The Appellate Group

Ramon v. Nebo School District

Ramon v. Nebo School District, 2021 UT 30 (Pearce, J.)

Torts; Civil Procedure

After a school bus turned in front of Ramon’s car, causing a crash, Ramon sued Nebo School District, claiming it was liable for its driver’s negligence under principles of respondeat superior, as well as for its own negligent employment practices. Nebo admitted that the doctrine of respondeat superior applied but denied that its driver was negligent and raised a comparative negligence defense against Ramon. Nebo moved for judgment on the pleadings on the negligent employment claim, arguing that the claim was superfluous because Nebo had admitted the doctrine of respondeat superior applied. The district court granted the motion. The Utah Supreme Court reversed, and its rulings included:

  • Negligent employment and respondeat superior claims are distinct causes of action recognized by Utah law. Ramon pled viable alternate claims and was entitled to proceed on both of claims.
  • The McHaffie rule adopted in several jurisdictions (which provides that a plaintiff may not pursue a claim against the employer directly once the employer admits respondeat superior liability), is not necessary to prevent double recovery or inflammatory evidence, as the procedures and court rules applicable to civil proceedings adequately address these concerns.
  • The McHaffie rule is also incompatible with the Utah Liability Reform Act, which allows a party to request that the factfinder determine the portion of fault attributable to each party for whom there is a basis. Although the fault attributable to the driver may pass through to Nebo under respondeat superior, where there is a legal basis to hold Nebo liable for its own role, the Act allows Ramon to ask a factfinder to allocate fault according

Read the full court opinion