Jenkins v. Weis

Decision Date07 January 1994
Docket NumberNo. 920652-CA,920652-CA
Citation868 P.2d 1374
PartiesLynn A. JENKINS, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Elaine B. WEIS, Defendant and Appellee.
CourtUtah Court of Appeals


Appellant Lynn Jenkins brought an action against Elaine Weis for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy. Jenkins appeals the jury verdict in favor of Weis. He also challenges several rulings by the trial court. We affirm.


On January 16, 1987, a local television station aired a story concerning Utah's thrift crisis, which involved the insolvency of several savings and loan institutions in Utah along with state-owned corporations that guaranteed their deposits. The broadcast included the following portions of a pre-taped interview with Elaine Weis, Commissioner of Financial Institutions:

MICHELLE KING: Neither depositors nor state officials are happy about this latest turn of events. It's sure to strain even further the already difficult relations between both sides. As KUTV's Rick Shenkman reports the controversy has now turned openly bitter, pitting the key leader of depositors against Financial Commissioner Elaine Weis.

RICK SHENKMAN: They were never friendly but now they're virtual enemies. Elaine Weis, Commissioner of Financial Institutions, Lynn Jenkins, one of the key leaders of the thrift depositors.

LYNN JENKINS: I don't like the word "liar." I like to just say that she has been less than honest. There has been a complete conspiracy of silence by the Commissioner in the financial institution [sic] since the day she came on board.

ELAINE WEIS: I would feel sorry for Lynn Jenkins because I think he's a mentally deranged person.

RICK SHENKMAN: From the beginning of the thrift controversy it was almost certain to turn bitter. The state says depositors should only receive between 27 cents and 68 cents on the dollar, depositors feel the state set up the now-defunct corporation that was supposed to guarantee their money, but no one could have predicted that it would get this bad.

ELAINE WEIS: In my opinion, he's a paranoid schizophrenic, and I would feel sorry for him, but he's such a vicious, vicious person that I can't and I wish I could.

LYNN JENKINS: I need Commissioner Elaine Weis under oath because she fails to live up to anything that she says verbally. She needs to be more forthright and honest with the people.

ELAINE WEIS: I hope he's not prone to violence because I really am afraid, of some, a, you know, not attack on me but my family.

LYNN JENKINS: I have never had a violent record in my life. She has nothing to fear from me except for the truth.

In April 1987, Jenkins filed a complaint against Weis alleging defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy based on the above remarks. On May 29, 1990, Weis filed a motion for designation of Jenkins as a public figure. On May 31, 1990, the trial court ruled by minute entry that Jenkins was a public figure. The case was tried before a jury and after Jenkins presented his evidence and rested his case, Weis moved for a directed verdict. The parties argued the motion and the court ruled. As part of its ruling, the court, on its own motion, dismissed Jenkins's claims of invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Weis presented her evidence, including several witnesses who testified concerning Jenkins's behavior.

The jury returned a verdict of no cause of action on the defamation claim, finding that although Weis had published defamatory statements about Jenkins, the statements were true. After entry of judgment, Jenkins's motions for new trial and judgment notwithstanding the verdict were denied. Jenkins appeals.


Jenkins claims the trial court improperly: (1) determined that he was a public figure; (2) dismissed two of his causes of action sua sponte; (3) submitted erroneous jury instructions; (4) allowed the state attorney general's office to represent Weis and allowed members of the attorney general's staff to testify at trial; and (5) decided pretrial motions within five days of trial.

Public Figure Ruling

Jenkins claims the trial court improperly determined he was a public figure. Weis claims that even if the trial court improperly determined Jenkins was a public figure, its ruling was harmless and thus, should not be disturbed. See Utah R.Civ.P. 61 (1992); Huston v. Lewis, 818 P.2d 531, 533 (Utah 1991); State v. Verde, 770 P.2d 116, 120 (Utah 1989); Steffensen v. Smith's Management Corp., 820 P.2d 482, 489 (Utah App.1992), aff'd, 862 P.2d 1342 (Utah 1993). We agree.

An error is harmful only if there is a "reasonable likelihood that the error affected the outcome of the proceedings." Steffensen, 820 P.2d at 489. The jury found that Weis's statements were true and truth is an absolute defense to a defamation claim. Brehany v. Nordstrom, Inc., 812 P.2d 49, 57 (Utah 1991). Thus, regardless of whether Jenkins is a public figure, if Weis's statements were true, Jenkins has no claim for defamation. Accordingly, a ruling that Jenkins was not a public figure would not have changed the outcome of the trial and any error by the trial court in its public figure ruling would be harmless.

In the middle of Jenkins's public figure argument in his brief, he alleges that all testimony was opinion testimony and was "not supported by any scientific conclusion or expert testimony." The dissent takes this statement and completely recasts Jenkins's public figure argument into a challenge to the sufficiency of evidence supporting the jury verdict that Weis's defamatory statements were true. The dissent states that "Jenkins asserts that there is no evidence" to support the verdict of truth. (Emphasis added.)

That statement is contrary to the assertions that Jenkins makes in his brief albeit in his "public figure" argument. Jenkins asserts in his brief that "it must be pointed out that all testimony [to support the truth of the statements] was opinion and not supported by any scientific conclusion or expert testimony." Further, Jenkins states that "[i]t is beyond the stretch of imagination in reviewing [Weis's] statements to conclude that [the statements] were proven truthful based on the opinions of the witnesses who were called to testify." Jenkins does not say there is no evidence; he says evidence exists but he does not believe it because it is not scientific or expert. 2 Neither Jenkins nor the dissent cites any legal authority to support the conclusion that the jury could not consider testimony of lay persons regarding the truth of the statements. 3

Although Jenkins failed to supply us with a transcript of any of the trial proceedings or testimony (an indication that he was not making a direct challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, because we need a transcript to review the evidence on such a challenge), he did insert in his brief a summary of the trial testimony supporting the truth of Weis's statements. This evidentiary summary was prepared by Weis's counsel in connection with the post-trial motions and is found in the record on appeal. Moreover, in Jenkins's brief he "accepts the summary of the witnesses' testimony which was submitted." Accordingly, we set forth his evidentiary summary in full:

"I hope he's not prone to violence because I really am afraid, of a, you know, not attack on me but my family."

1. Weis testified that she observed Jenkins express anger and rage in her presence.

2. Weis testified that Jenkins verbally abused her secretary at the Department of Financial Institutions.

3. Weis testified that Jenkins publicly accused her of being a criminal at the October, 1986 meeting of the depositors of the failed thrifts.

4. Jenkins and others stated that Jenkins sought the excommunication of Assistant Attorney General Bryce Pettey and attorney Don Allen from the L.D.S. Church.

5. Jenkins sought a criminal investigation of Elaine Weis.

6. Robert Eves testified that Jenkins slandered the title to property his company sought to develop.

7. Weis and George Sutton testified about incidents in which security guards were called to Department of Financial Institutions offices to deal with Jenkins.

8. Weis, Allen and Pettey all testified they feared Jenkins would harm their families.

9. Jenkins called Weis a criminal on the April 1986 KTKK radio broadcast.

10. An employee of the Utah Lt. Governor's office required Jenkins to bring a security guard with him when he visited the office.

"I think he's a mentally deranged person. "

Weis testified that by saying this she meant Jenkins had disorganized thinking. The following is evidence that demonstrates the truth of that statement.

1. Weis testified that Jenkins' writings were incomprehensible.

2. Weis testified that Jenkins' plan to reorganize the failed thrifts violated every banking canon.

3. George Sutton testified that Jenkins is irrational and crazy.

4. Robert Eves testified that Jenkins is an "angry kook" and is the kind of person who tells himself the same story so many times that he starts to believe it.

5. Don Allen testified that Jenkins cannot process information without twisting facts and attacking people.

6. Jenkins was given opportunity to receive title to the house he lost in foreclosure but refused the offer on principle.

7. Jenkins buried his invented satellite dish in a garbage dump to preserve the secrecy of the invention.

8. At a time Jenkins was in default on his house mortgage he settled a property dispute and recovered $80,000. He invested the $80,000 in a business, Iron Star Manufacturing, instead of curing the default. He eventually abandoned the business a...

To continue reading

Request your trial
8 cases
  • Miller v. Miller
    • United States
    • Utah Court of Appeals
    • December 24, 2020 considering a given course of action, and the losing party is not allowed to be heard thereon." Jenkins v. Weis , 868 P.2d 1374, 1383 (Utah Ct. App. 1994) (Bench, J., dissenting). In other words, "[t]imely and adequate notice and an opportunity to be heard in a meaningful way are the ver......
  • Gilbert Dev. Corp.. v. Wardley Corp..
    • United States
    • Utah Court of Appeals
    • December 16, 2010
    ...even if the fraudulent nondisclosure claim had been presented to the jury, the result would have been the same. Cf. Jenkins v. Weis, 868 P.2d 1374, 1376 (Utah Ct.App.1994) (holding that even if the trial court erroneously determined that the plaintiff was a public figure, the error was harm......
  • Skultin et al. v. Bushnell et al.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Utah
    • January 28, 2000
    ...failure to satisfy the Utah Governmental Immunity Act). See also Ankers v. Rodman, 995 F.Supp. 1329 (D.Utah 1997); C.P. Jenkins v. Weis, 868 P.2d 1374, 1375 (Utah App.1994). However, accepting the viability of the claim, the plaintiffs' occupational activity is irrelevant and prejudicial to......
  • State v. Hegbloom
    • United States
    • Utah Court of Appeals
    • September 11, 2014
    ...of a probation extension hearing, the district court lacked the authority to extend the defendant's probation); Jenkins v. Weis, 868 P.2d 1374, 1383 (Utah Ct.App.1994) (holding void, on direct appeal, a district court's sua sponte dismissal of a cause of action without notice or hearing); R......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • Utah Standards of Appellate Review
    • United States
    • Utah State Bar Utah Bar Journal No. 7-8, October 1994
    • Invalid date
    ...(issues of bias or prejudice by trial court must be raised by affidavit before trial judge to preserve them for appeal); Jenkins v. Weis, 868 P.2d 1374, 1379 (Utah App. 1994) (failure to properly object to jury instructions bars appellant from raising issue on appeal); Rangel, 866 P.2d at 6......
  • Article Title: Affirming the Untested - Affirming a Trial Court Based on Issues Raised Sua Sponte
    • United States
    • Utah State Bar Utah Bar Journal No. 2001-10, October 2001
    • Invalid date
    ...out and deciding an issue that would be otherwise dead. . . ." Girard v. Appleby, 660 P.2d 245, 247 (Utah 1983); accord Jenkins v. Weis, 868 P.2d 1374, 1383 (Utah Ct. 1994) (Bench, J., dissenting). Although one may question the wisdom of adherence to the adversarial system, the system has l......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT