Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court declined to overturn a rule established in St. Benedict’s Development Co. v. St. Benedict’s Hospital, 811 P.2d 194 (Utah 1991), in which the Court held that to prevail on a claim for intentional interference with contract the plaintiff must show that the defendant interfered through “improper means,” holding that “improper means” test remains a good rule. Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant alleging that Defendant intentionally interfered with Plaintiff’s contracts with its employees. Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff failed to provide proof of “improper means” to support its claim. The federal district court concluded that there appears to be no clear, controlling Utah law regarding the interpretation of “improper means” and certified the question to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court held (1) the element of improper means is firmly established in Utah law and rests upon a firm legal footing, and therefore, this Court declines to overturn St. Benedict’s; (2) the definition of “improper means” provided in Leigh Furniture & Carpet Co. v. Isom, 657 P.2d 293 (Utah 1982), and St. Benedict’s is reaffirmed; and (3) to prove the element of improper means based on an alleged violation of an established industry rule or standard the plaintiff must provide evidence of an objective, industry-wide standard. View "C.R. England v. Swift Transportation Co." on Justia Law

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In this complaint alleging fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of fiduciary duty against Van Wagoner & Bradshaw, LLC, an accounting firm, and Coldwell Banker Commercial, the Supreme Court largely affirmed as to the issues raised in cross-petitions for certiorari but reversed and remanded as to the issue as to whether Plaintiff was entitled to a jury instruction on nondisclosure fraud. Reperex, Inc. brought this action after a business it purchased in a deal brokered by Coldwell failed. All of the claims against Coldwell were dismissed before trial. Two of the claims against Bradshaw were dismissed before trial, and the remaining fraud claim went to trial, where Bradshaw prevailed. The court of appeals affirmed as to Bradshaw but reversed as to Coldwell. Coldwell and Reperex filed cross-petitions for certiorari. The Supreme Court held (1) Coldwell could not be held liable despite a nonreliance clause in Coldwell’s contract with Reperex; (2) expert testimony was not required to sustain Reperex’s breach of fiduciary duty claim; (3) Reperex failed to establish a basis for overcoming protections available to Bradshaw under Utah Coe 58-26a-602; but (4) as to the lack of a jury instruction on nondisclosure fraud, the case must be remanded for a determination of whether Bradshaw owed Reperex a duty of disclosure under the common law. View "Reperex, Inc. v. Coldwell Banker Commercial" on Justia Law

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In this case brought against the Ute Indian Tribe, tribal officials, various companies owned by the tribal officials, oil and gas companies, and other companies, Plaintiff alleged that, through its ability to restrict the oil and gas industry’s access to the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, the tribe has held hostage the economy of the non-Indian population in the Uintah Basin. The district court dismissed Plaintiff's claims against all Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the Ute Indian Tribe under sovereign immunity and the dismissal of Newfield, LaRose Construction, and D. Ray C. Enterprises for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted but vacated the dismissal of the remaining defendants and remanded for further proceedings consistent with the tribal exhaustion doctrine, holding (1) the Ute Tribe is immune from suit, but the tribal officials were not protected by sovereign immunity in their individual capacities; (2) the district court erred in dismissing the case for failure to join and indispensable party; (3) the tribal exhaustion doctrine prevents Utah courts from reviewing the case at this time; and (4) certain defendants were entitled to dismissal for failure to state a claim, but the remaining defendants were not. View "Harvey v. Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims under Utah R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) without prejudice. In his complaint, Plaintiff, a shareholder of USANA Health Sciences, Inc., alleged that USANA’s board of directors and several of its officers authorized and received spring-loaded, stock-settled stock appreciation rights (SSARs). Plaintiff acknowledged that the issuance of the spring-loaded SSARs complied with the terms of the company’s compensation plan but that it violated the underlying “spirit” of the plan. Plaintiff also alleged that the company’s Compensation Committee members breached their fiduciary duties and wasted corporate assets. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the case without prejudice, holding that because spring-loading SSARs did not constitute a per se violation of USANA’s compensation plan, Plaintiff failed to allege any facts supporting the inference that Defendants intended to harm or actually harmed the corporation. View "Rawcliffe v. Anciaux" on Justia Law

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The administrator of the Utah Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division denied Tesla Motors UT, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of a motor vehicle manufacturer, an application for a license to sell new motor vehicles, determining that the application implicated both the Motor Vehicle Business Regulation Act (Licensing Act) and the New Automobile Franchise Act (Franchise Act). The Tax Commission affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Licensing Act and Franchise Act together prohibit a wholly owned subsidiary of a motor vehicle manufacturer from obtaining a license to sell the manufacturer’s new motor vehicles in stores in Utah, and the statutory scheme is constitutional. View "Tesla Motors UT, Inc. v. Utah Tax Commission" on Justia Law

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In 2014, Don McBroom, grandson of Rufus Call Willey, founder of R.C. Willey, filed a petition with the Second District Court to review his motion under Utah R. Civ. P. 60(b) seeking to set aside two Second District Court orders relating to McBroom’s interests in the business. The orders were entered in 1973 and 1975, respectively. The district court denied McBroom’s Rule 60(b) motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in denying McBroom’s Rule 60(b) motion because (1) McBroom did not appropriately file for relief under paragraph (6), and, instead, his claims fall under paragraphs (3) and (4); (2) McBroom’s claims under paragraph (b)(3) are untimely; and (3) McBroom’s claims under paragraph (b)(4) fail on their merits. View "In re Estate of Rufus C. Willey" on Justia Law

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Attorney Donald Gilbert represented the Utah Down Syndrome Association and several of its founders in litigation between the Association and the Utah Down Syndrome Foundation, Inc. Gilbert filed this petition for extraordinary relief challenging (1) a 2008 district court judgment ordering Gilbert to disgorge $30,000 taken from Foundation bank accounts to pay his attorney fees, (2) an injunction that originally barred Gilbert’s clients from paying him with Foundation funds, (3) an order denying Gilbert’s motion to vacate the 2008 judgment, and (4) an order denying Gilbert’s motion for relief from the 2008 judgment. The Supreme Court denied Gilbert’s petition for extraordinary relief, holding (1) Gilbert unreasonably delayed seeking extraordinary relief from the injunction, the disgorgement order, and the denial of his motion to vacate; and (2) Gilbert failed to pursue the plain, speedy, and adequate remedy of direct appeal from the denial of his motion for relief from judgment. View "Gilbert v. Third Dist. Court Judges" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff ClearOne is a Utah corporation and Defendant Revolabs is a competitor incorporated in Delaware with its principal place of business in Massachusetts. The underlying dispute arose when Revolabs recruited and hired Timothy Mackie while he was still employed by ClearOne. ClearOne brought this suit in Utah district court, alleging intentional interference with a contractual relationship, predatory hiring, and aiding and abetting a breach of fiduciary duty. Revolabs filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The trial court granted the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) ClearOne failed to allege that Revolabs had sufficient minimum contacts to subject it to specific personal jurisdiction in Utah; and (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying discovery to determine whether Revolabs was subject to general personal jurisdiction in Utah. View "ClearOne, Inc. v. Revolabs, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, property owners in a development, filed a derivative suit against Defendants, the directors of the non-profit homeowners association that provided road maintenance and other services to the development, alleging that the directors favored their own properties in their allocation of road construction and maintenance funds. Instead of defending the suit on the merits, Plaintiffs appointed an independent committee to evaluate whether maintenance of the derivative suit was in the best interest of the nonprofit corporation pursuant to Utah Code 16-6a-612(4). Based on the committee's report, the district court dismissed the suit. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred in concluding that the members of the committee, all of whom owned property allegedly receiving preferential treatment, were "independent" under section 612(4). Remanded to allow the district court to assess whether the directors were independent, applying the definition of independence clarified by the Court in this opinion. View "Hi-Country Prop. Rights Group v. Emmer" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Plaintiff was negotiating the sale of three limited liability companies of which he was the sole shareholder. The companies were S Corporations. Plaintiff retained an Accounting Firm to advise him on his tax liability from the contemplated sale. Altaview Concrete, one of the companies, was named as the client. Jeffrey Bickel, a partner at the Accounting Firm, advised Plaintiff that he could restructure the deal to reduce his tax liability to $663,000. The buyer agreed to the restructuring proposals, and the sale closed. Later Bickel and the Accounting Firm (collectively, Defendants) discovered they had greatly underestimated Plaintiff's tax liability. Plaintiff filed a professional negligence claim in district court. The district court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment, finding that Plaintiff's claim failed to satisfy the writing requirement of Utah Code 58-26-602, which provides that accountants are not liable to third parties unless the accountant identified in writing to the client that the professional services were intended to be relief upon by the third party. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendants were liable to Plaintiff as a third party under section 602 because Defendants identified in writing that the professional services were intended to be relied upon by Plaintiff. View "Reynolds v. Bickel" on Justia Law