Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the award of benefits entered by the Utah Labor Commission in favor of Jessica Wilson, holding that the Commission did not err in concluding that Wilson's injuries arose out of, and in the course of, her employment with her employer, Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG). Wilson sustained injuries after tripping and falling in a parking lot while walking into work. Wilson requested benefits from IHG. IHG denied Wilson's claim, concluding that, under the going-and-coming rule, Wilson's accident did not arise out of and in the course of her employment. An ALJ with the Commission reviewed Wilson's claim and concluded that Wilson was entitled to benefits under the premises rule. The Commission affirmed, concluding that the communal parking area where the accident occurred was proof IHG's premises for purposes of determining compensability. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Commission properly determined that Wilson's accident occurred on IHG's premises and that, under case law, this constituted an accident in the course of her employment. View "Intercontinental Hotels Group v. Utah Labor Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court ruling against Appellant in this declaratory judgment action and holding that the Office of Recovery Services (ORS) was entitled to recover from the portion of Appellant's settlement award representing all medical expenses, both past and future, holding that ORS may recover from only that portion of an award representing past medical expenses. Appellant brought malpractice and negligence claims against a hospital, alleging that the hospital's failure to diagnose his stroke caused severe injuries. At the time of his injuries, Appellant received Medicaid through the State, and Medicaid paid for Appellant's treatment. At issue here was what portion of Appellant's settlement award the ORS was permitted to collect. The district court held that ORS was entitled to recover from the portion of Appellant's settlement award representing all medical expenses, both past and future. The Supreme Court disagreed and remanded the case, holding that ORS may place a lien on and recover from only that portion of Appellant's settlement representing past medical expenses. View "Latham v. Office of Recovery Services" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's medical malpractice claim against the University of Utah, holding that the district court properly found that Plaintiff's notice of claim was untimely. Plaintiff sought damages for injuries she suffered during a surgery performed by a University of Utah School of Medicine professor at LDS Hospital. Under the Utah Governmental Immunity Act (UGIA), Plaintiff was required to give notice of her claim to the State within one year of the date Plaintiff knew or should of known that she had a claim against a State entity or employee. On appeal, Plaintiff argued that her notice of claim was timely because it was filed within one year of when she knew or should have known she had a claim against the University. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) Plaintiff had sufficient information to put a reasonable person on notice that her claim might be against the State, instead of LDS Hospital; (2) because Plaintiff had reason to inquire long before she filed her notice of claim, her notice was untimely under the UGIA; and (3) Plaintiff's arguments based on the doctrine of res judicata and the Open Courts provision of the Utah Constitution were without merit. View "Amundsen v. University of Utah" 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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In this tort suit arising out of a basketball game the Supreme Court affirmed as modified the district court's determination that Plaintiff's injury arose out of conduct that was not willful or reckless but was inherent in the game of basketball, holding that participants in any sport are not liable for injuries caused by their conduct if their conduct was inherent in the sport. The district court held that Defendant, another player in the basketball game, owed no duty to Plaintiff because Plaintiff's injury arose out of conduct that was inherent in the game of basketball. The district court adopted a "contact sports exception" providing that participants in bodily contact sports are liable for injuries only when the injuries are the result of conduct that demonstrates a willful or reckless disregard for the safety of the other player. The Supreme Court affirmed on a modified basis, holding (1) the exception to liability arising out of sports injuries should not turn on the defendant's state of mind or be limited just to contact sports; (2) instead, voluntary participants in sports have no duty of care to avoid contact that is inherent in the activity; and (3) Defendant's conduct was inherent in the game of basketball. View "Nixon v. Clay" on Justia Law

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In this family dispute concerning an inheritance from the mother of two sets of sisters the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court ruling that May Harris and Jody Mattena committed a variety of torts in relation to the inheritance and finding them liable for compensatory and punitive damages, holding that the trial court did not err in its rulings during the course of the proceeding. Specifically, the Court held (1) the Liability Reform Act's provision for apportionment of damages, Utah Code 78B-5-818(4)(a), is mandatory only upon a request by a party, and therefore, in absence of a request for apportionment, a trial court acts within its discretion in falling back on the default of joint and several liability; and (2) the provision in Utah Code 78B-8-201(2) providing that evidence of a party's wealth or financial condition shall be admissible only after a finding of liability for punitive damages has been made does not mandate bifurcation of a punitive damages trial in a case in which no party sought to introduce evidence of wealth or financial condition, and the introduction of such evidence is not required as a prerequisite to the availability of a punitive damages award. View "Biesele v. Mattena" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals upholding the ruling of the district court that orange construction netting that was strung across a public walking trial was an open and obvious danger and that the company that strung the netting across the trail owed Plaintiff no duty of care with respect to the netting, holding that, under the open and obvious danger rule, Defendant owed Plaintiff no duty of care. When Plaintiff chose to step over the netting in this case her foot got caught in the netting and she fell to the ground, suffering injuries to her shoulder and arm. Plaintiff filed a negligence action against Defendant seeking damages for her injuries. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendant, concluding that Defendant did not owe Plaintiff a duty of care under the open and obvious danger rule. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff did not meet her burden in persuading the Court to overturn Hale v. Beck stead, 116 P.3d 263 (Utah 2005), and abandon the open and obvious danger rule; and (2) under the open and obvious danger rule, Defendant owed Plaintiff no duty of care. View "Coburn v. Whitaker Construction Co." on Justia Law

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In this case alleging a defect in a ladder, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's claims on the ground that Plaintiff failed to carry the burden of presenting grounds for the establishment of a duty under AMS Salt Industries, Inc. v. Magnesium Corp. of America, 942 P.2d 315 (Utah 1997), and its progeny, holding the district court applied the wrong legal standard in dismissing Plaintiff's claims. Plaintiff was injured when she fell off a pump house ladder to make an adjustment to a pump at a splash pad located in the City of Springville. Plaintiff sued the contractor the city hired to construct the splash pad and pump house and the subcontractor hired by the contractor to manufacture the ladder. The district court granted Defendants' motions for summary judgment on the ground that they did not owe Plaintiff a legal duty. Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the Restatement (Second) of Torts framework endorsed in Tallman v. City of Hurricane, 985 P.2d 892 (Utah 1999), and not the factors set forth in AMS Salt, controlled in this case. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed, holding that Tallman controlled and that remand was required for consideration of the relevant duty inquiry adopted in Tallman. View "Sumsion v. J Lyne Roberts & Sons Inc." 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 affirmed the district court’s interpretation of Utah’s Hospital Lien Statute, Utah Code 38-7-1, holding that the court correctly concluded that the Hospital Lien Statute does not require a hospital to pay its proportional share of an injured person’s attorney fees and costs when a hospital lien is paid due to the efforts of the injured person or that person’s attorney. Plaintiffs in this proposed class action were all involved in car accidents, received medical care at the healthcare institutions named as defendants in this suit, and filed personal injury claims against the third parties at fault. All had hospital liens placed on any potential recovery from these claims, and all reached settlement agreements. Plaintiffs argued that Defendants failed to pay their fair share of the attorney fees Plaintiffs incurred in generating the settlement proceeds. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the plain language of the Hospital Lien Statute creates a priority for the distribution of the proceeds in third-party liability cases and that Plaintiffs’ proportional sharing arguments were unavailing. View "Bryner v. Cardon Outreach" on Justia Law