Cope v Utah Valley State College

Cope was injured while practicing as a member of College’s ballroom dance team. She sued for negligence. The district court ruled there was no special relationship and thus the public duty doctrine mandated judgment to college. The Court of Appeals held the special relations was proved and reversed. The Court affirmed on different reasoning and remanded for further proceedings. It first held that the public duty doctrine should be retained rejecting the approach of other states noting the doctrine is not an immunity but a determination of whether a duty is owed. The Court also pointed to stare decisis as a reason to retain the doctrine. The Court next overturned precedent which extended the doctrine to affirmative acts as the rule was built on shaky foundations, was contrary to the weight of authority both in and out of Utah, made little sense outside the context of the special relationship test for omissions and there was little reliance on it. The Court clarified that the special relationship analysis only comes into play if a public duty is involved and in the context of a college these are duties owed to the college population as a whole. Applying here, the Court held that Cope’s claim is for an affirmative act as College created circumstances which led to a duty to protect cope by creating the dance team, funding it, supervising it and granting credit for it and thus assumed the duty to protect participants from foreseeable harm and, additionally, dance instruction is not a public duty as it is not offered to everyone on campus and is not aimed at protecting the public from harm. Thus, the Court declared the doctrine did not bar suit here and remanded for further proceedings.

Ellis-Hall Consultants, LLC v Public Utilities Commission of Utah

Elis-Hall challenged the contract between two competitor wind energy companies and a public utility. Commission ruled the proposed rates were reasonable and approved the contracts. The Court affirmed the approval in an order and issued its opinion later. It held that Commission properly ruled that the administrative requirements set out in the applicable rate tariff were discretionary as they contemplate the various agreements for purchase of electricity and transmission over utility lines can occur at different times. It also held that Commission was required to only consider whether the proposed rates were reasonable and thus Hall-Ellis’ complaints that the utility was more lenient with the competitors and the contracts were too uncertain to enforce cold not serve as a basis to challenge Commission’s decision to approve the rates.