In the Matter of the Adoption of B.Y. (Strickland, appellant)

Strickland moved to intervene as putative father in the adoption proceeding for B.Y. the district court ruled Strickland failed to strictly comply with the Adoption Act and denied his motion. The Court affirmed. It held that the fact that B.Y.’s mother lied to Strickland about placing the baby for adoption is no excuse for Strickland’s failure to comply with the Adoption Act under the plain and unequivocal language of Utah Code 78B-6-106. The Court rejected Strickland’s constitutional challenges to 106 holding that mother’s lies were private acts not government denial of due process given Strickland knew B.Y was going to be born in Utah and had been advised by his own attorney to file a paternity suit; held that Strickland’s failure to protect his rights render his substantive due process claim invalid as a matter of law; held there was no equal protection violation because Strickland failed to challenge the classifications actually made in the Adoption Act and there is no evidence of actual discriminatory intent in the classifications in the Adoption act; held there is no self-incrimination claim here as Utah does not prosecute fornicators; and finally held the federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act did not apply as there was only the Utah proceeding.

Decker Lake ventures, LLC v Utah State Tax Commission

Decker challenged the valuation of certain property under Utah Code 59-2-1006. Commission concluded Decker failed to prove the valuation was inconsistent with those of comparable office buildings and rejected the challenge. The Court affirmed. It first held that Commission’s determination of whether a property’s value is more than a 5% deviation from the values of comparable property is more fact like than law like and thus deferential review is required. Applying here, the court held the Commission’s decision was not in error as it merely took the facts as developed and made a decision about whether Decker proved its case based on a government expert witness testimony and analysis of raw data submitted by decker. It also held that Commission’s findings of fact were either supported by substantial evidence or were at most harmless error.

Robinson v Taylor

Taylor appealed the verdict in the wrongful death case brought by Robinson arguing admission of his drug conviction as impeachment evidence was reversible error. The Court, 4-1, agreed and reversed. The majority held that Rule of Evidence 608 governs admission of evidence of acts which do not result in criminal conviction while Rule 609 governs admission of evidence of acts which do result in criminal conviction. The majority reasoned that the language and structure of eth rules support this conclusion. The majority thus held admitting the drug conviction under 608 was error. It held admitting the conviction under 609(a)(2) was error as drug dealing is not a crime which requires proof of dishonesty. The majority held that admitting the conviction under 609(a)(1(A) was error as the risk of prejudice in having the jury find negligence and responsibility for Robinson’s father’s death was high and the probative value of the conviction was virtually zero given Taylor’s truthfulness was not a central issue in eh case. The majority held admitting the conviction evidence was harmful as the evidence could have played a role in the jury’s decision to return a verdict against Taylor even if the jury was not convinced of Taylor’s liability. The dissent argued that the conviction was properly admitted to impeach Taylor as it was a felony and, given the underlying complaint involved improper distribution of medication, the conviction was relevant to Taylor’s truthfulness and the existence of supplementary dosing instructions was central to the Robinson’s case.

 Smith v United States of America

Smith brought a wrongful death suit against the United Sates alleging medical negligence by Veteran’s Administration providers cause the death of his son. The Unite states district court certified questions to the court asking if the caps on noneconomic damages in 78B-3-410 apply in wrongful death cases and if so whether that violates the state’s constitution. The Court answered the caps violate the state’s constitution. It held that at the time of the adoption of the state constitution, particularly Article XVI, Section 5 which bans statutory limits to damages in wrongful death cases, Utah allowed recovery of noneconomic damages such as loss of society and loss of nature by a parent and the exception in Section 5 only applies in situations covered by a scheme like worker’s compensation as it was adopted to resolve tension between Section 5 and the new workers compensation program. Thus, 410 violates Section 5 in wrongful death cases and the limits are not applicable to Smith’s claim.