A plaintiff must show the following to bring a successful claim for negligence under Utah law: (1) the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff; (2) the defendant breached the duty owed; (3) the breach of duty was the proximate cause of injury to the plaintiff; and (4) there was in fact an injury.
Assumption of Risk
The doctrine of assumption of risk, whereby a plaintiff is completely barred from recovery if it is found that the plaintiff consented to the risk that was the ultimate cause of injury, has been abolished as a valid defense in Utah in lieu of a modified comparative negligence approach.
Modified Comparative Negligence
Utah’s system of comparative negligence allows for a plaintiff to recover as long as their apportionment of fault was not greater than 49% per Utah Code. Ann. § 78B-5-818(2). If the plaintiff is found to be 50% or more at fault for their own injury, then the plaintiff may be completely barred from obtaining any monetary recovery.
If the fact finder determines that a plaintiff’s percentage of fault was 49% or less, the plaintiff’s monetary award will be reduced in proportion to their percentage of fault. For example, if a plaintiff is awarded $100,000 in damages but 10% of fault is assigned to the plaintiff, then the plaintiff’s recovery will be reduced to $90,000 to account for the percentage of liability assigned to the plaintiff.
Joint & Several Liability
At one time, the law in Utah held multiple tortfeasors jointly and severally liable in a negligence action. This meant that each tortfeasor was liable for the entire damage amount awarded to the plaintiff. Joint and several liability was abolished once Utah’s Liability Reform Act was passed. Now, in accordance with Utah’s modified comparative fault standard, several liability applies, meaning that each defendant is only responsible for the percentage of fault attributed to each respective defendant.
Compensatory damages are awarded by a court to compensate the plaintiff for injuries suffered as a result of the negligence of the defendant(s). The award is meant to restore the plaintiff – as much as possible – to the condition they were in prior to the injury occurring.
Compensatory damages include the reasonable expenses necessary for medical care; hospitalization and treatment; economic loss from loss of income (both past and future); pain and suffering; disability; disfigurement; and mental anguish.
Under Utah Code §78B-3-410 , in a malpractice action against a healthcare provider, there is a cap on noneconomic damages of $450,000 for any cause of action which arose after May 15, 2010.
Punitive damages are meant to punish a defendant rather than to compensate the plaintiff. The law in Utah (78B-8-201) states that punitive damages may be awarded only if compensatory or general damages are awarded and it is established by clear and convincing evidence that the acts or omissions of the tortfeasor are the result of willful and malicious or intentionally fraudulent conduct, or conduct that manifests a knowing and reckless indifference toward, and a disregard of, the rights of others.
The law firm of Walker Morgan is located at 135 E Main St., Lexington, SC 29072. All lawyers at Walker Morgan are licensed to practice law in the State of South Carolina. Should you wish to retain our firm for legal representation regarding a potential case in any other jurisdiction we are required to associate local counsel in that foreign jurisdiction and seek permission from a court of the foreign jurisdiction to temporarily engage in the practice of law therein for purposes of pursuing your potential claim only.
By offering the following information the lawyers at Walker Morgan are not offering legal advice or legal guidance. The lawyers at Walker Morgan are not licensed to practice law in Utah. Should you have a question/concern specific to Utah law, please contact an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Utah.