Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the district court concluding that the adjudication of Plaintiff's intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against a church must be dismissed on the grounds that the adjudication of this claim would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, holding that recent changes in the Supreme Court's Establishment Clause jurisprudence required further development of the facts and legal arguments presented in this case.Plaintiff and her family attended the Roy Congregation of the Jehovah's Witnesses Church. When Plaintiff was sexually assaulted by another Jehovah's Witnesses congregant the Church investigated Plaintiff to determine whether she had engaged in the sin of "porneia." During the investigation, four Elders in the Church convened a disciplinary hearing in which they played an audio recording of the other congregant raping Plaintiff. Plaintiff then filed her complaint against the Church for intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress. The district court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the Establishment Clause barred the claim. The Supreme Court vacated the district court's decision, holding that because the district court relied on a test that has recently been displaced by the Supreme Court, the case must be remanded for additional proceedings. View "Williams v. Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing this wrongful death suit against Salt Lake City on the grounds that the action was barred by Utah's Limitations on Landowner Liability Act's prohibition on claims for personal injury caused by the inherent risks of participating in an activity with a recreational purpose, holding that Plaintiffs sufficiently alleged that the death in this case was not caused by a risk inherent in a recreational activity.Liudmila Feldman drowned in a creek at a City park when walking her dogs. Feldman tried to get the dogs out of the creek within the park but was caught in a dangerous current and drowned. Plaintiffs sued the City for wrongful death and other causes of action, asserting that the dangerous current at the creek resulted from manmade developments. The district court granted the City's motion to dismiss, concluding that Utah Code 57-14-401 barred Plaintiffs' claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court correctly held that application of section 401 does not violate the wrongful death clause of the Utah Constitution; but (2) Plaintiffs sufficiently alleged that Feldman's death was not caused by an inherent risk in her recreational activity of walking in the park with her dogs. View "Feldman v. Salt Lake City Corp." on Justia Law

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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