RODNEY R. PARKER, DANI N. CEPERNICH, SCOTT A. ELDER, NATHANAEL J. MITCHELL, AND ADAM M. PACE, 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. These summaries have been prepared by the authoring attorneys listed above, who are solely responsible for their content.
UTAH SUPREME COURT
State v. Ogden, 2018 UT 8 (Feb. 27, 2018)
After the criminal defendant pled guilty to two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, the district court entered orders for complete and court-ordered restitution for, among other things, the anticipated cost of mental health treatment for the remainder of the victim’s life. The defendant appealed these orders. In evaluating this appeal, the Utah Supreme Court addressed, as a matter of first impression, the level of causation required by the Crime Victims Restitution Act. It held that the Act requires a district court to include in its complete restitution determination the losses that a defendant proximately causes. Because the district court applied a different causation standard, the court remanded for further proceedings. In doing so, it further instructed that a restitution calculation cannot be based on speculative evidence of losses a victim has incurred or is likely to incur.
Gonzalez v. Cullimore, 2018 UT 9 (Feb. 26, 2018)
In this suit filed to collect a debt purportedly owed to a condominium owners association, the defendant-debtor asserted a counterclaim against the law firm representing the association, arguing the law firm had violated § 1692e of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by misrepresenting the amount owed in demand letters the firm had sent to her. The district court dismissed this claim on summary judgment. On appeal, the Utah Supreme Court, abrogating a prior Court of Appeals’ decision, held a law firm is not entitled to reasonably rely upon its client’s representation of the debt owed and must instead have procedures reasonably adapted to avoid this type of error or face liability under § 1692e.
Salo v. Tyler, 2018 UT 7 (Feb. 22, 2018)
The Court disavowed any prior suggestion in Orvis v. Johnson, 2008 UT 2, that the Utah summary judgment standard is distinct from the federal standard stated in Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986), and held that when the burden of production falls on the nonmoving party, the movant can carry its burden of persuasion without putting on any evidence of its own by showing that the nonmoving party has no evidence to support an essential element of a claim. Applying this standard, the court affirmed summary judgment granted to the defendants, dismissing the plaintiff’s claims for defamation and intentional interference.
State v. Lopez, 2018 UT 5 (Feb. 9, 2018)
The criminal defendant appealed his murder conviction, arguing the district court erred by admitting the State’s expert testimony and in admitting evidence of prior acts. The supreme court reversed, agreeing on both counts. With respect to the expert testimony, the court held the district court abused its discretion in admitting the State’s expert testimony about whether the victim was suicidal. The State had not satisfied its threshold burden of demonstrating the method of evaluating suicidal risk used by the expert was generally accepted as a means of assessing the risk of suicide in someone who had passed away or that it was reliable when used to assess suicide risk post-mortem.
Gables at Sterling Village Homeowners Association, Inc. v. Castlewood-Sterling Village I, LLC, 2018 UT 4 (Feb. 9, 2018)
After problems emerged with homes located within a planned unit development, the homeowners association asserted claims...