Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court

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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

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The Supreme Court reversed the state district court’s dismissal of Appellant’s petition asking the court to force the Utah Highway Patrol and Utah Department of Public Safety (collectively, UHP) to return his money held for forfeiture, holding that the court had in rem jurisdiction over Appellant’s funds under the Forfeiture and Disposition of Property Act (Act). The UHP seized Appellant’s funds in the amount of $500,000 under the Act. The money sat in a UHP bank account for seventy-five days, and no Utah state district court filed forfeiture proceedings. Meanwhile, a federal magistrate issued a seizure warrant for the money on behalf of the DEA. While UHP sent a check for the cash amount, the DEA never cashed the check. Appellant filed a petition in state district court requesting a return of his funds because the prosecuting attorneys failed to take action under Utah Code 24-4-104(1)(a) to avert a law enforcement duty to “return [the] seized property.” The UHP ultimately dismissed the petition, concluding that it lacked in rem jurisdiction of the seized funds based on principles of comity. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the district court had in rem jurisdiction over the property because it was the first to properly exercise in rem jurisdiction to the exclusion of any other court. View "Savely v. Utah Highway Patrol" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s finding that Mark Haik lacked standing to challenge a change application that sought to add acreage to accommodate a private water system and the court’s denial of Haik’s motion to amend his petition, holding that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion. Haik, who wanted water for his undeveloped canyon lots, challenged a change application that would add acreage to accommodate a water system that would serve ten homes in Little Cottonwood Canyon. After the State Engineer approved the application, Haik filed petition seeking a trial de novo of the State Engineer’s order. Haik also moved for leave to amend. The district court dismissed Haik’s petition, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction because Haik lacked standing where the change application did not directly impact Haik’s property or his water rights. The court also denied Haik’s motion to amend. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Haik lacked standing because he was not aggrieved by an order of the State Engineer; and (2) Haik’s motion to amend was properly denied because Haik did not attach a proposed amended petition and any amendment would be futile. View "Haik v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a party alleging error by a land use authority is no longer required to establish that the “decision would have been different” but for the error under the standard set forth in Springville Citizens for a Better Community v. City of Springville, 979 P.2d 332 (Utah 1999). Instead, a party can establish prejudice by showing a reasonable likelihood that the error changed the land use authority’s decision. Appellants brought this lawsuit challenging the South Salt Lake City Council’s decision to close a portion of Truman and Burton Avenues. The City Council voted to vacate both streets in response to a petition by a car dealership. The district court granted summary judgment for the City. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the revised and clarified standard set forth in this opinion, Appellants failed to identify any prejudice resulting from any alleged deficiency in the petition. In addition, the petition to vacate was valid under Utah Code 10-2a-609.5, and notice of the City Council meetings was sufficient under Utah Code 10-9a-208. View "Potter v. South Salt Lake City" on Justia Law