Alaska

Utah

 

 

 

Statute of Limitations (UTAH)

 

Personal Injury - 4 yrs. [U.C.A. § 78B-2-307]

Wrongful Death - 2 yrs. [U.C.A. § 78B-2-304]

Property Damage - 3 yrs. [U.C.A. § 78B-2-305]

Product Strict Liability (Personal Injury, Death of Property Damage involved) - 2 yrs. (from discovery) [U.C.A. § 78B-6-706]

Written Contracts - 6 yrs. [U.C.A. § 78B-2-309]

Oral Contracts - 4 yrs. [U.C.A. § 78B-2-307]

Breach of Warranty (when Personal Injury or Property Damage involved) - Treated as tort claims, applicable tort limitations period must be used [Davidson Lumber Sales, Inc. v. Bonneville Inv., Inc., 794 P.2d 11 (Utah 1990)]

Contracts for Sale (goods) and Breach of Warranty (when Personal Injury or Property Damage not involved) - 4 yrs. (from tender of delivery) [U.C.A. § 70A-2-725]

 

All that is required to trigger statute of limitations is sufficient information to apprise plaintiffs of underlying cause of action so as to put them on notice to make further inquiry if they harbor doubts or questions about defendant's actions [McCollin v. Synthes Inc., 50 F.Supp.2d 111 (D. Utah 1999)].

 

 

 

 

 

 

Statute of Repose (Products) (UTAH)

 

None.

 

Admissibility of Expert Testimony (UTAH)

 

A trial judge must ensure that any and all scientific testimony or evidence admitted is not only relevant, but reliable.  Where expert testimony is based upon novel scientific principles or techniques, Utah courts have long imposed additional tests of admissibility beyond the standard rules of evidence. Utah courts approve inherent reliability rather than general acceptance as the touchstone of admissibility of expert scientific testimony. Although a showing of general acceptance would generally be sufficient to show inherent reliability and to justify the admission of scientific evidence, general acceptance is no longer the essential condition of admission. In the absence of general acceptance, other proofs of reliability could also suffice [Alder v. Bayer Corp., 61 P.3d 1068 (Utah 2002)].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Causes of Action (UTAH)

 

Strict Liability – Utah has adopted Rest. (2nd) of Torts, 402A.  One who sells a product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the user (or to his property) is subject to liability for physical harm caused to the ultimate user (or to his property) if: (1) the seller is engaged in the business of selling such a product; and (2) the product is expected to and does reach the user without substantial change in the condition in which it is sold.  Utah Supreme Court has held that in order to recover on strict liability against, the plaintiff must prove that: (1) a defective condition of the product made it unreasonably dangerous; (2) the defect was present at the time of the product’s sale; and (3) the defective condition was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries [Schaerrer v. Stewart's Plaza Pharm., Inc., 79 P.3d 922 (Utah 2003)].
 

Negligence – In order to prevail on a negligence claim, there must be evidence of a duty breached.  The following factors should be considered when ascertaining whether a duty of reasonable care exists with respect to the manufacture of products: (1) the extent that the manufacturer could foresee that its actions would cause harm; (2) the likelihood of injury; (3) the magnitude of the burden of guarding against it; and (4) the consequences of placing the burden on the defendant [Slisze v. Stanley-Bostitch, 979 P.2d 317 (Utah 1999)].

 

Breach of Warranty – The elements of strict liability and breach of warranty “are essentially the same” [Straub v. Fisher & Paykel Health Care, 990 P.2d 384 (Utah 1999)].

 

 

Definition of “Defect” (UTAH)

 

"Defective" means the product was unreasonably dangerous to a user because of a defect or defective condition existing at the time the product was sold [Lamb v. B & B Amusements Corp., 869 P.2d 926 (Utah 1993)].

 

“Unreasonably dangerous” means that the product was dangerous to an extent beyond which would be contemplated by the ordinary and prudent buyer or user of that product in that community considering the product’s characteristics, propensities, risks, dangers, and uses together with any actual knowledge, training, or experience possessed by that particular buyer or  user [Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-702].

 

Also, see discussion below re: design defects.

Liability of Sellers (UTAH)

 

Sellers and lessors are strictly liable [Ghionis v. Deer Valley Resort Co., 839 F. Supp. 789 (D. Utah 1993)].

 

At the same time, a passive retailer does not owe a duty to its customers to warn them of a manufacturing defect that it did not know of itself.  There is no cause of action for strict liability against a purely passive distributor where the fault complained of arises out of a design or manufacturing defect, and where the manufacturer/designer of the product is a named party to the action [Sanns v. Butterfield Ford, 94 P.3d 301 (Utah Ct. App. 2004)]

 

Defenses (UTAH)      

 

Comparative Negligence – Utah follows modified comparative negligence (damages are diminished in proportion to Plaintiff’s fault, but Plaintiff cannot recover if he is 50% at fault) [U.C.A. § 78B-5-818].  In contrast to negligence cases, the rule for strict liability will not altogether bar recovery where plaintiff’s relative fault and causation exceeds that of defendant [Mulherin v. Ingersoll-Rand Co., 628 P.2d 1301 (Utah 1981)].

 

Assumption of Risk – Included in the definition of “fault” for the purpose of the comparative negligence analysis [Utah Code Ann. § 78B-5-817].

 

Product Misuse – Included in the definition of “fault” for the purpose of the comparative negligence analysis [Utah Code Ann. § 78B-5-817].

 

Product Alteration/Modification – Included in the definition of “fault” for the purpose of the comparative negligence analysis [Utah Code Ann. § 78B-5-817].

 

 

Economic Loss Doctrine (ELD) (Product Destroys Only Itself) (UTAH)

 

The proper focus in an analysis under ELD is on the source of the duties alleged to have been breached; thus, a party suffering only economic loss from the breach of an express or implied contractual duty may not assert a tort claim for such a breach absent an independent duty of care under tort law [Hermansen v. Tasulis, 48 P.3d 235 (Utah 2002)].

 

One possible exception - If an independent duty exists under the law outside of any contractual obligations, ELD does not bar a tort claim because the claim is based on a recognized independent duty of care and thus does not fall within the scope of the rule. The question of whether a duty independent of the parties’ contractual obligations exists is a question of law, and involves the examination of the legal relationships between the parties, an analysis of the duties created by these relationships, and policy judgments applied to relationships [Davencourt at Pilgrims Landing Homeowners Ass’n v. Davencourt at Pilgrims Landing, LC, 221 P.3d 234 (Utah 2009)].

 

Malfunction Theory (Using Circumstantial Evidence to Prove Defect) (UTAH)

 

There is no case law explicitly adopting the doctrine [See Taylor v. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., 130 F.3d 1395 (10th Cir. Utah 1997)].

 

 

 

 

Design Defects (UTAH)                                                                                                

 

To prove strict liability because of a defective design, a plaintiff must prove that: (1) the defect or defective condition of the product made the product unreasonably dangerous; (2) that the defect was present at the time of the product's sale; and (3) that the defective condition was the cause of the plaintiff's injuries [Schaerrer v. Stewart's Plaza Pharmacy, Inc., 79 P.3d 922 (Utah 2003)].

 

As defined by the Utah Product Liability Act, the standard for “unreasonably dangerous” focuses on consumer expectations. “Unreasonably dangerous” means that the product was dangerous to an extent beyond which would be contemplated by the ordinary and prudent user of that product in that community considering the product's characteristics, propensities, risks, dangers, and uses together with any actual knowledge, training, or experience possessed by that particular user [Niemela v. Imperial Mfg., 263 P.3d 1191 (Utah Ct. App. 2011)].

 

In showing that the product can be made safer through the use of devices, a plaintiff must show that the devices exist and are not merely speculative.  While evidence bearing upon design alternatives and the “state of the art” in the industry may be relevant to determining whether a product is unreasonably dangerous, such evidence is not an essential element of the plaintiff's case [Allen v. Minnstar, Inc., 8 F.3d 1470 (10th Cir. Utah )].

 

There is a rebuttable presumption that a product is free from any defect or defective condition where the alleged defect in the plans or designs for the product or the methods and techniques of manufacturing, inspecting and testing the product were in conformity with government standards established for that industry which were in existence at the time the plans or designs for the product or the methods and techniques of manufacturing, inspecting and testing the product were adopted [Utah Code Ann. § 78B-6-703].

 

Failure to Warn (UTAH)

 

A seller may be required to provide directions or warnings to the consumer to prevent a product from being unreasonably dangerous. Inadequate warning regarding a product’s use may render that product unreasonably dangerous, and a manufacturer who knows or should know of a risk associated with its product may be directly liable to the user if he fails to warn adequately of the danger.  Where warning is given, the seller may reasonably assume that it will be read and heeded; and a product bearing such a warning, which is safe for use if it is followed, is not in defective condition, nor is it unreasonably dangerous.  Before a manufacturer may be held liable for a failure to warn, that failure must be both the cause-in-fact and the proximate cause of the user's injury.  When no warning, or when an inadequate warning, is given, the “heeding presumption” allows the finder of fact to presume that the product user would have “heeded” or followed a warning had the manufacturer given one. This rebuttable presumption shifts the plaintiff’s burden on causation and allows the trial court to instruct the jury that, had an adequate warning been given, a reasonable consumer or user would have read and heeded the warning [House v. Armour of Am., 886 P.2d 542 (Utah Ct. App. 1994)].

 

To avoid liability because the injured party was a sophisticated user, defendants must show that the ultimate user possesses special knowledge, sophistication, or expertise to such an extent that the user's knowledge of the danger is equivalent to prior notice [House v. Armour of Am., 929 P.2d 340 (Utah 1996)].

 

 

 

 

Independent Cause of Action for Evidence Spoliation (UTAH)

 

Not recognized [Hills v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 232 P.3d 1049 (Utah 2010)].