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Cougar Canyon v. Walker

Cougar Canyon v. Walker, 2020 UT App 176 (Harris, J.)

Property Law; Statutory Interpretation; Civil Procedure

Cougar Canyon acquired an interest in Property that was encumbered by a lien held by Zion and sought to partition the property. In Zion’s answer, it asserted it had a lien but it did not provide the details required by the Partition Statute. Utah Code § 78B-6-1207. The district court allowed Zion leave to amend its answer to include the required information, postponed the trial, and ordered Zion to pay relevant attorney fees.On appeal,Cougar Canyon’s arguments included that the Partition Statute required the information to be set forth in the original answer and that the district court should not have allowed Zion to amend on the eve of trial. The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed, holding:

  • An insurer has not breached the duty of good faith if the insurance claim is fairly debatable at the time it is denied. Here, M.A.’s claim was fairly debatable. Regence’s denial was founded on the opinion of four reviewing physicians, and the records submitted by M.A., including Specialist’s “blanket statement” that M.A. met the criteria for coverage (which did not specifically address the bases for Regence’s denial), failed to establish a legitimate factual issue concerning whether the denial was unreasonable.
  • The Partition Statute is satisfied so long as defendants set forth the required information in their “answers.” The plain meaning of “answers” includes an amended answer and is not limited to the original answer.
  • The district court did not abuse its discretion in granting Zion leave to amend on the eve of trial because measures like postponing the trial and awarding attorney fees to Cougar Canyon eliminated the potential prejudice to Cougar Canyon.
  • Takeaway: The court of appeals determined that “answers” included an amended answer as a matter of first impression.For those following how courts determine the “plain meaning” of statutory language, the court of appeals here relied on definitions from Merriam-Webster’s Law Dictionary, Law.com Legal Dictionary, Black’s Law Dictionary, and Am. Jur.

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