Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's claims against the Iron County attorney, holding that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that a previous federal court order dismissing Plaintiff's official-capacity claims against the same defendant with prejudice lacked preclusive effect. Plaintiff filed suit in federal district court asserting claims against several defendants, including the Iron County attorney in his official capacity. The federal court dismissed the claims with prejudice. Plaintiff refiled her suit in state court, alleging state constitutional violations against several defendants, including the Iron County attorney. The district court dismissed the case with prejudice, concluding that Plaintiff's claims were barred by res judicata. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to rebut the presumption that the federal court order was "on the merits" for purposes of the claim preclusion doctrine. View "Cheek v. Iron County Attorney" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiffs' complaint against Defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction, holding that the Utah Nonresident Jurisdiction Act compels adoption of the conspiracy theory of jurisdiction and that the case must be remanded for the district court to reexamine the claims and contacts and to apply the jurisdictional tests announced here. Plaintiffs sued Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Goldman Sachs & Co., and related entities (collectively Defendants) for violations of the Utah Pattern of Unlawful Activity Act. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court analyzed Plaintiffs' claims against Defendants collectively without analyzing the nature of each individual defendant's contacts as they related to each individual plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding (1) because the district court analyzed Plaintiffs' claims and Defendants' contacts collectively, it may have distorted its analysis; and (2) Utah now recognizes a conspiracy theory of jurisdiction, and this case must be remanded to the district court with instruction to assess the conspiracy theory of jurisdiction. View "Raser Technologies, Inc. v. Morgan Stanley & Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals' decision reversing the district court's order granting Provo City's motion to dismiss this wrongful death suit on the ground that an estate lacks the legal capacity to assert a claim sounding in wrongful death, holding that the district court erred in dismissing the case on the basis of a lack of capacity. Helen Faucheaux died of a drug overdose in an incident in which Provo City police officers were dispatched to her home. Faucheaux's heirs brought a wrongful death suit against the City. The caption of the complaint listed "The Estate of Helen M. Faucheaux" as the plaintiff. The district court dismissed the case on the ground that an estate lacks the legal capacity to assert a claim sounding in wrongful death. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed on alternative grounds, holding (1) the caption of a complaint has no controlling significance, and because the complaint made clear that the action was being pursued by the personal representative on behalf of the heirs the district court erred in dismissing the case on the basis of a lack of capacity; and (2) even if this action had been initiated by the estate, the estate's lack of capacity could have been corrected by substitution. View "Estate of Faucheaux v. Provo City" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court allowing Alarm Protection Technology (APT) to substitute itself as the plaintiff in this case and extinguishing Ryan Bradburn's claims against it, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in permitting APT's substitution as plaintiff. After Bradburn's employment with APT as a sales representative ended he sued APT for alleged unpaid commissions. Executing on a confession of judgment it had previously obtained from Bradburn, APT initiated a constable sale and purchased Bradburn's legal right to sue APT. APT then substituted itself into this case for Bradburn and dismissed all claims against itself. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in allowing complete substitution because Utah law permits the tactic used by APT in this case. View "Bradburn v. Alarm Protection Technology, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court declining to enter summary judgment for Appellants on the grounds that the Utah Declaratory Judgment Act requires neighbors objecting to fences that encroach on bridle paths to sue all homeowners whose property is subject to the bridle path easement, rather than just those homeowners who have fences that infringe on the path, holding that no such joinder is required. Appellants brought suit alleging that Appellees - four of approximately one hundred homeowners in Bell Canyon Acres Community - intruded upon bridle paths in the neighborhood for the use of residents, thereby violating the restrictive covenants that apply to the lots in Bell Canyon Acres. Appellants sought a declaratory judgment determining the parties' on the bridle paths and declaring that Appellees were encroaching on the bridle paths. The district court denied Appellants' motion for summary judgment, concluding that Utah Code 78B-6-403(1) required that all homeowners in the community whose property was subject to the restrictive covenants and the bridle path easement (the outsiders) were required to be joined. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 403 provided no impediment to the declaratory judgment Appellants sought and that the outsiders did not need to be joined as parties. View "Bell Canyon Acres Homeowners Ass'n v. McLelland" on Justia Law

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In this case involving the tree-tier structure established by Utah R. Civ. P. 26, the Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the district court and court of appeals rejecting Petitioner’s motion for post-trial amendment of his tier designation so that he could receive more damages, holding that the facts of this case, the relevant law, and the rules of the tier structure dispositively opposed Petitioner’s preferred outcome. The three-tier structure established by Rule 26 requires plaintiffs to plead one of three tiers based on expected damages. Petitioner pled a Tier two case, which involved a limit on recoverable damages, and did not amend his pleading before trial. The jury awarded Petitioner a total of $640,989 in damages. After trial, Petitioner moved to amend his pleadings. The district court denied the motion and reduced the judgment to $299,999.99, commensurate with the limits of Petitioner’s Tier 2 designation. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) where Petitioner pled and litigated a Tier 2 case, Petitioner’s damages were commensurately reduced after trial; and (2) there is no permitted modification of the tier designation once trial commences and no indication that Petitioner impliedly consented to litigating a higher tier case even if he could. View "Pilot v. Hill" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision denying Dr. LeGrand P. Belnap discovery as to allegedly defamatory statements made by Drs. Ben Howard and Steven Mintz in peer review meetings, holding that there is no bad faith exception to Utah R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). At issue was whether there is a bad faith exception to discovery and evidentiary privileges under Rule 26(b)(1) for statements made and documents prepared as part of a health care provider’s peer review process. Dr. Belnap was denied discovery as to alleged defamatory statements concerning Dr. Belnap’s application for surgical privileges at Jordan Valley Medical Center. Dr. Belnap filed this interlocutory appeal, arguing that Rule 26(b)(1) includes a bad faith exception. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) there is no bad faith exception to Rule 26(b)(1)’s peer review privilege; and (2) even looking to the legislative history, there is still no bad faith exception. View "Belnap v. Howard" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal from several orders related to the disposition of mechanic’s liens, holding that the Court lacked appellate jurisdiction because the Utah R. Civ. P. 54(b) certifications were flawed. Acting pursuant to Rule 54(b), the district court sought to certify as final and appealable the orders at issue. Plaintiff appealed those orders to the Supreme Court. The Court, however, found that the Rule 54(b) certifications were flawed and therefore dismissed the appeal, taking the opportunity of this case to readdress and refine the steps that parties and district courts must take to ensure proper certification under Rule 54(b) in order to avoid unnecessary remands. View "Copper Hills Custom Homes, LLC v. Countrywide Bank, FSB" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal from a contest over the state water engineer’s resolution of who owned the water rights to Minnie Maud Creek, holding that the Court lacked jurisdiction because the district court’s certification of its summary judgment ruling as final under Utah R. Civ. P. 54(b) was improper. The district court granted summary judgment upholding the state engineer’s proposed determination that The Minnie Maud Reservoir and Irrigation Company was the owner of the disputed water rights. EnerVest and Hammerschmid Trust appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding (1) the Court did not have a final judgment before it for review; and (2) EnerVest lacked appellate standing because it was not aggrieved by the district court’s decision and so lacked appellate stand, and therefore, the Court declined to exercise its discretion to treat this appeal as a petition for interlocutory appeal. View "EnerVest v. Utah State Engineer" on Justia Law

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At issue was three questions certified to the Supreme Court by the federal district court relating to the interpretation of the Governmental Immunity Act of Utah (Immunity Act), Utah Code 63G-7-101 to -904. The Supreme Court provided the applicable legal standard for determining what is an instrumentality of the state, exercised its discretion to decline to establish a legal standard for public corporation immunity, and declined to answer the second and third certified questions because those questions were relevant only if one of the entities involved was an instrumentality of the state or a public corporation and that decision must be made by the district court, thereby necessitating answers to those questions. View "GeoMetWatch Corp. v. Utah State University Research Foundation" on Justia Law