Rodney R. Parker, Dani N. Cepernich, Nathanael J. Mitchell, Adam M. Pace, Tyler Bugden, Kylie Orme, and Rachel Phillips, J.
Editor’s Note: The following appellate cases of interest were recently decided by the Utah Supreme Court, Utah Court of Appeals, and United States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
James v. D.Q. (In re Adoption of Baby Q.), 2016 UT 29 (July 1, 2016)
A biological father appealed the denial of his motion to intervene in the adoption proceedings for his baby daughter. The Utah Supreme Court held that the pre-birth notice that the mother intended to place the baby up for adoption was inadequate because it provided that the father may lose certain rights rather than informing him that certain rights, including the right to contest the adoption, would be irrevocably lost.
SIRQ, Inc. v. Layton Cos., Inc., 2016 UT 30 (July 1, 2016)
While the appeal was pending in this case, the Utah Supreme Court revised the common law requirements of intentional interference with economic relations in the case of Eldridge v. Johndrow, 2015 UT 21. The new standard is that “[i]n the absence of any improper means, an improper purpose is not grounds for tortuous interference liability.” Although the jury instruction incorporating the improper purpose standard was correct when given, this case was pending on appeal when Eldridge was decided. The Supreme Court applied Eldridge retroactively on the basis that “parties to other cases pending on appeal are also entitled to the benefit of such a change in the law.”
Id. ¶ 6 (emphasis added).
Fort Pierce Indus. Park Phases II, III & IV Owners Ass’n v. Shakespeare, 2016 UT 28 (June 22, 2016)
The board of an owners’ association for an industrial park sued some of its members for breach of the governing CC&Rs after they built a cell phone tower on their lot, despite having been denied permission from the board to do so. The district court applied a presumption that restrictive covenants are not favored in the law and are strictly construed in favor of the free and unrestricted use of property and held that the association did not have the right to limit the number of cell phone towers in the park. Reversing, the court held that the district court erred in strictly construing the CC&Rs rather than applying neutral principles of contract construction.
Trans-W. Petroleum, Inc. v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 2016 UT 27 (June 16, 2016)
On a certified question from the Tenth Circuit, the Utah Supreme Court clarified the measure of damages for breach of an oil and gas lease. The court held expectation damages for breach of an oil or gas lease should be treated the same as any other lease. The court also concluded that trial courts may, in their discretion, allow parties to submit post-breach evidence for the purpose of establishing and measuring expectation damages arising out of the breach of an oil and gas lease.
Simler v. Chilel, 2016 UT 23 (June 1, 2016)
As a matter of first impression, the Utah Supreme Court held Article I, Section 10 of the Utah Constitution guaranteed a party the right to a jury in a de novo trial at the district court on appeal from a small claims judgment, so long as the party...