Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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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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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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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants, holding that Plaintiffs' claims were either moot or failed to state a claim as a matter of law. The hospital at which an injured child received medical care sought to secure payment for that care by asserting liens against the child’s interest in the tort claim against the driver of the car that struck the child. The child and his mother brought claims against the hospital owner and its payments vendor, arguing that the liens violated Medicaid law. When the liens were released, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed on the principles of mootness and Plaintiffs’ failure to state a claim as a matter of law. View "Shaffer v. IHC Health Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court clarified the operated summary judgment standard under Utah R. Civ. P. 56 and affirmed the grant of summary judgment in this case under this standard. In this appeal from the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims for defamation and interference with economic relations on summary judgment, the Supreme Court held that the Utah summary judgment standard is in line with the federal standard as set forth in Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986). As in Celotex, the moving party laws bears the burden of establishing the lack of a genuine issue of material fact, but the burden of production of evidence may fall on the nonmoving party. In the instant case, Defendants were entitled to summary judgment under the Utah Governmental Immunity Act, Utah Code 63G-7-101 through 63G-7-904, where Defendants acted within the scope of their employment and there was no evidence that their actions were willful. Further, the district court acted within its discretion in refusing to strike an affidavit submitted by one of the defendants in support of the motion for summary judgment filed by the remaining defendants. View "Salo v. Tyler" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court did not reach the merits in this matter where Father appealed the district court order awarding Mother attorney fees and costs for the underlying juvenile court proceedings for lack of jurisdiction and awarded Mother reasonable attorney fees and costs on appeal. The juvenile court denied Father’s petition to terminate Mother’s parental rights and granted Mother custody of the parties’ minor children. The court also ordered Father to pay all fees and costs incurred by Mother. When jurisdiction over the case had been transferred to the district court, the court granted Mother’s motion for attorney fees. Father filed a motion to alter or amend under Utah R. Civ. P. 59 challenging the award. The Supreme Court held (1) the district court lacked the authority to rule on the merits of the Rule 59 motion because it was not timely filed, and therefore, the earlier order of the district court was the final judgment on the underlying matter of attorney fees and costs; (2) the Supreme Court lacked jurisdiction to rule on the merits of this case; and (3) Mother is awarded reasonable attorney fees and costs on appeal. View "Smith v. Smith" on Justia Law

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This opinion followed the Supreme Court’s August 30, 2017 summary order denying Petitioners’ petition for extraordinary relief filed pursuant to Utah Code 20A-7-508(6)(a) pertaining to certain aspects of a final ballot title. Petitioners were among a group of sponsors who obtained sufficient signatures to have an initiative placed on the November 2017 ballot for the Pleasant Grove City municipal election. The City attorney prepared the final ballot title, which led to this petition being filed. The Supreme Court denied the petition, holding that Petitioners failed to satisfy their burden under Utah R. App. P. 19 of demonstrating that they possessed no plain, speedy, and adequate remedy other than the filing of a petition directly with the Supreme Court. View "Zonts v. Pleasant Grove City" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed as moot the appeal of International Confections Company seeking to set aside a district court order approving a receivership sale of its assets to a third party. After the third party entered into a binding purchase agreement and acquired the assets at issue, International Confections filed a motion for relief from judgment under Utah R. Civ. P. 60. The district court denied the motion. International Confections appealed, asking the Supreme Court to reverse the district court’s denial of its Rule 60 motion on three grounds. The Supreme Court dismissed the case as moot without addressing the merits of International Confections’ arguments, holding that because International Confections failed to protect its interests by seeking a stay of the district court’s sale order, this court was without power to grant any relief, thus mooting the case on appeal. View "Transportation Alliance Bank v. International Confections Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the district court’s order awarding a portion of settlement funds as fees to Clyde Snow & Sessions, P.C. in a wrongful death action. The wrongful death action settled after six years of litigation. Prior to dismissal or final judgment, Clyde Snow asserted a lien against a portion of the settlement funds based on its claim for attorney fees. The district court upheld the viability of that claim. Thomas Boyle, who was affiliated with Clyde Snow and represented the plaintiff in the wrongful death action, objected, citing procedural deficiencies in Clyde Snow’s intervention. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Boyle waived any objection to the defects in Clyde Snow’s intervention. View "Boyle v. Clyde Snow & Sessions, P.C." on Justia Law

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In August 2007, Lisa Penunuri was injured when she fell off her horse during a guided horseback trail ride at Sundance Resort. She and her husband sued for negligence and gross negligence against Rocky Mountain Outfitters, L.C. (the company that provided the trail guide services) as well as various defendants associated with the resort (collectively, Sundance). In 2013, the Utah Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of Ms. Penunuri’s ordinary negligence claims, leaving only her claims for gross negligence. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Sundance on the gross negligence claims and awarded Sundance its costs, including certain deposition costs. Penunuri appealed, and the appellate court affirmed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari on three questions: (1) whether the court of appeals erred in concluding that summary judgment may be granted on a gross negligence claim even though the standard of care is not "fixed by law;" (2) whether the court of appeals erred in affirming the district court’s conclusion that reasonable minds could only conclude there was no gross negligence under the circumstances of this case; and (3) whether the court of appeals erred in affirming the district court’s award of deposition costs to Sundance. Finding no reversible error on any of those claims, the Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals on each issue. View "Penunuri v. Sundance Partners" on Justia Law

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A credit card error that caused Carole and James Marziale’s complaint against Spanish Fork City to be rejected did not affect the timeliness of the Marziales’ filing. The Marziales submitted a personal injury complaint with an undertaking in the Provo division of the Fourth Judicial District against the City. The status history showed that a clerk manually rejected the filing due to a credit card error. After the statute of limitation for their claim expired, the Marziales’ learned that their filings had been rejected. They refiled the complaint and undertaking in the Provo division, and it was accepted with proper payment. The City filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction over the action because the filing date was outside of the statute of limitations. The court granted the motion. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Marziales’ credit card payment error did not affect the validity of the filing of their complaint or undertaking under Utah R. Civ. P. 3, and therefore, the Marziales’ filings were timely filed. View "Marziale v. Spanish Fork City" on Justia Law