Shaping Utah Law
Our firm and lawyers have had a significant impact on shaping health care law and professional liability law in Utah. A brief summary of some of our key appellate decisions follow:
Burton v. Chen & Alta Pain Physicians, LLC, 2023, UT 14
The Utah Supreme Court upheld Respondent Superior principles which protect employers (including healthcare employers) from the intentional torts of their employees that go beyond the scope of their employment and which do not further the interests of the employer. The Court also held that the Utah Physician Assistant Act does not create an alternative theory of liability beyond the common law test.
Ficklin v MacFarlane 550 P.2d 1295 (Utah 1976)
Utah Supreme Court – A cardiovascular surgeon was being defended for complications involving stroke and vision loss associated with bypass surgery. The Trial Court dismissed the case for Plaintiff’s failure to establish a prima facie case of medical malpractice. The Utah Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal, finding a physician needs to warn of substantial and significant risks but not remote risks, and that expert testimony is admissible to show or reject negligence based on acceptable medical standards. [This position was adopted a year later in 1976 by the Utah Legislature in passing the Utah Healthcare Malpractice Act Title 78-14-1, et seq.]
Swan v Lamb and Thoen 584 P.2d 814 (Utah 1978)
Utah Supreme Court – Requirements of expert testimony were addressed and the strict locality rule abandoned in favor of a same or similar community standard.
Ramon v. Farr, 770 P.2d 131 (Utah 1989)
Utah Supreme Court – Manufacturers’ drug inserts and Physicians Desk Reference entries do not, by themselves, set the standard of care for a physician, nor do they constitute prima facie evidence.
Avila v. Winn, 794 P.2d 20 (Utah 1990)
Utah Supreme Court – Pre-litigation panel review is to be completed prior to filing a Complaint in a medical malpractice action against a healthcare provider.
Evans v. Doty, 824 P.2d 460 (Utah App. 1991)
Utah Court of Appeals – Clarified process for conducting Jury Voir Dire questions regarding juror exposure to “tort reform” material and in a manner to avoid interjection of insurance.
Dikeou v. Osborn, 881 P.2d 943 (Utah App. 1994)
Utah Court of Appeals – Held that an emergency room physician was not qualified to testify as to the standard of care applicable to a Cardiologist. This case reconfirmed that plaintiffs must show a breach of the standard of care through the testimony of an expert who is trained in the same or similar specialty as the defendant physician.
Kent v. Pioneer Valley Hospital, 930 P.2d 904 (Utah App. 1997)
Utah Court of Appeals – Reconfirmed and strengthened prior case law that expert testimony is required on the element of proximate causation. Here, the Court found that plaintiff’s nurse expert was not qualified to render the opinion that Plaintiff’s nerve damage was proximately caused by an allegedly improper injection.
Collins v. Wilson, 984 P.2d 960 (Utah 1999)
Utah Supreme Court – Supported a bifurcated trial on statute of limitations in a medical malpractice action. Court upheld a two year statute of limitations “from discovery” and clarified what constitutes discovery of an injury that was caused by a negligent act.
McBride-Williams v. Huard, 94 P.3d 175 (Utah 2004)
Utah Supreme Court – Held that Utah’s one-year savings statute applies even to Complaints that are improperly filed prior to completing statutory pre-litigation hearing requirements.
University of Utah Hospital v. American Casualty Co. of Leading, PA, 90 P.3d 654 (Utah App. 2004)
Utah Court of Appeals – In a subrogation action by a hospital against nurses’ professional liability insurer to recover $1 million paid out by hospital in settlement. The Court held that because the nurse was not a named party to the underlying medical malpractice action, her liability insurer had no duty to defend or to indemnify.
Jensen v Smith, 2007 UT App. 152
Utah Court of Appeals – Expert medical testimony is timely required to defeat a Motion for Summary Judgment.
Menlove v. Kalm, 2008, UT 9
The general requirement of expert testimony to prove proximate causation is as applicable to psychiatrists as it is to other medical professionals. Proof of proximate cause generally requires expert medical testimony. A “common knowledge” exception may exist, but is narrowly defined.
Lyon v. Bryan, 2011 UT App 256
The jury was entitled to disbelieve the only causation evidence presented by Plaintiff’s orthopedic expert. If the jury did not believe the expert, there was no other evidence to support a finding that Plaintiff had met his burden of proving causation.