The Appellate Group

Sheppard v. Geneva Rock

Sheppard v. Geneva Rock, 2021 UT 31 (Pearce, J.)

Torts; Civil Procedure

Carol Sheppard was hit by a Geneva Rock semi-truck while driving on I-15 and suffered immediate and lasting pain and decreased mobility. At trial for general damages, the district court refused to allow Sheppard to present evidence of Geneva’s negligent hiring practices on the basis that Geneva had admitted vicarious liability for its driver’s actions and because it considered the measure of damages to be the same regardless. The trial court also stripped Sheppard of her general damages award after trial, for various reasons. On direct appeal, the Utah Supreme Court reversed, including because:

  • The district court erred when it stripped Sheppard of her general damages award because there was sufficient evident to support a finding that Geneva’s conduct caused Sheppard’s pain, implicating the common knowledge exception. Additionally, under the PIP statute, Utah Code § 31A-22-309(1), a party may show evidence of medical expenses through expert testimony in lieu of medical receipts.
  • The district court improperly excluded evidence of Geneva’s negligent hiring practices, including because Sheppard advanced a theory of damages for her negligent employment claim that, if accepted, would have entitled her to damages distinct from those she could receive in her negligent driving case against the driver.
  • Note: The Court did not decide whether Sheppard’s faint scar counted as permanent disfigurement under the PIP statute.

Read the full court opinion