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Phillips v. Skabelund

Phillips v. Skabelund, 2021 UT App 2 (Mortensen, J.)

Property; Civil Procedure

In a case with a complex backstory, Appellants sued various parties, seeking to set aside the sale of Property, which had been sold at a trustee’s sale. The district court granted a motion to dismiss and multiple motions for summary judgment in favor of Appellees. On appeal, the Utah Court of Appeals affirmed, ruling, among other things: 

  • The district court correctly ruled that to prove the trustee’s deed voidable, Appellants had to show prejudice by demonstrating that the notice defect resulted in chilling the bidding and causing an inadequacy of price. The trustor bears the burden of showing prejudice; it will not be presumed.
  • Well after the close of expert discovery, Appellants sought to submit an expert report that changed the valuation metric (the zoning classification). The significance of the change made it a new report rather than a supplementation. The district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Appellant’s motion to supplement and then excluding their expert’s testimony based on the unreliability of his report (the use of the wrong zoning classification). Once the expert’s testimony was excluded, the district court correctly granted summary judgment on those claims for which damages depended on the Property’s value.
  • Takeaway: In footnotes 12 and 13, the court of appeals addressed rule 56(f) of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure. The 2015 amendments, which allow a court to independently grant summary judgment, abrogated prior case law holding it was error for a court to sua sponte grant summary judgment. The court of appeals clarified the procedure for the court to give notice to the parties before entering summary judgment under rule 56(f).

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