Justia Professional Malpractice & Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utah Supreme Court

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USA Power, LLC developed a power plant project in Mona, Utah called the “Spring Canyon vision.” Meanwhile, PacifiCorp entered into negotiations to purchase USA Power’s Spring Canyon assets, and USA Power provided PacifiCorp with details on the entire project. PacifiCorp terminated the negotiations, however, and began construction on a power plant project in Mona that was very similar to the Spring Canyon project. PacifiCorp also retained Jody Williams, USA Power’s former attorney, to help it obtain water rights for its project, called the Currant Creek project. USA Power brought suit against Williams, asserting malpractice claims for Williams’s alleged breach of her fiduciary duties of confidentiality and loyalty, and against PacifiCorp, alleging misappropriation of USA Power’s trade secrets. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Supreme Court reversed. On remand, the jury returned a special verdict against PacifiCorp and Williams. The trial court reduced the unjust enrichment award against PacifiCorp, granted Williams’s judgment notwithstanding the verdict motion for lack of evidence related to causation, and determined that USA was entitled to attorney fees. Both parties appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s rulings as to each issue presented on appeal, holding that the court did not err in its judgment. View "USA Power, LLC v. PacifiCorp" on Justia Law

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In 2010, Plaintiff was negotiating the sale of three limited liability companies of which he was the sole shareholder. The companies were S Corporations. Plaintiff retained an Accounting Firm to advise him on his tax liability from the contemplated sale. Altaview Concrete, one of the companies, was named as the client. Jeffrey Bickel, a partner at the Accounting Firm, advised Plaintiff that he could restructure the deal to reduce his tax liability to $663,000. The buyer agreed to the restructuring proposals, and the sale closed. Later Bickel and the Accounting Firm (collectively, Defendants) discovered they had greatly underestimated Plaintiff's tax liability. Plaintiff filed a professional negligence claim in district court. The district court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment, finding that Plaintiff's claim failed to satisfy the writing requirement of Utah Code 58-26-602, which provides that accountants are not liable to third parties unless the accountant identified in writing to the client that the professional services were intended to be relief upon by the third party. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendants were liable to Plaintiff as a third party under section 602 because Defendants identified in writing that the professional services were intended to be relied upon by Plaintiff. View "Reynolds v. Bickel" on Justia Law