March 5, 2019

Utah Supreme Court Win for Strong & Hanni Appellate Practice Group

The Utah Supreme Court ruled in favor of Strong & Hanni appellate attorney Spencer Brown in an important case clarifying the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure. In Pilot v. Hill, 2019 UT 10, the court rejected a personal injury plaintiff’s attempt to get more damages after trial. The plaintiff plead his case under Utah’s “Tier 2” discovery tier, meaning that his damages were capped at $300,000 in exchange for faster and less detailed discovery. At trial the jury awarded more than $300,000 and he asked the trial court to allow him to change his case to Tier 3. The trial court declined and he appealed to the Utah Court of Appeals. The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision, and the plaintiff appealed to the Utah Supreme Court.

The Utah Supreme Court held that the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure do not allow plaintiffs to change their tier designations after trial. To allow such a change would create unfairness and unpredictability in our rules of civil procedure. It would allow plaintiffs to, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.” The court refused to sanction that practice.

Congratulations to Spencer and the appellate practice group, and to trial attorneys Kristen VanOrman and Jessica Johnston for preserving the issue and setting it up for a win in Utah’s highest court.