Utah Labor Commission Sustained in Police Officer Claim for Worker’s Compensation Benefits Based on Aggravation of a Pre-Existing Condition

The Utah Court of Appeals case Valdez v. Labor Commission finds the Court of Appeals applying Allen v. Industrial Comm’n, 729 P.2d 15, 18 (Utah 1986), i.e., the Allen Test, in a claim for compensation for aggravation of a pre-existing condition. This is my case that I tried to the Utah Labor Commission and prevailed on all issues. I then defended it on subsequent appeals to the Labor Commission Appeals Board and finally to the Utah Court of Appeals. Vindicated all around. Here’s the highlights with particular attention to the compensability of aggravated injuries. Continue reading “Utah Labor Commission Sustained in Police Officer Claim for Worker’s Compensation Benefits Based on Aggravation of a Pre-Existing Condition”

Utah Legislature Proposes an Independent Cause of Action Against Insurers for Unfair Claims Practices

Southern Utah

House Bill 350 is moving through the Utah State Legislature that would modify Utah’s statutes regarding motor vehicle claims processing and allow insureds to bring a cause of action for “unfair claims practices.” You can find the bill here. Among other things, it would require courts to expedite unfair claims practice actions and award a minimum of $1,000.

The proposed bill expressly applies to motor vehicle insurers and identifies the following as unfair claims practices: Continue reading “Utah Legislature Proposes an Independent Cause of Action Against Insurers for Unfair Claims Practices”

Utah Supreme Court Discards the “Sudden Incapacity” Driving Defense

The Utah Supreme Court issued its opinion in Lancer Ins. v. Lake Shore Motor and eliminated the “sudden incapacity” defense. Under common law, the “sudden incapacity” defense would preclude liability for “a person driving an automobile” who is “suddenly stricken by an illness” that “makes it impossible” for the driver to “control the car” and that the driver “has no reason to anticipate.” Continue reading “Utah Supreme Court Discards the “Sudden Incapacity” Driving Defense”

Utah Supreme Court Affirms Summary Judgment on Intentional Conduct Exclusion

Plaintiff Natalie Heslop drove her truck off a cliff in Ogden Canyon in October 2014. After the accident, she frankly admitted that she had unbuckled and intentionally drove off the cliff in an attempt to kill herself. The Utah Supreme Court in its recent decision in Heslop v. Bear River Insurance Company affirmed summary judgment in favor of the insurer excluding coverage for both personal injury protection and property damage claims. Continue reading “Utah Supreme Court Affirms Summary Judgment on Intentional Conduct Exclusion”

Utah Products Liability Primer

?I am going to provide a general overview of products liability in Utah. I have included a number of statutes and cases to help illustrate some of the issues and jump-start your understanding of Utah’s products liability laws.

Basic Requirements

Utah Code Section 78B-6-702 codifies common law standards for the meaning of “product defects” and “unreasonably dangerous.” A rebuttable presumption exists Continue reading “Utah Products Liability Primer”

Utah Supreme Court Invalidates Attorney Fee Statute in Workers’ Compensation Cases

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Workers’ Compensation plaintiffs’ attorneys now get a bigger slice.

The Utah Supreme Court declared in Injured Workers Association of Utah v. State of Utah, 2016 UT 21, that “Utah Code section 34A-1-309 and Utah Administrative Code R602-2-4(C)(3) violate both article VIII, section 4 and article V, section 1 of our state constitution, and are therefore invalid encroachments upon the powers of the judiciary.” The effect is that there is no statute that governs and regulates attorney fees in workers’ compensation cases. Let’s take a look at how the court arrived at this conclusion and what it means going forward.

The Ruling

The appellant, the Injured Workers Association of Utah, sued the state of Utah specifically for the purpose of invalidating the attorney fee statute. According to its website, the IWA is a non-profit organization dedicated to pursuing and preserving the rights of injured workers. Interestingly, the result of IWA’s lawsuit is to potentially substantially increase the amount of attorney fees that injured workers will ultimately pay. Under the now defunct law, attorney fees were capped at $18,590 for “all legal services rendered through final commission action” with some additional fees available if a case is appealed. Fees were capped according to a sliding scale fee schedule.

Since the inception of Utah workers’ compensation laws in 1921, Continue reading “Utah Supreme Court Invalidates Attorney Fee Statute in Workers’ Compensation Cases”