District Court, Provo Department The Honorable Derek P.
Pullan No. 140400338
E. Burdsal and Hutch U. Fale, Attorneys for Appellant.
R. Skeen, Attorney for Appellee.
Stephen L. Roth authored this Opinion, in which Judges
Gregory K. Orme and J. Frederic Voros Jr. concurred.
Nani Nau appeals the district court's grant of summary
judgment in favor of Safeco Insurance Company of Illinois
(Safeco) on his uninsured motorist claim. We affirm.
In February 2014, Mr. Nau was driving in the far left lane of
I-15 near Draper, Utah when his tire ruptured. He lost
control of the vehicle and crashed into the median, suffering
According to Mr. Nau, the tire ruptured because he ran over
debris in the road that looked like a piece of concrete,
rubber, or carpet approximately two to three feet wide. Mr.
Nau's wife was also in the vehicle at the time of the
crash, but she was not looking at the road and therefore did
not see the debris. Nevertheless, she recalled hearing her
husband exclaim, "oh, " and feeling the car run
over something just before he lost control of the vehicle.
Mr. Nau filed a claim with his insurance agency, Safeco,
pursuant to the uninsured motorist provisions of his
insurance policy under the theory that an unidentified
motorist was the cause of the debris on the highway and thus
the cause of the accident. Safeco denied the claim, and Mr.
Nau filed a complaint in district court.
Safeco moved for summary judgment on the ground that Mr. Nau
could not meet his burden of proof under Utah law. Mr. Nau
responded that his and his wife's statements together
raised a genuine issue of fact as to whether there was debris
on the road and that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur should
be applied to establish the inference that the debris was
left by an uninsured motor vehicle.
The district court granted Safeco's motion for summary
judgment, concluding that the evidence was speculative as to
whether there was debris on the road and as to whether it was
left by an uninsured motor vehicle. Mr. Nau appeals.
"We review a district court's grant of summary
judgment for correctness, giving no deference to its
conclusions of law. Summary judgment is appropriate when
there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the
moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of
law." Flowell Elec. Ass'n, Inc. v. Rhodes Pump,
LLC, 2015 UT 87, ¶ 8, 361 P.3d 91 (citations and
internal quotation marks omitted).
For purposes of our analysis, we assume that Mr. Nau's
and his wife's statements raised a genuine issue of
material fact as to the existence of the
debris. However, because we conclude that Mr.
Nau's evidence could not establish that the debris was
left by an uninsured motorist under the doctrine of res ipsa
loquitur, we ultimately affirm the grant of summary judgment
in favor of Safeco.
Under Utah law, the definition of an "uninsured motor
vehicle" includes "an unidentified motor vehicle
that left the scene of an accident proximately caused by the
motor vehicle operator." Utah Code Ann. §
31A-22-305(2)(b) (LexisNexis 2014). However, to prove that
such a vehicle caused an accident, the claimant must
"show the existence of the uninsured motor vehicle by
clear and convincing evidence ...