does not on its face violate the constitutional right to appeal” but also decided an issue that the Gailey majority did not reach, holding that Utah’s Plea Withdrawal Statute, Utah Code 77-13-6, is constitutional as applied because the statute does not foreclose an appeal but simply sets a rule of preservation and imposes the sanction of waiver of the issue on appeal for the failure to follow that rule. Defendant pled guilty to aggravated murder and aggravated kidnapping. Defendant attempted to withdraw his guilty plea by submitting a pro se letter to the district court. Defendant’s subsequently acquired counsel, however, successfully moved to withdraw Defendant’s pro se motion. Defendant appealed, seeking to set aside his guilty plea. Specifically, Defendant argued that the district court erred in accepting his plea, that his counsel provided ineffective assistance, and that the Plea Withdrawal Statute is unconstitutional because it infringes on his right to appeal under Utah Const. art. I, 12. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant’s constitutional challenges to the statute failed. View "State v. Rettig" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals’ decision to uphold the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Fire Insurance Exchange in this dispute over attorneys fees. In the underlying action, Fire Insurance’s action sought a declaratory judgment to determine whether the claim filed by Insured, who was named as a defendant in a personal injury case, was covered under Insured’s policy. The court of appeals ultimately held that the claim was covered. Insured filed a counterclaim seeking attorney fees for the declaratory judgment action, arguing that it was brought in bad faith. The district court concluded that Fire Insurance’s denial of Insured’s claim was reasonable because the coverage issue was “fairly debatable.” The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Insured’s claim that Fire Insurance did not fairly evaluate his claim and unreasonably rejected it failed. Therefore, summary judgment was properly granted to Fire Insurance. View "Fire Insurance Exchange v. Oltmanns" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals upholding the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Defendants - a physician and pharmacy - in this case filed by Plaintiff alleging that Defendants overprescribed medication. The district court determined that, because Plaintiff had failed to designate any expert on the applicable standards of care until the day on which the district court had scheduled the summary judgment hearing, the late-designated expert should be excluded, and without expert testimony Plaintiff would be unable to show that either the physician or the pharmacy had violated the applicable standard of care. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to preserve any of the issues she appealed. View "Baumann v. Kroger Co." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s grant of Patricia and Robert Porenta’s marital home to Patricia in this case involving a fraudulent transfer of the home to Robert’s mother (Mother). During the divorce proceedings of Patricia and Robert, Robert transferred his interest in the couple’s marital home to Mother with the intent to avoid Patricia’s claim to the home. Robert subsequently died, and the divorce case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Thereafter, Patricia filed this action against Mother alleging that the transfer was fraudulent under the Utah Fraudulent Transfer Act. The district court granted the marital home to Patricia. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Utah Fraudulent Transfer Act requires an ongoing debtor-creditor relationship when a claim under the Act is filed, and the debtor-creditor relationship was in this case was not extinguished when Robert died because an ongoing debtor-creditor relationship existed between Patricia and Robert’s estate; and (2) the trial court did not err in granting Patricia the entire marital home rather than money damages, but the matter is remanded for a determination of the current status of title. View "Porenta v. Porenta" on Justia Law