The Appellate Group

Mathena v. Vanderhorst

Mathena v. Vanderhorst, 2020 UT App 104 (Mortensen, J.)

Civil Procedure

Appellant’s lawsuit against appellee was dismissed after appellant failed to respond to four notices over the course of three-and-a-half months. Appellant moved for relief from the judgment under rule 60(b)(1) of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing excusable neglect. She told the court that her mail sometimes got mixed up with her mother’s mail, that she did not receive all of the notices, that she did receive the motion to dismiss, and that her boss would not give her time off to appear in court. The district court denied her motion for relief. The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed, holding:

  • The district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing appellant’s suit. Three of the notices appellant received referred to dismissal of her case, yet she did not respond. Appellant initiated the legal dispute and was aware of it. She should have stayed apprised of her mail or responded before the eleventh hour.
  • The district court did not apply the wrong legal standard in dismissing appellant’s suit. The district court correctly relied on Jones v. Layton/Okland, 2009 UT 39, in considering “carelessness, lack of attention, or indifference” (the correct standard) and in not considering the circumstances-beyond-control test (an incorrect standard). Further, the law requires due diligence from a reasonably prudent person, not any amount of diligence.
  • Because appellant appealed only the order denying the rule 60(b)(1) motion, the court lacks jurisdiction to consider the merits of the order of dismissal.

Read the full court opinion