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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

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In this case involving a therapist who caused a child to falsely accuse a parent of sexual abuse, the Supreme Court held (1) a treating therapist working with a minor child owes a duty of reasonable care to a nonpatient parent to refrain from the affirmative act of recklessly giving rise to false memories or false allegations of childhood sexual abuse by that parent; and (2) a treating therapist owes a duty to refrain from affirmatively causing the nonpatient parent severe emotional distress by recklessly giving rise to false memories or false allegations of childhood sexual abuse by that parent. As a result of Nancy Baird’s treatment of Thomas Mower’s four-year-old daughter, T.M., false allegations of sexual abuse were levied against Mower. Mower sued Baird and The Children’s Center (collectively, Defendants) for the harm he suffered as a result of T.M.’s treatment. The district court dismissed the claims under Utah R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) on the grounds that therapists do not have “a duty of care to potential sexual abusers when treating the alleged victim.” The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a treating therapists do not have “the unfettered right" to treat patients "using techniques that might cause the patient to develop a false memory [or allegations] of sexual abuse.” View "Mower v. Children’s Center" on Justia Law

Posted in: Health Law

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An action is commenced under Utah law not by the filing of a motion for leave to amend but by the filing of a complaint. Many years after filing suit against other defendants a homeowners association sued the general contractor on a construction project. By the time the homeowners association finally filed an amended complaint naming the general contractor the statute of repose had run on six buildings in the project. The general contractor filed motion for summary judgment, asserting that the claims against it were time barred. The district court denied the motion, concluding that the amended complaint related back to the date the motion for leave to amend was filed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the homeowners association’s claims were time barred because no viable complaint was filed within the repose period and the complaint did not relate back to a timely pleading. View "Gables v. Castlewood" on Justia Law

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A request for prelitigation review, a step the Utah Healthcare Malpractice Act (UHMA) mandates a plaintiff take before filing a medical malpractice suit, tolls one of the limitation periods for filing that suit. Plaintiff filed a notice of intent to sue and a request for prelitigation review. After he received a certificate of compliance, Plaintiff filed suit against Intermountain Healthcare, Inc. and related entities (collectively, IHC), alleging that medical staff failed properly to resuscitate him after he suffered cardiac arrest and provided negligent post-surgical care. IHC filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that UHMA’s limitation period for medical malpractice actions barred Plaintiff’s suit. The district court disagreed, concluding that Plaintiff’s request for prelitigation proceedings tolled the time to file during the period he spent waiting for the prelitigation review to conclude. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the limitations period is tolled by filing a request for prelitigation review. View "Jensen v. Intermountain Healthcare, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of a church in this case brought by the parents of a boy who died from injuries he sustained while trespassing on the roof of a building owned by the church. Due to the faulty wiring of a sign, the boy was electrocuted while attempting to climb down from the roof of the one-story building. Plaintiffs brought a wrongful death action against the church, asserting that the church breached its duty to their son under a city sign ordinance and the common law. The district court granted summary judgment for the church, concluding that the church owed the boy no duty. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs failed to show that a duty existed under either the common law or the sign ordinance. View "Colosimo v. Gateway" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the decision of the district court in this personal injury case entering judgment based on the jury’s allocation of fault and awarding Plaintiff five percent of her costs. Plaintiff was injured when she slipped on a puddle of soapy water and fell at a Smith’s Food & Drugs Centers, Inc. grocery store. Plaintiff sued Smith’s, the janitorial company Smith’s contracted with to clean the floors, and the independent contractor the janitorial company hired to do the work. Plaintiff settled with the independent contractor before trial. At trial, the jury apportioned five percent of the fault to Smith’s, twenty percent to Plaintiff, and seventy-five percent to the independent contractor. Plaintiff argued that Smith’s and the janitorial company were liable for the independent contractor’s share of the damages, but the district court disagreed. On appeal, the Supreme Court held (1) Smith’s was liable for the damages the independent contractor caused, but the janitorial company was not liable for the independent contractor's negligence because Plaintiff did not demonstrate that the janitorial company also assumed Smith’s nondelegable duty; and (2) costs need not be allocated in proportion to a party’s fault under the Liability Reform Act. View "Rodriguez v. Kroger Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury