Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court

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In this dispute between parties that both had water rights in the Beaver River the Supreme Court affirmed the portion of the judgment of the district court against Rocky Ford Irrigation Company on its claims against Kents Lake Reservoir Company seeking clarification regarding priority of rights and Kents Lake's obligations as to river administration but reversed the district court's decision not to clarify Kents Lake's measurement obligations, holding that Rocky Ford was entitled to clarification in this regard. As changed occurred both in water rights and in irrigation techniques and the administration of the Beaver River grew more complex, Rocky Ford brought this action against Kents Lake. The district court declined all of Rocky Ford's claims and awarded attorney fees to Kents Lake and Beaver City sua sponte. The Supreme Court held (1) the trial court properly denied Rocky Ford's motion for summary judgment; (2) the trial court did not err when it refused to enter a declaratory judgment that Kents Lake cannot store the water it saves through increased efficiency; (3) the district court erred in refusing to enter a declaratory judgment regarding Kents Lake's measurement obligations; and (4) Kents Lake and Beaver City were not entitled to attorney fees. View "Rocky Ford Irrigation Co. v. Kents Lake Reservoir Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting Defendant's motion for summary judgment on the complaint filed by Metropolitan Water District of Salt Lake and Sandy (Metro) seeking injunctive relief and other claims regarding Defendant's improvements to his property, in violation to Metro's regulations, on the grounds that Metro's claims were not yet ripe, holding that the parties' claims were ripe. Metro was a quasi-governmental entity known as a limited purpose local district, created for the purpose of operating the Salt Lake Aqueduct (SLA). Metro owned land in fee and had various easements along the SLA corridor, and one of those easements crossed Defendant's backyard. When Defendant made improvements to his property in violation of Metro's regulations over non-Metro district use of SLA corridor lands such as Defendant's, Defendant brought this lawsuit. The district court dismissed Metro's claims as not ripe, finding that determining whether Defendant had unreasonably interfered with the easement was speculative. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the parties had present and competing interests in the land at issue and because Metro claimed Defendant was currently violating its alleged regulatory authority, the issues presented in this case were ripe. View "Metro Water District of Salt Lake & Sandy v. Sorf" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court declining to enter summary judgment for Appellants on the grounds that the Utah Declaratory Judgment Act requires neighbors objecting to fences that encroach on bridle paths to sue all homeowners whose property is subject to the bridle path easement, rather than just those homeowners who have fences that infringe on the path, holding that no such joinder is required. Appellants brought suit alleging that Appellees - four of approximately one hundred homeowners in Bell Canyon Acres Community - intruded upon bridle paths in the neighborhood for the use of residents, thereby violating the restrictive covenants that apply to the lots in Bell Canyon Acres. Appellants sought a declaratory judgment determining the parties' on the bridle paths and declaring that Appellees were encroaching on the bridle paths. The district court denied Appellants' motion for summary judgment, concluding that Utah Code 78B-6-403(1) required that all homeowners in the community whose property was subject to the restrictive covenants and the bridle path easement (the outsiders) were required to be joined. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 403 provided no impediment to the declaratory judgment Appellants sought and that the outsiders did not need to be joined as parties. View "Bell Canyon Acres Homeowners Ass'n v. McLelland" on Justia Law

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In this contract dispute stemming from a seller-financed real estate transaction, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the district court, holding primarily that the district court was not precluded by the mandate rule from determining that the promissory note did not require the buyers to pay any incurred late fee amounts to bring note current because the court construed an ambiguity in the note against the defendants, as drafters, without first considering extrinsic evidence. The buyers purchased the real estate with a promissory note that required them to make an installment payment each month and a final balloon payment. The note applied a ten percent base interest rate on the unpaid principal and established consequences if the buyers missed an installment payment, including a late fee and bump up in the base interest rate until the note was brought current. The buyers made the installment payments but disagreed over the amount owing the final balloon payment, leading to litigation. The Supreme Court remanded the case for a new determination after the court considers relevant extrinsic evidence and held that the district court did not clearly err in determining that extrinsic evidence showed that the parties did not intent the note's late fee to apply to the final payment. View "Brady v. Park" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court striking down the Public Waters Access Act (PWAA), Utah Code 73-29-101 to 73-29-208, under “public trust” principles set forth in Utah Const. art. XX, 1, holding that the district court erred in treating the easement established by Conaster v. Johnson, 194 P.3d 897 (2008), as a matter beyond the legislature’s power to revise or revisit. The Supreme Court held in Conaster that the incidental right of touching the privately-owned bed of state waters is reasonably necessary to the public right to float on the water and to wade in the waters for recreation. Thereafter, the legislature enacted the PWAA, which restricted the scope of the Conaster easement by foreclosing the right to touch a streambed for purposes other than flotation. The Utah Stream Access Coalition then filed this lawsuit asserting a constitutional right of its members to wade in waters of the Provo River flowing through land owned by VR Acquisitions. The district court granted relief. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that its analysis in Conaster was based only on common-law easement principles, and because common-law decisions are subject to adaptation or reversal by the legislature, the district court erred in treating the Conaster easement as a right rooted in constitutional soil. View "Utah Stream Access Coalition v. VR Acquisitions, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that the district court’s certification of its summary judgment ruling as final under Utah R. Civ. P. 54(b) was improper, and therefore, the Court did not have a final judgment before it to review. This appeal arose from a contest over the state water engineer’s resolution of who owned the water rights to a certain tributary of the Green River. The district court upheld the state engineer’s proposed determination that The Minnie Maud Reservoir and Irrigation Company was the owner of the disputed water rights. EnerVest, Ltd. appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding (1) the district court’s Rule 54(b) certification was insufficient to confer appellate jurisdiction upon the Court because the requirements for certification were not met; and (2) EnerVest lacked appellate standing because it was not an aggrieved party, and therefore, this Court declined to exercise its jurisdiction to treat the appeal as a petition for interlocutory appeal. View "EnerVest v. Utah State Engineer" on Justia Law

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In this case involving two resolutions that would enable Ivory Development, LLC to develop land on which the old Cottonwood Mall once stood the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court that Resolution 2018-16 was referable and Resolution 2018-17 was not referable, holding that the district court did not err in finding that the City of Holladay was exercising its legislative powers when it approved Resolution 2018-16 and was exercising its administrative powers when it approved Resolution 2018-17. In May 2018, the City approved the two resolutions at issue. Thereafter, a group of citizens from Holladay petitioned to subject the Resolutions to a public vote by referendum. The district court ordered that the City place only the referendum petition on Resolution 2018-16 on the ballot. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Resolution 2018-16 is legislative in nature and therefore referable; and (2) Resolution 2018-17 is administrative in nature and therefore not referable. View "Baker v. Carlson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that, as used in the National Bank Act, Congress’s use of the word “located” is ambiguous, and therefore, Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. National Resource Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984), requires that the Court defer to the “not unreasonable” interpretation the Comptroller of the Currency has provided. After Loraine Sundquist's property was sold, the Federal National Mortgage Association brought this action seeking an order forcing Sundquist from her home. The district court entered an eviction order. On interlocutory review, Sundquist asserted that the sale was invalid because Utah law does not permit a bank to act as a trustee on a trust deed. The primary inquiry became whether corporations were permitted to serve as trustees of trust deeds under the laws of the State in which ReconTrust Co., the trustee on the deed of trust, was located. The Supreme Court concluded that the statutory language was unambiguous and that a federally chartered “bank” that seeks to foreclose on real property in Utah must comply with Utah law. On appeal, the Supreme Court overturned its previous decision, holding that the Comptroller’s interpretation of the relevant statute required deference. The Court remanded the case for an evaluation of where ReconTrust is located under the correct standard. View "Bank of America v. Sundquist" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed this appeal from a contest over the state water engineer’s resolution of who owned the water rights to Minnie Maud Creek, holding that the Court lacked jurisdiction because the district court’s certification of its summary judgment ruling as final under Utah R. Civ. P. 54(b) was improper. The district court granted summary judgment upholding the state engineer’s proposed determination that The Minnie Maud Reservoir and Irrigation Company was the owner of the disputed water rights. EnerVest and Hammerschmid Trust appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding (1) the Court did not have a final judgment before it for review; and (2) EnerVest lacked appellate standing because it was not aggrieved by the district court’s decision and so lacked appellate stand, and therefore, the Court declined to exercise its discretion to treat this appeal as a petition for interlocutory appeal. View "EnerVest v. Utah State Engineer" on Justia Law

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In this case involving a dispute over whether an easement by prescription existed to use a circular driveway touching adjacent cabins, the Supreme Court held that it improvidently granted certiorari. The trial court granted the Judd family a prescriptive easement for both access and parking purposes. The court of appeals affirmed the easement for access, while limiting its scope, and reversed the easement for parking. The Supreme Court exercised its certiorari authority to determine questions over the correct standards for establishing prescriptive rights but then concluded that this case was not suitable for certiorari review under Utah R. App. P. 46. View "Judd v. Bowen" on Justia Law