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Trapnell & Associates, LLC v. Legacy Resorts, LLC

Trapnell & Associates, LLC v. Legacy Resorts, LLC, 2020 UT 44 (Pearce, J.)

Civil Procedure

In the underlying litigation between a plaintiff and two defendants, Trapnell purchased the plaintiff’s interest in the litigation after the final judgment, but before the time to appeal had expired. Trapnell then filed a notice under rule 17 of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure that it was now the real party in interest. And Trapnell filed a notice of appeal. It was the only entity to timely file a notice of appeal in this case.

Before the Utah Court of Appeals, the defendants asked for the appeal to be summarily dismissed because Trapnell had failed to file a motion to substitute under rule 25(c) of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure and was therefore not a party to the litigation, rendering its notice of appeal ineffective. After a remand in which the district court concluded that Trapnell had properly become a party to the litigation, the Utah Court of Appeals affirmed that Trapnell was a party and addressed the merits of the dispute. The Utah Supreme Court granted certiorari and ruled that it lacked jurisdiction over the appeal, holding:  

  • To effectively substitute as a party in the litigation, Trapnell needed to file a motion to substitute under rule 25(c), which it did not do. Rule 25(c) applies when there has been a transfer by the real party in interest during the pendency of the litigation, and it instructs that the litigation will continue against the original party “unless the court upon motion directs the person to whom the interest is transferred to be substituted . . . or joined with the original party.”
  • Trapnell’s notice under rule 17 that it had purchased plaintiff’s interest and was now the real party in interest was insufficient to make it a party to the litigation because rule 17 governs who may commence a lawsuit and applies when an interest has been transferred prior to the commencement of litigation, but rule 25(c) governs a transfer of interest after a lawsuit has been commenced.
  • Because Trapnell did not file a motion to substitute under rule 25(c), it was not a party when it filed a notice of appeal. And because Trapnell was not a party, no party to the case filed a timely notice of appeal, which deprived the appellate courts of jurisdiction.

Read the full court opinion

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