Orvis v. Johnson, No. 20061094.

CourtSupreme Court of Utah
Writing for the CourtWilkins
Citation177 P.3d 600,2008 UT 2
PartiesJayson ORVIS, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Jamis M. JOHNSON, Defendant and Petitioner.
Docket NumberNo. 20061094.
Decision Date15 January 2008
177 P.3d 600
2008 UT 2
Jayson ORVIS, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
Jamis M. JOHNSON, Defendant and Petitioner.
No. 20061094.
Supreme Court of Utah.
January 15, 2008.

Peggy A. Tomsic, Eric K. Schnibbe, Brandon G. Myers, Salt Lake City, for plaintiff.

[177 P.3d 601]

Jamis M. Johnson, Salt Lake City, pro se, defendant.

On Certiorari to the Utah Court of Appeals

WILKINS, Associate Chief Justice:


¶ 1 We granted certiorari on two questions: (1) whether the court of appeals correctly construed and applied the respective procedural burdens borne by opposing parties on summary judgment, and (2) whether the court of appeals correctly applied the summary judgment standard in this case. We conclude that the court of appeals misconstrued the initial procedural burden required on summary judgment. Because Jayson Orvis did not meet this initial burden, we also conclude that the court of appeals erred in affirming the trial court's grant of summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

¶ 2 Several years ago, the petitioner, Jamis Johnson, was sued by the Small Business Administration (the "SBA") on a matter unrelated to the present litigation. The SBA entered a judgment against Johnson for $260,000, and in post judgment proceedings he was deposed in an attempt to identify his assets for the purpose of satisfying the judgment. During that deposition, Johnson was asked whether he "ha[d] any interest in any partnerships" or "[a]ny interest in any limited liability companies." He answered both questions in the negative. The SBA was unable to collect the judgment, and eventually assigned it to a third party, which in turn assigned it to the respondent, Jayson Orvis.

¶ 3 In 2001, Johnson, claiming to have had a partnership with Orvis, demanded an accounting from the latter. Orvis responded by filing this suit seeking a declaratory judgment that he did not have a partnership obligation to Johnson as a consequence of Johnson's prior sworn testimony denying such a partnership existed. Johnson, in turn, filed a counterclaim against Orvis for an accounting based on the alleged partnership. Orvis then filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis that Johnson, because of his prior testimony at the SBA proceeding, should be judicially estopped from asserting any partnership interest with Orvis.

¶ 4 The trial court granted summary judgment for Orvis, agreeing that Johnson was judicially estopped from asserting a partnership interest with Orvis because of his prior inconsistent testimony. Based upon this ruling, the trial court also entered a declaratory judgment that Johnson had no partnership or interest in any of Orvis' businesses, and dismissed with prejudice Johnson's counterclaim against Orvis.

¶ 5 Johnson appealed the trial court's grant of summary judgment to the court of appeals, arguing that judicial estoppel did not apply and that summary judgment was therefore inappropriate. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's decision, holding that Orvis had met his summary judgment burden by "present[ing] sufficient evidence that no partnership interest existed because Johnson, in sworn testimony in a prior judicial proceeding, declared that he had no such interest." Orvis v. Johnson, 2006 UT App 394, ¶ 16, 146 P.3d 886. We granted certiorari review of that decision on two questions: (1) whether the court of appeals correctly construed and applied the respective procedural burdens borne by opposing parties on summary judgment, and (2) whether the court of appeals correctly applied the summary judgment standard in this case.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶ 6 On certiorari review, we review the court of appeals' decision for correctness. Massey v. Griffiths, 2007 UT 10, ¶ 8, 152 P.3d 312. The review focuses on whether the court of appeals correctly reviewed the trial court's decision—in this case, to grant summary judgment to Orvis—under the appropriate standard of review. Id. An appellate court reviews a trial court's "legal conclusions and ultimate grant or denial of summary judgment" for correctness, id., and views "the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Higgins v. Salt Lake County, 855 P.2d 231, 233 (Utah 1993).

177 P.3d 602
ANALYSIS

¶ 7 The court of appeals held that Orvis's motion for summary judgment was sufficient to satisfy his initial procedural burden, citing language from our decision in Waddoups v. Amalgamated Sugar Co., 2002 UT 69, 54 P.3d 1054. Orvis, 2006 UT App 394, ¶ 16. We said in Waddoups that "[o]nce the moving party challenges an element of the nonmoving party's case on the basis that no genuine issue of material fact exists, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to present evidence that is sufficient to establish a genuine issue of material fact." Waddoups, 2002 UT 69, ¶ 31. Waddoups, however, is properly distinguishable.

¶ 8 The key distinction between Waddoups and the present case is which party would have borne the burden of proof at trial on the relevant issue. In Waddoups, the moving party on summary judgment was challenging the plaintiffs' case by claiming that the plaintiffs did not have sufficient evidence to support their claim. We held that the plaintiff, who would have borne the burden of proof on the relevant issue at trial, upon such a challenge must provide affirmative evidence sufficient to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Id. ¶¶ 31, 33-34.

¶ 9 In the present case, however, Orvis was not seeking to challenge Johnson's case by claiming that Johnson lacked evidence to support his assertions of a partnership— rather, Orvis sought to establish, via judicial estoppel, that Johnson should be prevented from presenting evidence that a partnership existed. It is thus Orvis who, at trial, would have the burden of proof on the relevant issue: whether the necessary facts exist to support application of judicial estoppel. The burden of proof was on the nonmoving party in Waddoups. In the present case it is Orvis, the moving party, who bears the burden. As a result, Orvis also had the obligation to establish the essential facts necessary to support his claim in order to justify judgment in his favor.

¶ 10 A summary judgment movant must show both that there is no material issue of fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Utah R. Civ. P. 56(c). Where the moving party would bear the burden of proof at trial, the movant must establish each element of his claim in order to show that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In order to meet his initial burden on summary judgment, therefore, Orvis must present evidence sufficient to establish that judicial estoppel is appropriate under the facts of the case, and that no material issues of fact remain. The burden on summary judgment then shifts to the nonmoving party to identify contested material facts, or legal flaws in the application of judicial estoppel.

¶ 11 The elements of judicial estoppel are: (1) the prior and subsequent litigation involve the same parties or their privies; (2) the prior and subsequent litigation involve the same subject matter; (3) the prior position was "successfully maintained"; and (4) the party seeking judicial estoppel has relied upon the prior testimony "and changed his position by reason of it."1 Tracy Loan & Trust Co. v. Openshaw Inv. Co., 102 Utah 509, 132 P.2d 388, 390 (1942).

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264 practice notes
  • Widdison v. State, No. 20161043
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • April 29, 2021
    ...a particular precedent outdated"). 37. See Salo v. Tyler, 2018 UT 7, ¶ 2, 417 P.3d 581 ("disavow[ing] any suggestion" in Orvis v. Johnson, 2008 UT 2, 177 P.3d 600 "that our Utah [summary judgment] standard is distinct from the federal standard" because "confusion ha[d] continued" in spite o......
  • Jenkins v. Jordan Valley Water Conservancy Dist., Case No. 20100400-CA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • January 6, 2012
    ...to judgment as a matter of law and that there are no material issues of fact that would require resolution at trial," see Orvis v. Johnson, 2008 UT 2, ¶ 19, 177 P.3d 600. In support of its motion for summary judgment, the District provided a detailed affidavit from Alan Packard, the Distric......
  • Patterson v. State, 20180108
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • August 26, 2021
    ...constitutional claims. STANDARD OF REVIEW ¶27 We review a district court's grant of summary judgment for correctness. Orvis v. Johnson, 2008 UT 2, ¶ 6, 177 P.3d 600. "A district court should grant summary judgment only when, viewing all facts and reasonable inferences therefrom in the light......
  • Forsberg v. Bovis Lend Lease, Inc., No. 20070338-CA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • April 24, 2008
    ...and views the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Orvis v. Johnson, 2008 UT 2, ¶ 6, 177 P.3d 600 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Each issue raised by the Funds involves a question of law, and we therefore ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
263 cases
  • Widdison v. State, No. 20161043
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • April 29, 2021
    ...a particular precedent outdated"). 37. See Salo v. Tyler, 2018 UT 7, ¶ 2, 417 P.3d 581 ("disavow[ing] any suggestion" in Orvis v. Johnson, 2008 UT 2, 177 P.3d 600 "that our Utah [summary judgment] standard is distinct from the federal standard" because "confusion ha[d] continued" in spite o......
  • Jenkins v. Jordan Valley Water Conservancy Dist., Case No. 20100400-CA
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • January 6, 2012
    ...to judgment as a matter of law and that there are no material issues of fact that would require resolution at trial," see Orvis v. Johnson, 2008 UT 2, ¶ 19, 177 P.3d 600. In support of its motion for summary judgment, the District provided a detailed affidavit from Alan Packard, the Distric......
  • Patterson v. State, 20180108
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • August 26, 2021
    ...constitutional claims. STANDARD OF REVIEW ¶27 We review a district court's grant of summary judgment for correctness. Orvis v. Johnson, 2008 UT 2, ¶ 6, 177 P.3d 600. "A district court should grant summary judgment only when, viewing all facts and reasonable inferences therefrom in the light......
  • Forsberg v. Bovis Lend Lease, Inc., No. 20070338-CA.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • April 24, 2008
    ...and views the facts and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Orvis v. Johnson, 2008 UT 2, ¶ 6, 177 P.3d 600 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Each issue raised by the Funds involves a question of law, and we therefore ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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