Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court

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Appellants were defrauded by an individual on parole from a Utah prison. Appellants filed a complaint alleging causes of action against the State for negligent supervision, gross negligence, failure to warn, and negligent misrepresentation. Under the Governmental Immunity Act, the State is immune from a suit where the injury arises out of deceit. The district court dismissed the case based on the State's governmental immunity, finding that Appellants' injury was the result of a third-party's deceit. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the State was immune under the Utah Governmental Immunity Act's deceit exception; and (2) the dismissal of Appellants' complaint on the basis of governmental immunity was timely. View "Van De Grift v. State" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case were two agreements: a ground lease agreement between ASC Utah, Inc. (ASCU) and Wolf Mountain Resorts, and a specifically planned area (SPA) development agreement, which had thirty-six signatories, including ASCU, Wolf Mountain, the D.A. Osguthorpe Family Partnership (Osguthorpe). ASCU and Wolf Mountain began litigating claims involving both the ground lease and the SPA agreement. Shortly thereafter, Osguthorpe sued ASCU and Wolf Mountain, alleging that each party had breached a land-lease agreement distinct from the ground lease or the SPA agreement. The district court consolidated Osguthorpe's separate actions into ASCU's litigation. Osguthorpe later moved to compel arbitration on all the claims related to the SPA agreement, including the claims between ASCU and Wolf Mountain, to which Osguthrope was not a party. The district court denied Osguthrope's motion. Osguthrope withdrew its SPA claims from the case, leaving for appeal only Osguthrope's motion to compel arbitration of the SPA claims between ASCU and Wolf Mountain. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the disputes for which Osguthrope sought to compel arbitration were not subject to the SPA agreement's arbitration provision; and (2) furthermore, as a non-party to the disputes, Osguthrope had no contractual right to compel their arbitration. View "Osguthorpe v. Wolf Mountain Resorts, L.C." on Justia Law

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Defendant pled guilty to disorderly conduct in the justice county and was sentenced to ninety days in jail and ordered to pay a fine. After conducting a trial de novo, the district court convicted Defendant of the original charge, sentenced him to 180 days in jail, and imposed a higher fine. Defendant petitioned the court of appeals for extraordinary relief, arguing that the district court violated Utah Code 76-3-405 when it imposed a more severe punishment than the one originally imposed by the justice court. The court of appeals denied the requested relief, reasoning that although the statute generally prohibits the imposition of a greater sentence after a defendant appeals, Defendant's case fell outside of the general rule because his original conviction and sentence resulted from a plea agreement. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the section 76-3-405(2)(b) exception against imposing a harsher sentence on appeal when a defendant has entered into a plea agreement applies to justice court proceedings. View "Vorher v. Court of Appeals" on Justia Law

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This appeal centered a film created by SummitWorks and Supernova Media. SummitWorks and Supernova formed LLCs in several states. Supernova and SummitWorks later litigated the issue of who had the right to control the LLCs. The law firm PADRM served as counsel for the LLCs. After PADRM stopped receiving legal fees it tried to foreclose on two liens on the film. PADRM sued SummitWorks and the LLCs (the first case) seeking a declaration the liens were valid. In response, SummitWorks filed a separate action (the second case) against PADRM seeking a declaration that the liens were invalid and a preliminary injunction against the sale of the firm. Supernova moved to intervene in both cases. In the second case, SummitWorks and PADRM were granted a motion to close the preliminary injunction hearing and to seal the related records. Supernova filed a motion to unseal the record. PADRM and SummitWorks subsequently signed a settlement agreement, and the district court dismissed both cases. The court also denied Supernova's motions. The Supreme Court reversed the denial of the motions to intervene and set aside the sealing order, holding (1) Supernova had a right to intervene in this litigation; and (2) the public had a right to access the court records related to the preliminary injunction hearing until they were properly sealed. View "Supernova Media, Inc. v. Pia Anderson Dorius Reynard & Moss, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Utah Highway Patrol performed a drug interdiction exercise on a rural stretch of the interstate. UHP chose to focus the bulk of its enforcement efforts on cars bearing out-of-state license plates. Defendant's California-plated vehicle was stopped during the exercise, and the traffic stop yielded evidence of illegal drugs. Defendant was charged with possession with intent to distribute. Defendant filed two suppression motions - one based on the Equal Protection Clause and right to travel and the other rooted in the Fourth Amendment. The district court denied both motions, and Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea. On appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the traffic stop did not restrict Defendant's movement in a manner implicating his fundamental right to travel; (2) because there was a rational basis for UHP's selective enforcement of traffic laws - by choosing to stop vehicles licensed outside of Utah - Defendant's equal protection claim was meritless; and (3) to the extent the district court erred in failing to consider any evidence of relevance to the Fourth Amendment motion to suppress, it was harmless error. View "State v. Chettero" on Justia Law

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Michael Howe, an employee of Peak Alarm Company, filed a complaint against the City and several of its employees, presenting ten federal and state claims, including false arrest and defamation. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants on these and other state claims on the ground that Howe failed to comply with the procedural requirements of the Utah Governmental Immunity Act (UGIA). The supreme Court reversed, holding that the claims were timely brought under the UGIA. On remand, Defendants again moved for summary judgment, arguing that the state defamation and false arrest claims were barred by the one-year statute of limitations. The district court denied the motion on the ground that the claims had been timely brought under the UGIA. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the UGIA comprehensively governs claims against governmental parties such that plaintiffs are not bound to observe the statute of limitations that would apply to claims against private parties. View "Peak Alarm v. Salt Lake City Corp." on Justia Law

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Basic Research, LLC marketed the weight-loss product Akavar. Customers who purchased Akavar filed lawsuits against Basic Research claiming false advertising, defective product, and failure to perform as promised. Basic Research was insured by Admiral Insurance under a policy that provided coverage for "personal and advertising injury." After the underlying claims were filed, Basic Research invoked its coverage and asked Admiral to defend it. Admiral refused to defend, alleging that the underlying claims were not covered by the terms of the policy. Thereafter, Basic Research brought this suit for declaratory relief. The district court granted Admiral's motion for summary judgment, finding that the underlying claims were specifically excluded from coverage. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the asserted claims were not covered by the policy and were in fact squarely excluded by its terms; and (2) therefore, Admiral had no duty to defend Basic Research. View "Basic Research, LLC v. Admiral Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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The United Effort Plan Trust, a charitable trust, was established by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS church). Following allegations of trustee mismanagement, the district court removed these trustees, reformed the Trust according to secular principles, and appointed a special fiduciary to manage the Trust subject to the court's supervisory jurisdiction. The special fiduciary later sought court approval for the sale of Trust property with alleged religious significance. Members and bishops of the FLDS church (Appellants) sought to intervene in the administration proceedings, asserting that their ecclesiastical interests in the Trust entitled them to intervene. The district court denied intervention. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in determining (1) Appellants lacked a statutory right to intervene under Utah. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(1); and (2) Appellants lacked a sufficient interest in the subject matter of the litigation to intervene under rule 24(a)(2). View "In re United Effort Plan Trust" on Justia Law

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An industrial accident occurred while Employer was insured under two separate workers compensation insurance policies, one with the Workers Compensation Fund (WCF) and one with the Utah Business Insurance Company (UBIC). WCF paid all of Employee's medical expenses and weekly compensation benefits, but when WCF became aware of the overlapping coverage, WCF filed a complaint against UBIC, alleging that UBIC was either solely or jointly liable for Employee's insurance benefits. The district court granted WCF's motion for partial summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that both insurers were liable for Employee's claim, and therefore, WCF was entitled to equitable contribution from UBIC for reasonable past and future costs associated with the claim. Remanded for resolution for the remaining claims. View "Workers Comp. Fund v. Utah Bus. Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Defendant, a passenger in a vehicle stopped for a traffic infraction, was arrested for possession of methamphetamine after being questioned and searched by a deputy sheriff. Defendant moved to suppress the fruits of the search. The district court denied the motion to suppress, and the court of appeals affirmed. Defendant appealed, arguing that the deputy improperly extended the length of the detention without reasonable suspicion that Defendant was engaged in criminal activity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the deputy's questioning of Defendant, during which Defendant admitted to possession of illegal drugs, was proper based on the deputy's reasonable suspicion brought about by the driver's likely impairment and the presence of used drug paraphernalia in plain sight; and (2) the deputy did not improperly extend the duration of Defendant's detention because the deputy's single question to Defendant resulted in only a de minimis extension of the otherwise lawful detention. View "State v. Simons" on Justia Law