Orvis v. Johnson

Decision Date15 January 2008
Docket NumberNo. 20061094.,20061094.
Citation177 P.3d 600,2008 UT 2
PartiesJayson ORVIS, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Jamis M. JOHNSON, Defendant and Petitioner.
CourtUtah Supreme Court

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).

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).

¶ 12 In his memorandum supporting his motion for summary judgment, the only facts asserted by Orvis to support his judicial estoppel theory are two partial quotations from the record of the SBA proceeding. Orvis provided no evidence to show that the elements of judicial estoppel had been satisfied; in fact, Orvis did not even allege that those elements had been met. Instead, Orvis sought to establish judicial estoppel through an alternative theory—which is, simply, that a party may not take inconsistent positions in prior and subsequent litigation. In some other jurisdictions that might be enough.2 Under our law, however, judicial estoppel only applies when all elements are met.3 More is required than a mere showing of an inconsistent statement at a prior judicial proceeding.4 Because Orvis did not offer the necessary evidence to show that all of the elements of judicial estoppel were met, he failed to meet his initial procedural burden on summary judgment. The court of appeals therefore erred in holding to the contrary.

¶ 13 Summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Utah R. Civ. P. 56(c). Orvis's motion for summary judgment failed to establish the necessary elements of judicial estoppel, and thus did not show that he was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Summary judgment in his favor was therefore inappropriate.

¶ 14 We admit that our cases may have generated confusion as to the respective procedural burdens of parties on summary judgment, specifically where the movant is challenging whether the nonmoving party has sufficient evidence to prove the nonmoving party's claims at trial.5 The case before us differs in that Orvis as the movant was relying on the merits of his own claim, not a failure in the claim of the nonmoving party. Relying on his own claim carries with it the burden of establishing a factual basis for judgment. However, when the moving party seeks to defeat the nonmoving party on the nonmoving party's claim, the procedural burdens shift. In order to resolve any confusion, we address the issue here.

¶ 15 The root of this confusion lies in Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In Celotex, the Court held that a party seeking summary judgment did not always need to adduce factual evidence by affidavit in order to meet their initial procedural burden. See Celotex, ...

To continue reading

Request your trial
274 cases
  • Widdison v. State
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • April 29, 2021
    ......37 See Salo v. Tyler , 2018 UT 7, ¶ 2, 417 P.3d 581 ("disavow[ing] any suggestion" in Orvis...37 See Salo v. Tyler , 2018 UT 7, ¶ 2, 417 P.3d 581 ("disavow[ing] any suggestion" in Orvis v. Johnson......
  • Patterson v. State
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • August 26, 2021
    ......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 ......
  • Fire Ins. Exch. v. Oltmanns
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Utah
    • February 28, 2018
    ...reviewed the trial court’s decision [to grant summary judgment to Fire Insurance] under the appropriate standard of review." Orvis v. Johnson , 2008 UT 2, ¶ 6, 177 P.3d 600 (citation omitted). "We review the district court’s grant of summary judgment for correctness." Torian v. Craig, 2012 ......
  • Jenkins v. Jordan Valley Water Conservancy Dist.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Utah
    • July 19, 2012
    ......Salt Lake City, 919 P.2d 568, 575 (Utah 1996), courts “read the discretionary function exception to the immunity waiver narrowly,” Johnson v. Utah Dep't of Transp., 2006 UT 15, ¶¶ 19, 21, 133 P.3d 402. Furthermore, “[i]mmunity is an affirmative defense which the defendant bears the ... [it] is entitled 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 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • Living With Twombly
    • United States
    • Utah State Bar Utah Bar Journal No. 22-2, April 2009
    • Invalid date
    ...of Civil Procedure is Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (1986). But Celotex is not law in Utah. See Orvis v. Johnson, 2008 UT 2, ¶¶ 15-16, 177 P.3d 600. In Orvis, the Utah Supreme Court expressly noted that Utah summary judgment standards differ from the federal standar......
  • Bankruptcy Filings and Civil Litigation -judicial Estoppel in Action
    • United States
    • Utah State Bar Utah Bar Journal No. 24-6, December 2011
    • Invalid date
    ...at 1160. In Utah, state courts have held similarly. Notable cases involving bankruptcy and/or judicial estoppel include Orvis v. Johnson, 2008 UT 2, ¶¶ 11-12, 177 P.3d 600 (providing an excellent analysis on the elements of judicial estoppel and noting that more than a prior inconsistent st......
  • Utah Law Developments Appellate Highlights
    • United States
    • Utah State Bar Utah Bar Journal No. 31-3, June 2018
    • Invalid date
    ...or face liability under § 1692e. Salo v. Tyler, 2018 UT 7 (Feb. 22, 2018) The Court disavowed any prior suggestion in Orvis v. Johnson, 2008 UT 2, that the Utah summary judgment standard is distinct from the federal standard stated in Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986), and held ......

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