Iadanza v. Mather

Citation820 F. Supp. 1371
Decision Date29 April 1993
Docket NumberNo. 92-CV-1107W.,92-CV-1107W.
PartiesAnthony IADANZA and Tracy Iadanza, husband and wife, Plaintiffs, v. Lee W. MATHER, Jr., an individual, Lewis Realty, Inc., a Utah corporation, James W. Lewis, an individual, Jess Reid Real Estate, Ltd., a Utah limited partnership, and William R. "Dick" Stoner, an individual, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Utah

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Randall A. Mackey and Gifford W. Price, Salt Lake City, UT, for plaintiffs.

Robert M. Anderson, Salt Lake City, UT, for defendant Mather.

Edward M. Garrett, Salt Lake City, UT, for defendants Jess Reid Real Estate and Stoner.

Alan M. Metos, Salt Lake City, UT, for defendants Lewis Realty, Inc. and Lewis.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

WINDER, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on the separate motions to dismiss brought by defendant Lee W. Mather, Jr. ("Mather") and defendants Jess Reid Real Estate and William R. "Dick" Stoner (collectively "Stoner"). A hearing on both motions was held on March 18, 1992. Mather was represented by Robert M. Anderson and Stoner was represented by Edward M. Garrett. Plaintiffs Anthony and Tracy Iadanza (collectively "Plaintiffs") were represented by Gifford W. Price, Thomas R. Taylor, and Randall A. Mackey. Although not directly involved in the motions before the court, defendants Lewis Realty, Inc. and James W. Lewis ("Lewis") were represented at the hearing by Allan M. Metos. Before the hearing, the court considered carefully the memoranda and other materials submitted by the parties. Since taking the matter under advisement, the court has further considered the law and facts relating to both motions. Now being fully advised, the court renders the following Memorandum Decision and Order.

I. BACKGROUND

In 1991, Mather listed a parcel of residential property for sale with defendant Lewis Realty, Inc. This property, known as Lot 29, is located in the Evergreen Subdivision of Deer Valley, Utah, which is adjacent to the Deer Valley Ski Resort ("Deer Valley"). In 1991 Plaintiffs' agents, Robert Morgan ("Morgan") and Steve Sauer ("Sauer"), made an offer to purchase Lot 29 on Plaintiffs' behalf. Real estate agents Lewis and Stoner presented this offer to Mather, and the parties commenced negotiations for the purchase of Lot 29 by Plaintiffs.1 Plaintiffs conducted the negotiations through Morgan to avoid publicity "over the purchasers' true identity due to plaintiff Anthony Iadanza's celebrity status." Compl. ¶ 12, at 4. Plaintiffs allege Lewis and Stoner knew the actual purchaser of Lot 29 would be Plaintiffs, and "knew of the Plaintiffs' privacy concerns and desire for seclusion at Lot 29 and insistence on avoidance of publicity regarding their ownership and use of the Property." Id. ¶ 13, at 4. After the parties reached an agreement, Mather and Plaintiffs entered into an Earnest Money Sales Agreement on March 20, 1991 ("Sales Agreement"). The purchase of Lot 29 was closed on April 18, 1991.

Following the Plaintiffs' purchase of Lot 29, Deer Valley opened a ski path in the Evergreen Subdivision that provided several of the subdivision's lots, including Lot 29, with direct access to Deer Valley's ski runs. The ski trail is located on Deer Valley property directly behind and contiguous to Lot 29. The Complaint alleges:

At no time prior to the Closing or during the negotiations regarding the purchase of Lot 29 did Mather or either of Mather's agents (Lewis or Stoner) tell the Plaintiffs or either of the Plaintiffs' agents (Morgan or Steve Sauer, Anthony Iadanza's personal manager), that a "ski trail," believed to be owned and maintained by the Deer Valley Ski Resort, would be or was planned to be constructed immediately contiguous to the rear boundary of the Property.

Id. ¶ 19, at 5. Plaintiffs claim they would not have purchased Lot 29 or would have insisted on a reduced purchase price had they known of Deer Valley's plans to construct the ski path.2

Plaintiffs filed suit against Mather, Lewis Realty, Inc., James R. Lewis, and Stoner. With regard to Mather and Stoner, the Complaint alleges as causes of action reckless misrepresentation, fraud, unfair and deceptive trade practices in violation of the Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, detrimental reliance and unjust enrichment, and misrepresentation. Additionally, Plaintiffs allege a claim for breach of contract against Mather and a claim for breach of duty against Stoner. Mather and Stoner have moved to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety, with the exception that Stoner has not moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' eighth claim for relief for misrepresentation.3

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In determining whether to grant a Rule 12 motion to dismiss the court looks solely to the material allegations of the complaint, and must accept all material allegations of the complaint as true. Colman v. Utah State Land. Bd., 795 P.2d 622, 624-25 (Utah 1990). In addition, all inferences that can be drawn from the allegations must be drawn in favor of the plaintiff. Arrow Indus. v. Zions First Nat'l Bank, 767 P.2d 935, 936 (Utah 1988). A motion to dismiss should be granted "where it appears to a certainty that the plaintiff would not be entitled to relief under any state of facts which could be proved in support of its claims." Id.

III. DISCUSSION
A. Claim for Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices in Violation of the Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act

Both Mather and Stoner have moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' fifth claim for relief for the same reason: both argue the Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act, Utah Code Ann. §§ 13-11-1 to -23 (1992) ("CSPA"), does not apply to real estate transactions. Mem.Supp.M. Dismiss by Def. Stoner ("Stoner Mem.") at 9; Mem.Supp.M. Dismiss by Def. Mather ("Mather Mem.") at 8. Plaintiffs disagree, claiming that both the plain language of the CSPA and Justice Durham's concurring opinion in Wade v. Jobe, 818 P.2d 1006 (Utah 1991), show the CSPA applies to Plaintiffs' purchase of Lot 29 from Mather. For the following reasons, the court holds that Plaintiffs have stated a claim against Stoner for violation of the CSPA, but have failed to state such a claim against Mather.

1. Defendant Stoner

By its express terms, the CSPA extends to any "consumer transaction," which the act defines as

a sale, lease, assignment, award by chance, or other written or oral transfer or disposition of goods, services, or other property, both tangible and intangible (except securities and insurance), to a person for primarily personal, family, or household purposes ... or a solicitation or offer by a supplier with respect to any of these transfers or dispositions.

Utah Code Ann. § 13-11-3(2) (1992). Based on this section, the court frames the issue before it as whether the phrase "property, both tangible and intangible" includes the sale of residential real estate such as Lot 29. The court has not found, and the parties have not cited, any controlling Utah law on this matter.4 Therefore, the court must attempt to construe the CSPA in a manner in which the Supreme Court of Utah would, if faced with the same facts and issue. High Plains Nat. Gas Co. v. Warren Petroleum Co., 875 F.2d 284, 287 (10th Cir.1989); City of Aurora v. Bechtel Corp., 599 F.2d 382, 386 (10th Cir.1979). For the following reasons, the court concludes the CSPA applies to sales of residential real estate.

a. The Statute's Plain Meaning

The foremost rule of statutory construction is that the court "give effect to the intent of the legislature in light of the purpose the statute was meant to achieve." Reeves v. Gentile, 813 P.2d 111, 115 (Utah 1991); see also Savage Indus., Inc. v. Utah State Tax Comm'n, 811 P.2d 664, 670 (Utah 1991) (same); American Coal Co. v. Sandstrom, 689 P.2d 1, 3 (Utah 1984) (same). "The starting point of any statutory interpretation is the language of the statute." Marc Dev. Inc. v. FDIC, 771 F.Supp. 1163, 1165 (D.Utah 1991). Where the statute's language is plain and unambiguous, the sole function of the court is to enforce the statute according to its terms. Clover v. Snowbird Ski Resort, 808 P.2d 1037, 1045 (Utah 1991).5 "In construing legislative enactments, the reviewer assumes that each term in the statute was used advisedly; thus the statutory words are read literally, unless such reading is unreasonably confused or inoperable." Savage Indus., 811 P.2d at 670; see also Chris & Dick's Lumber v. Utah State Tax Comm'n, 791 P.2d 511, 514 (Utah 1990) (court must "look to the plain meaning of the language at issue to discern the legislative intent.").

Applying these rules to the CSPA, the court finds the phrase "property, both tangible and intangible" is not ambiguous, and in its "usual and accepted" meaning includes residential real property such as Lot 29.6 The Random House Dictionary includes the following in its definitions of "property": "that which a person owns; the possession or possessions of a particular owner ... a piece of land or real estate...." The Random House Dictionary of the English Language 1550 (2d unabr. ed. 1987). Black's Law Dictionary defines "tangible property" as "all property which is touchable and has real existence (physical) whether it is real or personal." Black's Law Dictionary 1218 (6th ed. 1990). Under these or any other commonly accepted definition of property, residential real estate, such as Lot 29, is within the meaning of "consumer transaction" as used in the CSPA. Therefore, even were the court to end its inquiry here, the court would conclude the CSPA applied to the transaction at issue.7

b. Legislative Definition of "Property"

While the Utah Legislature did not include a definition of "tangible property" in the CSPA's definition section, elsewhere the legislature has declared:

(2) In the construction of these statutes, the following definitions shall be observed, unless the definition would be
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