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Feldman v. Salt Lake City Corporation

Feldman v. Salt Lake City Corporation, 2021 UT 4 (Himonas, J.)

Tort (Wrongful Death); Statutory Interpretation

After Ms. Feldman drowned in a creek at a Salt Lake City park, her husband and adult children (Plaintiffs) brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the City. The City moved to dismiss based on Utah’s Limitations on Landowner Liability Act, which bars claims for personal injury caused by the inherent risks of participating in an activity with a recreational purpose. The district court granted the motion to dismiss on this basis. The Utah Supreme Court reversed:

  • As a matter of statutory interpretation, section 401 may bar wrongful death actions as well as claims for personal injury. Section 401 applies to Plaintiffs’ wrongful death action because the provision implicates the viability of the underlying personal injury claim Ms. Feldman would have had. And because section 401 is a reasonable defense that is not inconsistent with the fundamental nature of the wrongful death action, its application to Plaintiffs’ claim does not violate the Wrongful Death Clause of the Utah Constitution.
  • Nonetheless, Plaintiffs’ claim should not have been dismissed because the complaint sufficiently alleged that Ms. Feldman did not drown due to an inherent risk when it claimed Ms. Feldman drowned due to a dangerous current caused by manmade developments in the area. If true, Plaintiffs’ claim would not be barred by the Utah Limitations on Landowner Liability Act. Accordingly, the Court reversed.

Read the full court opinion

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