Orlando Millennia, LC v United Title Services of Utah, Inc.

Orlando sued United and title companies alleging breach of fiduciary duty by an escrow agent in violation of Utah Code 31A-23a-407. The district court granted summary judgment to United. The court reversed. It held that escrow agents owe a duty to intended third party beneficiaries to an escrow agreement, like Orlando here which lent money to the purchaser. That duty was breached when United disbursed funds without receiving all the required documents first. It held there was genuine dispute as to causation as it was unclear whether Orlando would have authorized the disbursal anyway or if Orlando knew damages had occurred triggering a duty to mitigate. It held there was a dispute as to damages as it was unclear whether Orlando or its former corporate parent owned the monies disbursed. As to the title companies, the Court held that Orlando was entitled to judgment as matter of law. It acknowledged 407 is unclear, but held that “dealing with” in the statute has its ordinary meaning of interaction given the lack of legalese in the statute, the lack of a universal meaning of the term and the companies interacted with Orlando by providing money for receipt and disbursement of funds means all disbursements not just theft or misdirection, it does not matter who orders title insurance only that insurance has been ordered and that all three elements were present here. It noted that the legitimate legislative purpose in preventing misappropriation of escrow funds was sufficient to overcome the companies’ due process challenge. The Court noted that recovery against the companies could only occur if Orlando wins its suit against United and that while it was concerned about the broad liability authorized by the statute, the legislature, not the courts, is the proper forum to argue for limitations.

State v Black

Black appealed the denial of his motions to recuse the judge in his murder case and to transfer his case because a judge cannot serve as both magistrate and district judge in the same case. The Court affirmed. It held the disqualification issue was moot as the judge in question has been transferred and a new judge will be assigned. It also held that district court judges can serve as both statutorily defined magistrates and as judges in a single case as demonstrated by Court precedent.

Zeller v Nixon

Nixon appealed the denial of her motion to compel arbitration pursuant to Utah Code 31A-22-321 and allowing Zeller to amend his complaint to add a negligent entrustment action against the owner of the car Nixon drove. The Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. It reversed on the motion to compel to the extent it covered claims against Nixon personally as Zeller chose arbitration under 321 and did not timely rescind which is sloe way to undo an election of arbitration under 321. It affirmed as to the new claim as it could have been brought as a separate action and 321’s “all third party claims” language is permissive and does not mandate arbitration against all defendants if arbitration is selected as to one defendant.

Pinder v state

Pinder appealed the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The court affirmed. It held that testimony from inmates that Pinder’s accomplice was the shooter would not have resulted in a different verdict as Pinder’s confessions and other reliable evidence would still allow a jury to convict beyond a reasonable doubt. It held that the post-conviction relief state’s use of “at trial” applies to all proceedings before the trial court in a criminal case as limiting it to opening argument to verdict would create loopholes and expand the opportunities to seek relief which is very unlikely the legislature intended. Applying here, the Court held that Pinder’s due process claims of false testimony and evidence were bared as he knew about these claims and did not raise them at trial or in his new trial motion and Pinder failed to plead any facts demonstrating common law exceptions to the bar apply here. The Court finally held that the record supported denial of Pinder’s motion to amend and for discovery as these were filed more than a year after the state’s summary judgment motion was field and were thus untimely or dilatory.

In the Matter of the Discipline of Alan R. Lundgren

The district court found that Lundgren stole money form a client and disbarred him. The Court affirmed holding disbarment is the proper sanction for stealing client funds, that the rule allowing truly compelling mitigation to overcome presumed disbarment is not an illusory standard and not stealing as much from his client as other attorneys did from theirs is not compelling mitigation nor is repayment in an effort to avoid punishment.

Fu v Rhodes

The district court entered default against Rhodes and the other defendants as a discovery sanction. The Court of Appeals affirmed and further refused to consider the argument that some of the claims were legally insufficient holding the argument was unpreserved. The Court affirmed. It held that given Rhodes and the other defendants’ failure to even inform their attorney that certain documents did not exist and the attorney’s uncertainty about whether certain discovery had happened or not, there was no abuse of discretion in entering the default. It also held that when a default is entered as a discovery sanction, challenges to legal sufficiency must be reserved or a generally applicable exception must apply. Here, Rhodes litigated for two years and failed to raise the issue even in his objections to the default. Thus, the issue was not preserved.