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In this case involving the tree-tier structure established by Utah R. Civ. P. 26, the Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the district court and court of appeals rejecting Petitioner’s motion for post-trial amendment of his tier designation so that he could receive more damages, holding that the facts of this case, the relevant law, and the rules of the tier structure dispositively opposed Petitioner’s preferred outcome. The three-tier structure established by Rule 26 requires plaintiffs to plead one of three tiers based on expected damages. Petitioner pled a Tier two case, which involved a limit on recoverable damages, and did not amend his pleading before trial. The jury awarded Petitioner a total of $640,989 in damages. After trial, Petitioner moved to amend his pleadings. The district court denied the motion and reduced the judgment to $299,999.99, commensurate with the limits of Petitioner’s Tier 2 designation. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) where Petitioner pled and litigated a Tier 2 case, Petitioner’s damages were commensurately reduced after trial; and (2) there is no permitted modification of the tier designation once trial commences and no indication that Petitioner impliedly consented to litigating a higher tier case even if he could. View "Pilot v. Hill" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision denying Dr. LeGrand P. Belnap discovery as to allegedly defamatory statements made by Drs. Ben Howard and Steven Mintz in peer review meetings, holding that there is no bad faith exception to Utah R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). At issue was whether there is a bad faith exception to discovery and evidentiary privileges under Rule 26(b)(1) for statements made and documents prepared as part of a health care provider’s peer review process. Dr. Belnap was denied discovery as to alleged defamatory statements concerning Dr. Belnap’s application for surgical privileges at Jordan Valley Medical Center. Dr. Belnap filed this interlocutory appeal, arguing that Rule 26(b)(1) includes a bad faith exception. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) there is no bad faith exception to Rule 26(b)(1)’s peer review privilege; and (2) even looking to the legislative history, there is still no bad faith exception. View "Belnap v. Howard" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court declined to overturn a rule established in St. Benedict’s Development Co. v. St. Benedict’s Hospital, 811 P.2d 194 (Utah 1991), in which the Court held that to prevail on a claim for intentional interference with contract the plaintiff must show that the defendant interfered through “improper means,” holding that “improper means” test remains a good rule. Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant alleging that Defendant intentionally interfered with Plaintiff’s contracts with its employees. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff failed to provide proof of “improper means” to support its claim. The federal district court concluded that there appears to be no clear, controlling Utah law regarding the interpretation of “improper means” and certified the question to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court held (1) the element of improper means is firmly established in Utah law and rests upon a firm legal footing, and therefore, this Court declines to overturn St. Benedict’s; (2) the definition of “improper means” provided in Leigh Furniture & Carpet Co. v. Isom, 657 P.2d 293 (Utah 1982), and St. Benedict’s is reaffirmed; and (3) to prove the element of improper means based on an alleged violation of an established industry rule or standard the plaintiff must provide evidence of an objective, industry-wide standard. View "C.R. England v. Swift Transportation Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court striking down the Public Waters Access Act (PWAA), Utah Code 73-29-101 to 73-29-208, under “public trust” principles set forth in Utah Const. art. XX, 1, holding that the district court erred in treating the easement established by Conaster v. Johnson, 194 P.3d 897 (2008), as a matter beyond the legislature’s power to revise or revisit. The Supreme Court held in Conaster that the incidental right of touching the privately-owned bed of state waters is reasonably necessary to the public right to float on the water and to wade in the waters for recreation. Thereafter, the legislature enacted the PWAA, which restricted the scope of the Conaster easement by foreclosing the right to touch a streambed for purposes other than flotation. The Utah Stream Access Coalition then filed this lawsuit asserting a constitutional right of its members to wade in waters of the Provo River flowing through land owned by VR Acquisitions. The district court granted relief. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that its analysis in Conaster was based only on common-law easement principles, and because common-law decisions are subject to adaptation or reversal by the legislature, the district court erred in treating the Conaster easement as a right rooted in constitutional soil. View "Utah Stream Access Coalition v. VR Acquisitions, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s conviction under Utah’s witness retaliation statute, Utah Code 76-8-508.3, holding that the statute does not criminalize threats a person makes regarding a witness outside the witness’s presence and without an intention to have the threat communicated to the witness. Section 76-8-508.3 makes it a crime to direct a threat of harm or a harmful action against a witness or a person closely associated with that witness as retaliation against that witness. After Defendant was convicted, he challenged his conviction on the ground that the witnesses that were the subject of the alleged threat were not present when Defendant made the threat. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the witness retaliation statute criminalizes only those threats that the threat-maker intended to be communicated to the witness; and (2) therefore, the court of appeals incorrectly interpreted the requirements of the statute. View "State v. Trujillo" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court convicting Defendant of one count of stalking and one count of threat of violence, holding that neither issue raised by Defendant on appeal was preserved nor amounted to plain error. On September 12, 2014, Salt Lake City filed an information in justice court charging Defendant with threat of violence based on an incident that occurred on September 7, 2014. While that case was pending, the City charged Defendant in the district court with stalking and threat of violence. The threat of violence charge was based on an alleged threat that occurred on September 30, 2014. The stalking charge was based on alleged conduct occurring throughout September 2014. Defendant was convicted on both counts. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court prosecution was barred by the earlier justice court prosecution or, alternatively, that the district court plainly erred in failing to merge the convictions at sentencing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) neither of Defendant’s arguments was adequately preserved in the proceedings below; and (2) because of the unsettled nature of this area of law, any error was not plain error. View "Salt Lake City v. Josephson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for offering escort services without a valid license, holding that Defendant’s constitutional claims were either inadequately briefed or not properly raised in the district court. Defendant had an escort services license from Midvale City when she met an undercover Salt Lake City police officer in Salt Lake and asked him for a “show-up” fee, but Defendant did not have a license from Salt Lake City at the time. Because State law authorizes any municipality to impose licensing requirements on employees of sexually oriented businesses, the resulting regulatory scheme requires escorts to obtain licenses in each jurisdiction in which they seek to operate. On appeal from her conviction, Defendant argued that the imposition of multiple licensing requirements violates her First Amendment and Equal Protection rights. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant did not preserve her Equal Protection claim in the district court; and (2) Appellant did not adequately brief her First Amendment challenge on appeal. View "Salt Lake City v. Kidd" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s decision denying Appellant’s amended petition under the Post-Conviction Remedies Act (PCRA) seeking relief from his convictions, holding that the district court erred in concluding that the claim in Appellant’s amended petition did not satisfy Utah R. Civ. P. 15(c) and so was time barred under the PCRA. Before the district court ruled on the merits of Appellant’s original petition, the district court appointed pro bono counsel, but only after the one-year statute of limitations period on Appellants’ PCRA petitions had expired. Pro bono counsel then amended Appellant’s petition, with permission from the court, by removing all previous claims from the original petition and replacing them with an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. The district court dismissed the amended petition on the grounds that it was time-barred under the PCRA. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that the district court (1) did not err in concluding that rule 15(c) applies to proposed amendments made to PCRA petitions; but (2) erred in concluding that Appellant’s amended petition did not satisfy rule 15(c). View "Noor v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that the district court’s certification of its summary judgment ruling as final under Utah R. Civ. P. 54(b) was improper, and therefore, the Court did not have a final judgment before it to review. This appeal arose from a contest over the state water engineer’s resolution of who owned the water rights to a certain tributary of the Green River. The district court upheld the state engineer’s proposed determination that The Minnie Maud Reservoir and Irrigation Company was the owner of the disputed water rights. EnerVest, Ltd. appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding (1) the district court’s Rule 54(b) certification was insufficient to confer appellate jurisdiction upon the Court because the requirements for certification were not met; and (2) EnerVest lacked appellate standing because it was not an aggrieved party, and therefore, this Court declined to exercise its jurisdiction to treat the appeal as a petition for interlocutory appeal. View "EnerVest v. Utah State Engineer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals vacating the juvenile judge’s bindover order in this case involving a juvenile’s criminal conduct, holding that it was error to excuse Defendant from preserving his claim of judicial bias. The State charged Defendant with three first-degree felonies in juvenile court. The juvenile judge bound over Defendant, who was sixteen years old when he committed the offenses, to the district court to be tried as an adult. Defendant then pled guilty to lesser charges. While serving his prison sentence, Defendant moved to reinstate the time to appeal his bindover order, which the district court granted. Defendant then argued on appeal that the juvenile judge should have recused herself from his case due to judicial bias. The court of appeals agreed and vacated the bindover order without requiring Defendant to show either that he had preserved his judicial bias claim in the trial court or that an exception to preservation applied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant’s judicial bias claim was not exempt from the preservation requirement. View "State v. Van Huizen" on Justia Law