A case handed down by the Utah Court of Appeals today illustrates the oddity of Utah la won summary judgment. It is interesting that the Court gets the relevant standards wrong, although it is quite understandable because the Utah law is a bit off kilter on this.
In Fischer v. Davidhizar, the Court of Appeals (2011 UT App 270) in footnote 7 observes that:
The trial court then stated that even if it were to grant the motion to amend,
Davidhizar still could not prevail at trial because he could not prove his fraud claims by
clear and convincing evidence. The trial court’s statement is curious because the court
had previously denied OMC’s motion for summary judgment on Davidhizar’s fraud
claims, presumably because there were significant factual disputes surrounding
Davidhizar’s fraud claims, which would warrant a trial to allow the fact finder to
determine which of the competing version of events to believe. See infra ¶¶ 14‐15.
Then at ¶¶14-15 you get a pretty standard recitation of the burdens on summary judgment and the rule that it may be granted where as a matter of law the moving party wins on the undisputed facts. What is odd here is that the Appellate Court has moved the goals a bit. For summary judgment, any disputed issue of material fact will do to defeat the motion. Any dispute. It is not a reasonable person or finder of fact standard in any form (i.e., the standard is not that a reasonable trier of fact could infer...). So summary judgment in Utah is harder to get than either dismissal or summary judgment in federal court. In fact, it is higher hurdle than a motion for directed verdict in Utah. This is an effect of the requirement, as interpreted by Utah courts, that there not be any weighing credibility at the summary judgment stage, and the failure of the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court to say anything useful about a failure to prove every element at summary judgment.
A motion for directed verdict should be granted “if the evidence [is] such that reasonable men could not arrive at a different conclusion.” Anderson v. Gribble, 513 P.2d 432, 434 (Utah 1973). That is a higher standard than the summary judgment standard. Which means the trial court was right, and that denial of a motion for summary judgment is not relevant to whether leave to amend should have been granted under the circumstances.