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Utah Court Records

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What is a Tort Case and What does it Involve in Utah?

Tort lawsuits are civil cases initiated to obtain monetary compensation for non-criminal injurious actions. An individual or business (legally regarded as a person) can commence a tort case in a Utah Court. Similarly, these parties can be sued for the same reasons. The government, including employees and agencies, can be held accountable for an injury, loss, or damage as well. In tort claims, the person who files the case is the plaintiff, while the accused party is the defendant.

Typically, injuries sustained in tort claims are either on one’s person (for example, well-being) or related to real or personal property. In Utah, the authority to hear tort cases is given to the District Court. However, tort cases with low dollar values ($11,000 or less) can be filed as small claims in a Justice Court.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

What is Utah Tort Law?

Utah’s tort law regulates legal actions that seek damages for losses suffered because of the conduct of a person, business, or the government. Some sections of the state’s tort law are codified under Title 78B of the Utah Code. However, this title refers only to tort claims against individuals or businesses. Claims against the government and government entities/employees are guided by Title 63G. Legal procedures for tort cases are also established by common law.

What Kinds of Cases are Covered by Tort Law in Utah?

Utah law specifies several tort cases for which an individual can receive compensation in a court of law. These cases include:

  • Negligence claims: Utah Code Ann. § 76–5–207.5 defines negligence as a failure to exert a reasonable and prudent degree of care or safety. Negligence torts are filed when an individual’s careless or reckless actions/inactions caused someone else to be harmed or injured. In negligence torts, plaintiffs must prove that a defendant owed them a duty of care or safety, breached that duty, and that. As a result, they suffered an injury for which they should be compensated. Examples of negligence tort claims are medical and legal malpractices, slips and falls, car wrecks, airplane crashes, wrongful deaths, product liability actions, premises liability cases, and work accidents.
  • Intentional tort cases: Tort claims are filed under this category because of one person’s willful misconduct, which resulted in another person’s harm or loss. This includes acts that are committed when the accused party should have known that the other party would suffer for it. Examples of these cases include trespassing, assault and battery, emotional distress, false imprisonment, conversion, fraud, property trespasses, invasion of privacy, alienation of affection, abuse of process, civil conspiracy, and malicious prosecution.
  • Strict/absolute liability torts: These are claims filed against a person who is completely liable for an unlawful act, despite the act being intentional or negligent. Claims that fall into this category include dangerous drugs or medical gadgets, defective products, and canine attacks.

In Utah, dog owners are strictly liable for any personal injury caused by their dogs, whether they knew that their dogs were mischievous or vicious or not (Section 18–1–1).. However, this law prohibits actions against the government or a law enforcement officer for injuries caused by trained police dogs.

Note that some cases may fall into two or more categories based on the circumstances of the committed act. For example, emotional distress can be deliberate or negligent.

What are the Differences Between Criminal Law and Tort Law in Utah?

Criminal and tort cases are governed by varying laws. As such, defendants (sued or charged individuals) are liable to different consequences. However, a tort can be classified as a crime when the injury or loss incurred was due to an intentional act of a person, such as an assault and battery. A plaintiff in this type of claim has the right to solicit compensation in civil court, no matter that the defendant was tried in criminal court.

Utah tort law directs civil actions occurring from tortious acts. Under this law, a defendant must compensate an injured party if found responsible for an unlawful act. Conversely, the Utah Criminal Code punishes individuals for criminal violations, misdemeanors, or felonies with jail/prison sentences, fines, and other penalties.

In criminal and tort cases, a litigant’s rights differ. Criminal defendants have the right to counsel. This means that the court, at its own expense, must select an attorney for a defendant with no legal counsel, provided there is a possibility of the defendant being sentenced to a term of imprisonment. This right is not awarded to litigants in tort claims. Instead, parties are responsible for their legal costs.

Lastly, court procedures and the burden of proof. The court process of a criminal case is governed by the Utah Rules of Criminal Procedure, whereas a tort claim follows the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure. In both tort and criminal cases, the burden of proof rests with the plaintiff, who must provide reasonable and clear evidence that the defendant committed a tort or crime. However, while an individual bringing the action has the burden of proof in tort claims, the government is responsible for proving that an offense occurred in a criminal case.

What is the Purpose of Tort Law in Utah?

In Utah, the tort law guides the legal procedures of injurious claims, the statutory limits within which such actions can be filed, and the relief obtainable by injured parties. Most especially, the law protects the rights of individuals, both plaintiffs, and defendants, and aims to prevent further occurrences of tortious acts within the state.

What is a Tort Claim in Utah?

According to Utah law, a tort claim is any cause of action arising because of a personal injury or property damage. In these civil cases, an individual alleges that a second party, through purposeful or negligent conduct, caused that person to endure a loss or injury. Typically, when a dispute cannot be settled by private negotiation or mediation, an aggrieved party may commence an action in court. In tort claims, a plaintiff may receive reimbursement for economic and non-economic damage.

Simply put, economic damage (unofficially called “special damage”) is an injury that can be calculated, such as lost wages, loss of household services, hospital bills/expenses, and personal/real property damages. Whereas non-economic or general damage refers to an injury for which a monetary value cannot be easily assessed, such as physical/emotional pain and suffering (disfigurement, anxiety, loss of consortium, emotional distress, etc.).

How Do You File a Tort Claim in Utah?

In Utah, the court procedures for filing tort claims against individuals or the government are generally the same. However, there are slight differences between statutory limitations and qualifications needed to begin these cases.

Filing a Tort Claim against an Individual or Businesses

A tort claim in Utah must be filed within statutory limits (Title 78B, Chapter 2 of the Utah Code).. However, persons who are not up t 18 years or incompetent at the time of an action may not file until that person is of age or the incompetence removed, except in recovery of real property claims (Utah Code Ann. § 78B–2–108).. Still, any of these persons may file an action, but it must be through a legal guardian. It is important to check the law for these limits or ask an attorney. However, statutory limits vary by the type of tort claim.

Since tort claims are essentially civil lawsuits, actions follow the Utah Civil Rules of Procedure. For controversies that are $11,000 or less, it is the Rules of Small Claims Procedure.

To start a claim against an individual or business, an individual may file a complaint with the court. The complaint contains basic information on the litigants and details of the cause of action. Naturally, there is a fee payable to the court for filing and service. Additional costs are included as well. Persons who cannot pay the filing fee due to financial constraints may ask a judge to waive this fee. To apply for a waiver, file Motion to Waive Fees and Statement Supporting Motion and Order on Motion to Waive Fees forms. Note that service fees cannot be waived. The guidelines and forms for filing a motion are available on the Utah judiciary’s website.

Filings made by individuals must be done in-person or by mail. However, in some counties, an individual may be permitted to file a complaint by email. On the other hand, if an attorney is filing in place of a plaintiff, it must be filed electronically (e-filing). Generally, claims are filed with the District or Justice Court in the county where the cause of action happened. Interested persons may find the contact details and court personnel of the District or Justice Courts through the Utah State Court Directory. The physical addresses of the courts can be obtained from the Map of Courts & Judicial Districts page. The court forms for pleadings can be found on the Utah Courts website.

Filing a Tort Claim against the Government or Government Entity/Employee

As stated earlier, tort filings against the government are regulated by the Government Immunity Act of Utah. The Utah District Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over these claims. Tort actions are typically brought to the court located in the county where the injury or loss occurred. The deadline for this type of tort claim is one year from the cause of action.

Before anyone may file a complaint against the government with the court, that person must deliver a notice of claim in person or by mail according to Sections 63G–7–401(3)(b) and 68–3–8.5:

  • To the town, city, or county clerk, for claims against a town, city, or county
  • To the Attorney General, for claims against the State of Utah
  • To an agent permitted to receive notice on behalf of a government entity
  • To a board’s superintendent or business administrator, for claims regarding a school district or board of education
  • To a board’s presiding office, clerk, or secretary, for claims against a local/special service district
  • To an executive director or secretary, or member of a governing board, for claims against a public board or body

The notice of claim contains information on the type of lawsuit and injury suffered, the name of an employee (if applicable), and the claimant’s signature.

It should be noted that certain injury cases cannot be filed against a government employee or entity in Utah. The law refers to this as an “immunity” under Utah Code Ann. § 63G–7–201. Some of these cases include claims arising from tax collection or assessment, the activity of the Utah National Guard, imprisonment of an individual, riot or mob violence, underlying dangerous or defective condition of a tunnel, highway, road, bridge, or similar structure.

Utah Code Ann. § 63G–7–301 outlines injury claims that can be filed, including:

  • Claims for recovery or possession of real or personal properties
  • Contractual obligations
  • Foreclosures and other real/personal property liens
  • Negligent destruction of any seized property in the custody of a government entity or employee
  • Actual damages under the Utah Protection of Public Employees Act
  • Sexual battery
  • Injuries sustained from defective roads, bridges, highways, public building, dam, or like structure

When a person files the written notice of claim, the government entity or representative will inform the individual within 60 days of the notice’s receipt. After the expiry of the 60 days, the individual may then file a complaint with the court, and no earlier.

What Does a Tort Claim Contain in Utah?

In Utah, the complaint form for a tort claim will contain:

  • The litigants’ names and addresses
  • Description of the injury or damage incurred
  • Date, time, and location of the cause of action
  • The dollar amount for the injury
  • Signature of the plaintiff

What Happens after a Tort Claim is Filed in Utah?

The next step after filing a tort claim in Utah is to serve the defendant per URCP 4. There will be a timeframe given to the defendant to respond to the claim. When the defendant files an answer with the court, the case proceeds to the discovery stage. If the defendant files no answer upon the plaintiff’s request, the court may enter a default judgment. A case may either be resolved by settlement pretrial or by a judge or jury trial. Interested persons may find more information on post-filing procedures on the website of the Utah Courts.

Why Do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer for a Tort Claim?

Although there is no need for legal representation in tort cases, a litigant may hire a personal injury lawyer at the onset for these reasons:

  • Understanding the law
  • Drafting/reviewing legal documents
  • Investigating claims
  • Presenting evidence
  • Providing legal advice and
  • Representing a person in court.
  • Collecting full compensation for a civil wrong.

How Can I Find a Personal Injury Lawyer Near Me?

Utah personal injury lawyers can be found using the referral service offered by the Utah State Bar: Licensed Lawyer. Interested individuals may search for a lawyer by name, category, or using the guided search. The Utah judiciary also provides resources for finding legal help within the borders of Utah.

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