Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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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 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

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In this case brought against the Ute Indian Tribe, tribal officials, various companies owned by the tribal officials, oil and gas companies, and other companies, Plaintiff alleged that, through its ability to restrict the oil and gas industry’s access to the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, the tribe has held hostage the economy of the non-Indian population in the Uintah Basin. The district court dismissed Plaintiff's claims against all Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the Ute Indian Tribe under sovereign immunity and the dismissal of Newfield, LaRose Construction, and D. Ray C. Enterprises for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted but vacated the dismissal of the remaining defendants and remanded for further proceedings consistent with the tribal exhaustion doctrine, holding (1) the Ute Tribe is immune from suit, but the tribal officials were not protected by sovereign immunity in their individual capacities; (2) the district court erred in dismissing the case for failure to join and indispensable party; (3) the tribal exhaustion doctrine prevents Utah courts from reviewing the case at this time; and (4) certain defendants were entitled to dismissal for failure to state a claim, but the remaining defendants were not. View "Harvey v. Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation" on Justia Law

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In this subrogation action filed by Educators Mutual Insurance Association (EMIA) against a tortfeasor in a personal injury case, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ dismissal for lack of standing. The court of appeals ruled that an insurer may file suit for subrogation only in the name of its insured, and not in its own name. The Supreme Court upheld EMIA’s standing to sue for subrogation in its own name under the terms of the insurance policy where the terms of the insurance policy at issue in this case expressly recognized EMIA’s authority “to pursue its own right of subrogation against a third party” without regard to whether the insured “is made whole by any recovery.” View "Wilson v. Educators Mutual Insurance Ass’n" on Justia Law

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In this splintered opinion, two justices would affirm in part and reverse in part the final order of the Labor Commission, two justices would affirm, and one justice would vacate and remand. Therefore, the order the Commission stood as issued. Appellee claimed workers’ compensation benefits against her employer for injuries she sustained while working. Appellee’s employer and its insurers initially paid Appellee’s benefits but later concluded that Appellee’s condition did not constitute a compensable accident under the Workers’ Compensation Act but was rather an occupational disease under the Occupational Disease Act. An administrative law judge (ALJ) disagreed and found in favor of Appellee, concluding that the employer was subject to ongoing liability for Appellee’s injuries, which were caused by a workplace accident under a theory of “cumulative trauma.” The Commission upheld the ALJ’s decision in its final order. In dispute in this opinion was the effect of the 1991 amendments to the Occupational Disease Act on the Workers’ Compensation Act. View "Rueda v. Utah Labor Commission" on Justia Law

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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

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Debra Jarvis was driving a bus owned by Lake Shore Motor Coach Lines, Inc. when she experienced a sudden and unforeseeable loss of consciousness. Her loss of consciousness caused the bus to roll over, injuring several passengers. Some of the injured passengers filed separate lawsuits in a Utah court seeking damages. Two of the plaintiffs moved for partial summary judgment, asserting that Lancer Insurance Co., Lake Shore’s insurer, was strictly liable for the passengers’ injuries under Utah Code 31A-22-303(1). The motions were denied. Lancer Insurance filed a separate federal case seeking a declaratory judgment confirming the state district court’s interpretation of Utah Code section 31A-22-303(1), thus reinforcing the conclusion that this provision preserves the common-law “sudden incapacity” defense and requires proof of fault to sustain liability. The federal district court certified two questions to the Supreme Court regarding the proper interpretation of section 31A-22-303(1). The Supreme Court answered (1) section 31A-22-303(1) overrules the common-law doctrine of sudden incapacity in a manner imposing strict liability on a driver (and her insurer); and (2) a driver (and her insurer) is subject to liability only up to the amount of the insurance coverage available under an applicable policy. View "Lancer Insurance Co. v. Lake Shore Motor Coach Lines, Inc." on Justia Law