Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Maria Luna on Luis Luna's negligence claim, holding that the court of appeals improperly adopted the judicial admission doctrine as applied to a party's deposition testimony.Luis was a passenger in his sister Maria's car when it collided with a vehicle driven by Antonio Arias in a Salt Lake City intersection. Luis sued Maria and Antonio. Maria moved for summary judgment based in part on Luis's testimony that Maria had entered the intersection on a green light. Luis sought to introduce Antonio's testimony that he had the green light, but the district court refused to allow Luis to create a genuine issue of material fact by introducing evidence contradicting his own sworn deposition testimony. The district court granted summary judgment for Maria. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that Luis's statement should be considered a judicial admission not capable of being rebutted by other evidence. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that a party's deposition testimony is like any other evidentiary admission and can be contradicted with other credible evidence. View "Luna v. Luna" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court in favor of Plaintiff in this personal injury action, holding that the district court abused its discretion in allowing Plaintiff's expert witness to offer undisclosed causation testimony, and the error was harmful.Plaintiff, who was injured while working on a highway construction site, sued the general contractor for failing to take necessary safety measures to protect workers from highway traffic. The jury found that the general contractor was partially liable for Plaintiff's injury. On appeal, the general contractor argued that the district court erred when it allowed Plaintiff's expert witness to offer an undisclosed opinion on causation. The court of appeals agreed, determining that the error was harmful enough to warrant reversal and a new trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the testimony was erroneously admitted and that the error was not harmless. View "Arreguin-Leon v. Hadco Construction, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court denying a civil stalking injunction sought by Kristi Ragsdale against George Fishler, holding that the district court erred.Ragsdale ran Eva Carlton Academy (ECA), a residential treatment program for young women, out of her home in a suburb. Fishler, Ragsdale's neighbor, expressed his objection to ECA's presence in the neighborhood by flipping off and swearing at Ragsdale and others entering or exiting ECA and by placing provocative signs in his yard. The district court denied Ragsdale's request for an injunction. The Supreme Court reversed on each issue raised by Ragsdale and vacated the district court's ruling on Fishler's fee request, holding that the district court erred by (1) concluding that Fishler's conduct was directed only at ECA; (2) failing to determine whether Fishler's conduct would cause a reasonable person in Ragsdale's circumstances to suffer fear or emotional distress; and (3) denying Ragsdale's injunction on the ground that the First Amendment protects Fishler's conduct. Because the Court's reversal of these issues may affect the basis for the district court's denial of Fishler's attorney-fees request, the Court vacated that decision and remanded for a new determination. View "Ragsdale v. Fishler" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Labor Commission awarding Appellant permanent partial disability under the Workers' Compensation Act (WCA), Utah Code 34A-2-101 to -1005, holding that the Commission's process for determining permanent partial disability benefits is constitutional and that the administrative law judge (ALJ) was not permitted to increase the amount of the award based on Appellant's subjective pain.Based on Commission guidelines, the ALJ based the amount of Appellant's award on a report provided by an assigned medical panel. Appellant argued on appeal that the process for determining permanent partial disability benefits was unconstitutional and that the ALJ erred in failing to augment the medical panel's impairment rating by three percent, resulting in an increased compensation award. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the adjudicative authority of ALJs has not been unconstitutionally delegated to medical panels; and (2) the Commission expressly precludes ALJs from augmenting an impairment rating based on a claimant's subjective pain. View "Ramos v. Cobblestone Centre" on Justia Law

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In this automobile accident case, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the district court's general-damages award granted to Plaintiff, holding that Plaintiff satisfied the requirements of Utah Code 31A-22-309 and that the district court correctly denied Defendant's new trial motion.On appeal, Defendant argued (1) Plaintiff failed to satisfy the requirements set forth in section 31A-22-309, a prerequisite to receiving general damages in most automobile accident cases, because Plaintiff did not show that she sustained a "permanent disability or permanent impairment based upon objective findings"; and (2) under Utah R. Civ. P. 59, a new trial on the amount of damages should be granted because the award of general damages Plaintiff was awarded was excessively disproportionate to the economic damages awarded. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the court of appeals did not err in interpreting the phrase "objective findings"; and (2) the court of appeals did not err in affirming Plaintiff's damage award because the award was supported by sufficient evidence and was not so excessive as to appear to have been given under the influence of passion or prejudice. View "Pinney v. Carrera" on Justia Law

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In this case brought by an alleged victim of child-sex abuse years after the alleged abuse occurred, the Supreme Court held that the Utah Legislature is constitutionally prohibited from retroactively reviving a time-barred claim in a manner depriving a defendant of a vested statute of limitations defense.Plaintiff, who alleged that Defendant sexually abused her in 1981, conceded that each of her claims had expired under the original statute of limitations. Plaintiff, however, argued that (1) her claims were revived when the legislature, in 2016, enacted Utah Code 78B-2-308(7), and (2) her claims against Defendant were timely filed under this statue. The federal court certified this case to the Supreme Court asking the Court to clarify whether the legislature had the authority to expressly revive time-barred claims through a statute. The Supreme Court held (1) the legislature lacks the power to retroactively vitiate a ripened statute of limitations defense under the Utah Constitution; and (2) therefore, section 78B-2-308(7) is an unconstitutional exercise of legislative power. View "Mitchell v. Roberts" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the professional rescuer rule that this Court adopted in Fordham v. Oldroyd, 171 P.3d 411 (Utah 2007), extends no further than Fordham's detailed formulation and that a person does owe a duty of care to a professional rescuer for injury that was sustained by the gross negligence or intentional tort that caused the rescuer's presence.Plaintiff, a firefighter, was severely injured while responding to a mulch fire that occurred on Defendant's property. At the time of the fire, Defendant was in knowing violation of several ordinances, including the fire code, and of industry standards regarding the safe storage of mulch. Plaintiff sued Defendant for gross negligence, intentional harm, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that it owed no duty to Plaintiff under the professional rescuer rule. The district court agreed and dismissed Plaintiff's claim. The Supreme Court partially reversed the summary judgment order, holding (1) a person owes professional rescuers a duty of care when that person's gross negligence or intentional tort triggers the rescuers' presence; and (2) the case is remanded to the district court to rule whether Defendant's actions were grossly negligent, creating a duty to Plaintiff. View "Ipsen v. Diamond Tree Experts, Inc" on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice action, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court excluding Plaintiffs' proximate cause expert's testimony, holding that the district court did not err.Plaintiffs brought suit against the University of Utah Hospital alleging that the Hospital's treatment of their daughter's baclofen withdrawal caused the daughter's permanent injuries. The Hospital filed a motion in limine to exclude the testimony of Plaintiffs' causation expert, arguing that the testimony should be barred under Utah R. Evid. 702 because the expert's opinion was not based upon sufficient facts or data. The district court agreed and excluded the testimony. At issue on appeal was whether the threshold showing that the principles or methods underlying in the expert's testimony were based upon sufficient facts or data where the method - logical deduction - was based upon broad and attenuated facts. The Supreme Court held that the showing was not present in this case, and therefore, the district court properly excluded the expert testimony on proximate cause. View "Taylor v. University of Utah" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment to Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's personal injury lawsuit, holding that Plaintiff produced evidence in support of the disputed elements of her claim.Plaintiff, who tripped and fell while walking across a park strip, asserted that she tripped over a metal rod protruding out of a hole in the ground. Plaintiff sued Defendants, including Herriman City, for negligence. In granting summary judgment for Defendants the district court ruled that Plaintiff had failed to produce enough evidence to create a disputed issue of fact as to when the unsafe condition arose, and therefore, Plaintiff could not show that Defendants had constructive notice of the unsafe condition and an opportunity to remedy the condition. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the durable, non transitory nature of the unsafe condition itself is evidence from which a fact-finder could infer longevity, which is sufficient to create a genuine dispute as to the length of time the condition existed; and (2) in conjunction with evidence relevant to the noticeability of the metal rod, Plaintiff produced evidence in support of the contested elements of her claim. View "Cochegrus v. Herriman City" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiff's claim for failure to timely file a notice of claim, holding that Plaintiff, a Utah resident injured in Utah by an Arizona municipal employee, may not file a claim against the employee and the municipality after the time to do so has expired under Arizona law but not under Utah law.Plaintiff was involved in a motor vehicle accident in Utah with a driver who was acting in the course and scope of her employment with the City of Flagstaff, Arizona. When Plaintiff filed suit, the City and the driver moved to dismiss arguing that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Plaintiff did not file her notice of claim within six months as required by Arizona's governmental immunity statute, Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-821.01. The district court applied the statute as a matter of comity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) comity was rightfully extended, and the district court correctly applied the statute; and (2) Plaintiff failed to comply with the statute's notice of claim requirement, and therefore, the action was untimely and required dismissal. View "Galindo v. Flagstaff" on Justia Law