Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the district court granting Volkswagen SouthTowne's motion for judgment as a matter of law and a new trial after Plaintiff was awarded $2,700,000 on her negligence and strict liability claims, holding that SouthTowne was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law or a new trial.SouthTowne sold Plaintiff a vehicle that was subject to a safety recall because of defective fuel injection lines. After buying the car, Plaintiff was diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning. A mechanic discovered that the safety recall had not been performed on Plaintiff's vehicle. A jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff, but the district court entered post-trial orders concluding that Plaintiff had failed sufficiently to establish the applicable standard of care. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the cumulative evidence adduced at trial was legally sufficient to satisfy the element of causation; and (2) the trial court erred in basing its ruling conditionally granting a new trial to SouthTowne because the ruling was based on issues that Plaintiff was not given notice and an opportunity to be heard on. View "Smith v. Volkswagen Southtowne, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Weber County and dismissing the claims brought by Brian and Mariah Cunningham against the County, a Special Weapons and Tactics training provider, holding that the district court erred across the board.Brian was attending a training when can explosive set on a door latch detonated and caused severe injuries to Brian's face and neck. Brian and Mariah sued the County, alleging negligence and gross negligence. The district court granted the County's motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the action, holding (1) the preinjury release Brian signed was unenforceable because it was neither clear nor unmistakable; and (2) the Governmental Immunity Act of Utah waives immunity for gross negligence claims and loss of consortium claims that arise out of an injury for which immunity has been waived. View "Cunningham v. Weber County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the district court denying the motion for summary judgment filed by Barnes Bullets asking the district court to rule that the Workers' Compensation Act (WCA) barred Layne Kay's claim, holding that the Occupational Disease Act (ODA) may bar Kay's lawsuit.Kay contracted lead poisoning while working at Barnes and sued Barnes under the exception to the WCA permitting employees like Kay to sue over injuries caused by an employer's intentional act. Barnes moved for summary judgment, arguing that the WCA barred Kay's claim where Kay did not present sufficient evidence that Barnes acted intentionally. The Supreme Court vacated the district court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that Utah law recognizing lead poisoning as an occupational disease raises a significant question as to whether the ODA, not the WCA, covered Kay's claim. View "Kay v. Barnes Bullets" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment to Steven DeConto and Commodity Transporters, Inc. and dismissing John Zilleruelo's complaint alleging negligence, vicarious liability, and negligent entrustment, holding that the district court misinterpreted Utah Code 78B-2-108(2).While Zilleruelo filed his complaint outside the statute of limitations he argued that the accident had rendered him mentally incompetent for one year, and therefore, section 78B-2-108(2) tolled the statute of limitations during the period of his incompetency. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants, concluding that the statute of limitations had continued to run during the time Zilleruelo claimed he was incompetent. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the tolling statute does not condition tolling on the lack of a power of attorney or the lack of a legal guardian. View "Zilleruelo v. Commodity Transporters, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court granting summary judgment to two job site operators during the 1960s and 1970s for indirectly exposing his wife to asbestos dust, holding that job site operators owe a duty of care to a worker's cohabitants with respect to take-home exposure to asbestos.During his marriage to Barbara Boynton, Larry Boynton worked at numerous job sites where he was exposed to asbestos. Larry alleged in this complaint that Barbara was exposed to asbestos dust he carried home from work, bringing on her mesothelioma and resulting death. The district court granted summary judgment for two job site operators, concluding that they did not owe a duty of care to Barbara. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) job site operators are liable to their employees' cohabitants for take-home asbestos exposure; and (2) a genuine issue of material fact existed about whether one of the operators retained control over its contractor. View "Kennecott Utah Copper, LLC v. Phillips 66 Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiffs' lawsuit filed against the employer of Kasey Christiansen, who was killed at work, holding that the district court did not err.The district court dismissed Plaintiffs' lawsuit based on a provision of the Workers' Compensation Act that bars employees from suiting their employers over work-related injuries. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the district court erred in applying the Act's exclusive remedy provision to dismiss their complaint because the intentional-injury exception applied. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that Plaintiffs failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted because it could not reasonably be inferred that Defendant believed Christiansen's fatal injuries were virtually certain to occur. View "Christiansen v. Harrison Western Construction Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the district court denying Defendant's motion for summary judgment in this lawsuit over a work-related ailment, holding that remand was required.Plaintiff contracted lead poisoning while working for Defendant. A narrow exception in the Workers' Compensation Act (WCA) allows employees like Plaintiff to sue over injuries caused by an employer's intentional act, and Plaintiff sued Defendant under this exception. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the WCA barred Plaintiff's claim because he did not present sufficient evidence that Defendant acted intentionally. The district court denied the motion. The Supreme Court vacated the decision below, holding (1) although both parties assumed that the WCA covered Plaintiff's condition, Utah law has frequently recognized lead poisoning as an occupational disease governed exclusively by the Occupational Disease Act; and (2) therefore, remand was required to determine if Plaintiff's lead poisoning was an occupational disease. View "Kay v. Bullets" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants in this personal injury action, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, Defendants were not negligent.A nine-year-old beginner skier collided with Plaintiff on the "First Time" ski run in Park City. Plaintiff sued the child and her parents, asserting claims for, inter alia, negligence and negligent supervision. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) while a person has a duty to exercise reasonable care while skiing, a nine-year-old beginner skier on a beginner ski run is held to the standard of care commensurate with children of the same age, experience, and intelligence under similar circumstances; and (2) Plaintiff did not carry her burden of showing that Defendants were negligent under the circumstances of this case. View "Donovan v. Sutton" on Justia Law

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In this personal injury action, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court granting summary judgment to the United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS) and concluding that the negligence of KNS International, LLC was a superseding cause of Plaintiff's injury, holding that summary judgment was appropriate.Stuart Wood, a truck driver, was picking up packages from a KNS warehouse when a heavy vinyl curtain fell from the loading bay door above Wood's head and hit him, causing serious injuries. The curtain had been jarred loose after an accident that had occurred one week early when a UPS truck had backed into the loading bay and struck the building. Wood and his wife filed suit against KNS and UPS. The district court granted summary judgment for UPS. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that UPS owed Wood no duty by the time he was injured. The Supreme Court affirmed on different grounds, holding that summary judgment was appropriate because KNS's actions were a superseding cause of Wood's injury. View "Wood v. United Parcel Service, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court remanded this case to the district court for further proceedings, holding that, as a matter of law, a boat manufacturer or supplier owes a duty to adequately warn passengers of dangers associated with the failure to wear a stop switch lanyard.Craig Feasel was severely injured when he and the driver of a boat, Monty Martinez, were ejected into the water. Martinez was not wearing the stop switch lanyard at the time of the ejection. Feasel argued that Defendants - the boat manufacturer and the engine manufacturer - were liable for his injuries because they failed adequately to warn the driver of the danger associated with failure to wear the lanyard and failed in their duty to warn boat passengers of the danger. The district court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court remanded the case, holding (1) the standard for determining the adequacy of a warning is that the warning must be of an intensity and at a level of specificity justified by the magnitude of the risk; and (2) this Court adopts a standard of reasonableness to determine whether warnings regarding the dangers of not wearing a lanyard must be issued directly to the passenger or an intermediary may be relied upon to convey the warnings. View "Feasel v. Tracker Marine LLC" on Justia Law