Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court

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A notice of termination may be an adverse employment action independent of an actual termination under the Utah Protection of Public Employees Act (UPPEA). Plaintiff filed suit against Employer, claiming infringement of her free speech rights under the Utah Constitution and under the UPPEA. Employer moved for summary judgment, arguing, inter alia, that the UPPEA claim was time-barred because Plaintiff suffered an “adverse employment action” triggering the 180-day filing requirement under the UPPEA. The United States District Court certified three questions for the Utah Supreme Court’s review. The Supreme Court declined to exercise its discretion to resolve the first two questions and instead answered only the third question. The court answered the question as set forth above and set forth an analytical framework for assessing whether such employment actions are independent of each other under the UPPEA. View "Zimmerman v. University of Utah" on Justia Law

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A notice of termination may be an adverse employment action independent of an actual termination under the Utah Protection of Public Employees Act (UPPEA). Plaintiff filed suit against Employer, claiming infringement of her free speech rights under the Utah Constitution and under the UPPEA. Employer moved for summary judgment, arguing, inter alia, that the UPPEA claim was time-barred because Plaintiff suffered an “adverse employment action” triggering the 180-day filing requirement under the UPPEA. The United States District Court certified three questions for the Utah Supreme Court’s review. The Supreme Court declined to exercise its discretion to resolve the first two questions and instead answered only the third question. The court answered the question as set forth above and set forth an analytical framework for assessing whether such employment actions are independent of each other under the UPPEA. View "Zimmerman v. University of Utah" on Justia Law

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Utah Code 34A-2-417(2)(a)(ii), a provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA) that limits the time an injured worker has to prove a claim, is a statute of repose but is nevertheless constitutional under the Open Courts Clause of the Utah Constitution. Section 34A-2-417(2)(a)(ii) provides that an employee claiming compensation for a workplace injury must prove that he or she is due the compensation claimed within twelve years from the date of the accident. Petitioners filed claims to receive permanent total disability benefits more than twelve years after the original workplace accident that led to their injuries. Petitioners’ claims were dismissed as untimely under the statute. In petitioning for review, Petitioners argued that the statute acts as a statute of repose and is unconstitutional under the Open Courts Clause. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 34A-2-417(2)(a)(ii) is a statute of repose but withstands Open Courts Clause scrutiny. View "Waite v. Utah Labor Commission" on Justia Law

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Utah Code 35-1-65, which provides that an injured worker who is temporarily totally disabled shall not receive compensation benefits over a period of eight years from the date of the injury, does not operate as an unconstitutional statute of repose under the Open Courts Clause of the Utah Constitution. Petitioner suffered a back injury while working for the Granite School District in 1982. An impartial medical panel concluded that Petitioner’s injury was the medical cause of a subsequent surgery in 2014, but an administrative law judge (ALJ) with the Utah Labor Commission denied Petitioner’s request for temporary total disability compensation on the ground that more than eight years had elapsed since the date of the injury. The Appeals Board of the Commission affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 35-1-64 does not abrogate any previously existing remedy and so is not subject to an Open Courts Clause challenge; and (2) the Workers’ Compensation Act is an adequate substitute remedy for Petitioner’s common law tort of action. View "Petersen v. Utah Labor Commission" on Justia Law

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In this splintered opinion, two justices would affirm in part and reverse in part the final order of the Labor Commission, two justices would affirm, and one justice would vacate and remand. Therefore, the order the Commission stood as issued. Appellee claimed workers’ compensation benefits against her employer for injuries she sustained while working. Appellee’s employer and its insurers initially paid Appellee’s benefits but later concluded that Appellee’s condition did not constitute a compensable accident under the Workers’ Compensation Act but was rather an occupational disease under the Occupational Disease Act. An administrative law judge (ALJ) disagreed and found in favor of Appellee, concluding that the employer was subject to ongoing liability for Appellee’s injuries, which were caused by a workplace accident under a theory of “cumulative trauma.” The Commission upheld the ALJ’s decision in its final order. In dispute in this opinion was the effect of the 1991 amendments to the Occupational Disease Act on the Workers’ Compensation Act. View "Rueda v. Utah Labor Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals, which set aside the order of the Labor Commission concluding that Respondent had failed to make out a permanent total disability claim against her former employer, the University of Utah Huntsman Cancer Hospital. The Commission reversed the order of an administrative law judge (ALJ), which awarded Respondent permanent total disability benefits. In denying Respondent’s application for permanent total disability benefits, the Commission concluded that Respondent had failed to show that she was limited in her ability to do basic work activities. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Respondent was not limited in her ability to perform basic work activities because her impairments did not “reasonably” limit her. The Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed the Commission’s order denying Respondent’s application for permanent total disability benefits, holding (1) both the court of appeals and the Commission misstated the burden of proof on the “other work reasonably available” element of a permanent total disability claim; and (2) the court of appeals erred in reversing the Commission’s determination that Respondent was limited in her ability to do basic work activities. View "Quast v. Utah Labor Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the order of the Labor Commission denying Respondent’s application for permanent total disability benefits under Utah Code 34A-2-413, the permanent total disability portion of the Workers’ Compensation Act. The Commission denied the application based on Respondent’s failure to prove two elements of a permanent total disability claim. The Supreme Court held (1) the court of appeals erred in its interpretation of section 34A-2-413(1)(c)(ii); (2) the court of appeals misallocated the burden of proof and improperly considered information not contained in the record in reversing the Commission’s determination that Respondent failed to prove the “essential functions” element of a permanent total disability claim; and (3) the Commission correctly denied Respondent’s application for permanent total disability benefits. View "Oliver v. Utah Labor Commission" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was seriously injured during the course of his employment with Defendant. Plaintiff filed suit alleging that Defendant’s negligence caused his injuries. Defendant moved for summary judgment asserting that it was immune from suit under the exclusive remedy provision of the Utah Workers’ Compensation Act. The district court granted the motion, determining that Defendant qualified for immunity under the “eligible employer” statute. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Defendant did not “secure the payment” of workers’ compensation benefits for Plaintiff as required by the statute. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant qualified as an “eligible employer” under the workers’ compensation statutes and fulfilled all of the statutory requirements. View "Nichols v. Jacobsen" on Justia Law

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John Dorsey filed a series of unemployment claims for time periods when he was in Mexico during the offseason of his employment at a Utah resort. Because he was considered a seasonal employee Dorsey was granted a deferral from the requirement of search for work as a prerequisite to eligibility for benefits. The Department of Workforce Services later concluded that Dorsey had been ineligible to receive unemployment benefits during his trips to Mexico under its rule deeming unemployment claimants ineligible for benefits if they travel outside the United States for more than two weeks. The Workforce Appeals Board affirmed. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Department's rule as extended to a seasonal worker not required to search for work is incompatible with the governing statutory position; and (2) because Dorsey was “able” and “available” for work he was eligible for unemployment benefits under the statute. View "Dorsey v. Dep't of Workforce Servs." on Justia Law

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Kelly Colvin was killed in an automobile accident while returning to Utah from a work project in Maryland. The accident occurred when Colvin was a passenger in a vehicle driven by his coworker, Joseph Giguere. Colvin’s widow and son sued Giguere, claiming that Colvin’s death was proximately caused by Giguere’s negligent driving. Giguere moved for summary judgment, asserting that the exclusive remedy provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act barred this suit because the accident occurred in the course of his and Colvin’s employment. The district court agreed and granted Giguere’s motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the accident occurred while Colvin and Giguere were carrying out a special errand for their employer, this action was barred under the Act’s exclusive remedy provision. View "Colvin v. Giguere" on Justia Law