Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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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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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

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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