The Appellate Group

Bennion v. Stolrow

Bennion v. Stolrow, 2024 UT 14 (Pohlman, J.)


Tenant was injured when his apartment deck collapsed. Landlord agreed to pay Tenant a sum of money in exchange for a complete release. Landlord, however, informed Tenant that he would issue two checks—one to him and another to a collection agency. Tenant filed a motion to enforce the agreement as written, but the district court and the Utah Court of Appeals sided with Landlord. The Utah Supreme Court reversed, holding in part:

  • The Utah Court of Appeals erred when it sided with Landlord. The plain language of the settlement provided for payment to Tenant in exchange for his release of claims against Landlord and Tenant’s assumption of responsibility for third-party liens.
  • Practice tip: Utah case law does not mandate that a tortfeasor pay a third-party claimant directly. Instead, it suggests that a subrogation claim will survive settlement in certain circumstances, and when it does, a tortfeasor best protects its rights by issuing two checks rather than one.
  • Judicial tip: Parties are free to contract on their own terms. When parties do not follow the best practices suggested in case law, courts must enforce the agreement the parties made and not the one the court thinks should have been made.

Read the full court opinion