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The Supreme Court disavowed its holding in State v. Brooks, 638 P.2d 537 (Utah 1981) that counsel always has the same motive to develop testimony at a preliminary hearing that she will have at trial. At issue was the admission of preliminary hearing testimony of an unavailable witness at Defendant’s criminal trial. The court of appeals concluded that the unavailable witness’s testimony was properly admitted under Utah R. Evid. 804. On appeal, Defendant argued because Utah Const. art. I, section 12 limits preliminary hearings to establishing probable cause, his counsel had a different motive in conducting cross-examination at the preliminary hearing than she would have at trial. The Supreme Court agreed and held (1) a district court should examine preliminary hearing testimony to ensure that the defendant possessed a similar motive before admitting the testimony under Rule 804; (2) the court of appeals in this case erred when it affirmed the admission of the witness’s preliminary hearing testimony; and (3) the admission of preliminary hearing testimony constituted error with respect to Defendant’s misdemeanor conviction, but its admission was harmless as to Defendant’s felony conviction. View "State v. Goins" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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An appellant who takes no action to preserve his interests in property at issue on appeal has no recourse against a lawful third-party purchaser. Appellant agreed to sell two parcels of commercial real estate to JDJ Holdings Inc. JDJ obtained two loans to finance the purchase - one from First National Bank and one from Appellant - both of which were secured by trust deeds. JDJ later defaulted on the loans. Appellant and First National both claimed that their deed was was entitled to senior position. The district court granted summary judgment to First National. Appellant appealed but did not formally seek or obtain a stay of the order and did not file a lis pendens on the property. First National subsequently purchased the parcel at issue under its reinstated trust deed. The parcel was later conveyed to 2DP Blanding, LLC. The court of appeals overturned the district court’s order. 2DP then filed suit seeking to quiet title to the property and to enjoin Appellant’s pending foreclosure sale under his original trust deed. The district court granted summary judgment for 2DP. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that 2DP was entitled to title of the property free and clear of any interest Appellant may have previously had in the property. View "2DP Blanding, LLC v. Palmer" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the legislature’s classification of offenses in the DUI and measure substance statutes. The Supreme Court thus reversed the court of appeals’ decision vacating Defendant’s second degree felony convictions under the Uniform Operation of Laws Clause of the Utah Constitution. The court of appeals concluded that the classification of Defendant’s three crimes as second degree felonies under the measurable substance provision ran afoul of the Uniform Operation of Laws Clause. The court of appeals, however, rejected Defendant’s challenge to the imposition of consecutive sentences for the three counts against him. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals’ decision upholding Defendant’s sentences and thus reinstated the convictions and sentences as entered and imposed against Defendant in the district court. View "State v. Ainsworth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court denying Birth Father’s motion to intervene in this contested adoption. Both Birth Father and Birth Mother were members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and their Child was an Indian child. Birth Mother executed a voluntary relinquishment of parental rights and consent to adoption and represented that her brother-in-law was the Child’s biological father. No Indian tribe received notice of the proceedings. The district court terminated Birth Mother’s parental rights and determined that the biological father was not a “parent” under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Birth Father later filed a motion to intervene in the proceedings in order to establish paternity. The court denied Birth Father’s motion to intervene on the basis that he was not a parent under either the ICWA or Utah’s adoption statutes. A majority of the court held that Birth Father was a “parent” under the ICWA and, as such, was entitled to participate in the proceedings below on remand. View "In re Adoption of B.B." 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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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 affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Homebuyer's construction defect claims against the Contractor that built his home on the ground that Homebuyer was not in privity with Contractor and had no right to sue as an assignee. Property Owner entered into an agreement with Contractor to build a house on the property and then assigned its rights to the home and the construction agreement to Company. Company then sold the home to Homebuyer but did not assign its interest in the construction agreement to Homebuyer. After discovering several purported construction defects, Homebuyer sued Contractor for breach of the construction agreement and breach of warranty. Homeowner was subsequently assigned Company’s interest in claims Company may assert against Contractor. The district court granted summary judgment to Contractor. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Homebuyer had no right to sue under Utah Code 78B-4-513 because he did not acquire a right to sue for breach of contract or warranty as an assignee - either at the time he purchased the home or at the time of the assignment. View "Tomlinson v. Douglas Knight Construction, Inc." 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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The court of appeals vacated Defendant’s conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of attempted murder but affirmed Defendant’s conviction of possession of a firearm by a restricted person. The court found that Defendant’s counsel provided ineffective assistance when he failed to object to a defective jury instruction on the lesser-included offense of attempted manslaughter, and the error prejudiced Defendant’s trial. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals with respect to the jury instruction issue, holding that the court of appeals erroneously failed to perform fully the prejudice analysis required by Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), and that Defendant was not prejudiced by his counsel’s complicity in the jury receiving a flawed instruction. View "State v. Garcia" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law