Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reversed the determination of the district court that a contract entered into by a dissolved partnership was void, holding that the contract was voidable.Two years after the Muir Second Family Limited Partnership was administratively dissolved, the former general partner of the partnership - Nicholas Muir - obtained a loan from the TNE Limited Partnership through a trust deed. Wittingham, LLC, a successor-in-interest to the Partnership, brought suit to declare the trust deed void and recover damages. The district court concluded that the trust deed was void because the Partnership was dissolved prior to the time Muir signed the trust deed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trust deed was voidable because the relevant statutes failed to provide a clear and well-defined public policy indicating that the type of transaction here should be void and because the transaction deed did not harm the public as a whole. View "Wittingham v. TNE Limited Partnership" on Justia Law

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In this longstanding dispute between attorney Gregory Jones and his former law firm, Mackey Price Thompson & Ostler, P.C. (MPTO), over the distribution of litigation proceeds the Supreme Court upheld the jury's $647,090 verdict on Jones's quantum meruit/unjust enrichment claims, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the testimony of Jones's expert witness.Jones claimed a right to some of the fees collected by MPTO in personal injury cases arising out of the use of the drug known as Fen-Phen. Jones asserted claims for fraudulent transfer, quantum merit/unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty and sought an award of punitive damages and to impose a constructive trust on the funds held by MPTO. A jury ultimately entered a verdict against MPTO on a quantum meruit/unjust enrichment theory and dismissed or rejected Jones's remaining claims. After a trial, the district court concluded that the judgment extended to Mackey Price, LLC, an entity the court ruled was a successor in interest to MPTO. The Supreme Court reversed the dismissal of Jones's fraudulent transfer and punitive damages claims, the decision that a constructive trust was categorically unavailable, and the default determination that Mackey Price, LLC was a successor in interest to MPTO and otherwise affirmed the district court. View "Jones v. Mackey Price Thompson & Ostler" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the district court dismissing Plaintiffs' complaint against Defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction, holding that the Utah Nonresident Jurisdiction Act compels adoption of the conspiracy theory of jurisdiction and that the case must be remanded for the district court to reexamine the claims and contacts and to apply the jurisdictional tests announced here.Plaintiffs sued Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Goldman Sachs & Co., and related entities (collectively Defendants) for violations of the Utah Pattern of Unlawful Activity Act. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. The district court analyzed Plaintiffs' claims against Defendants collectively without analyzing the nature of each individual defendant's contacts as they related to each individual plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding (1) because the district court analyzed Plaintiffs' claims and Defendants' contacts collectively, it may have distorted its analysis; and (2) Utah now recognizes a conspiracy theory of jurisdiction, and this case must be remanded to the district court with instruction to assess the conspiracy theory of jurisdiction. View "Raser Technologies, Inc. v. Morgan Stanley & Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court's decision to exclude all evidence of Keystone Insurance Agency's alleged damage under Utah R. Civ. P. 26(d)(4) in Keystone's suit against Inside Insurance, the court's dismissal of all of Keystone's claims with the exception of Keystone's request for declaratory relief, and the court's dismissal of Inside's counterclaims, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion.In its complaint, Keystone requested that the district court declare Keystone a member of Inside and sought to inspect certain records. Inside asserted several counterclaims. After the district court entered its judgment the Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Keystone failed to provide Inside with a viable computation of its claimed damages in compliance with Utah R. Civ. P. 26(a)(1)(C), and therefore, the district court properly excluded Keystone's damages evidence under rule 26(d)(4); (2) the district court properly denied Keystone's motion for reconsideration; and (3) the district court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing with prejudice Inside's expulsion counterclaim seeking expulsion of Keystone as a member of Inside pursuant to Utah R. Civ. P. 41(a)(2) and (c). View "Keystone Insurance Agency, LLC v. Inside Insurance, LLC" on Justia Law

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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