Eagle Mountain City v Parsons Kinghorn & Harris, P.C.

City appealed the dismissal of its legal malpractice suit arguing the district court erred in ruling it assigned its claim and that such assignment was against public policy. The Court reversed. The Court assumed an assignment occurred, as it would be irrelevant if City gave away enough control if assignments were barred. It held that Utah has a strong presumption of contractual freedom, has already allowed involuntary assignment of legal malpractice claims in bankruptcy and found the arguments that other states have made in support of the assignment ban (commoditization of legal malpractice claims; despoiling the attorney client relationship; collusion; and fostering public respect0 were insufficient to adopt a public policy bar given Utah’s strong rule of Civil procedure 11 and professional conduct protections against frivolous claims, the trend towards allowing access to court through third party funding, the reality that failing to advocate zealously for fear of an assigned malpractice claim would itself trigger a claim, the limits on waiver of attorney client privilege in legal malpractice claims, and the reality that changes in positon are part of the legal malpractice landscape which can be highlighted to the jury and the overall strength of Utah’s civil justice system. It did not categorically approve all assignments, but held that only clear and countervailing public policy can overcome the presumption of assignability.State v Outzen

Outzen appealed his conviction for violating Utah Code 41-6a-517 arguing proof of impairment is required and the statute violates the state and federal constitutions. The Court affirmed. It held that the plain language of 517 criminalizes operating a vehicle with any amount of controlled substance including metabolites in the person’s body and there is no mention of impairment. It rejected the federal constitutional claim as 517 criminalizes the act of operating a motor vehicle with measurable amounts of controlled substance not the statutes of being addicted to drugs or using drugs. It rejected the state constitutional challenge holding that while 517 does create categories of illegal users of controlled substances and legal or involuntary users this is reasonable as it serves legislative purposes of deterring illegal use and protecting the public.