District Court, Silver Summit Department The Honorable Kara
Pettit No. 140500187
J. Porter, Kristen C. Kiburtz, and Edward T. Wells, Attorneys
Kristin A. VanOrman, S. Spencer Brown, and Jessica J.
Johnston, Attorneys for Appellee
David N. Mortensen authored this Opinion, in which Judges
Kate A. Toomey and Diana Hagen concurred.
In an effort to promote proportional discovery practices,
Utah adopted tier designations in 2011 whereby parties must
plead an amount of damages that correlates to one of three
specified tiers. These tier designations have far-reaching
effects on how parties handle discovery during a case.
Corresponding with this, tier designations also impose limits
on the amount of damages a plaintiff can ultimately recover.
Robert Pilot seeks to circumvent those intended effects after
trial by amending his original tier designation from Tier 2
to Tier 3, a change that would increase the amount of damages
he is entitled to recover. We affirm the trial court's
denial of his motion to amend.
Earl N. Hill's vehicle rear-ended Pilot's vehicle,
causing Pilot personal injuries. Pilot filed suit and
specifically pleaded, "This is a Tier II case." A
Tier 2 designation sets the range of damages between $50, 000
and less than $300, 000, Utah R. Civ. P. 26(c)(3), and limits
the amount of discovery the parties may conduct, id.
Before trial, Pilot's expert economist estimated that
Pilot's total economic damages were close to $1, 000, 000
and that his future wage loss was approximately $634, 000.
Nevertheless, the parties completed discovery and proceeded
to trial with no amendments to the original pleadings.
During a pretrial conference, the trial court attempted to
address the tier designation while working through the jury
instructions. The court asked, "And then this last thing
just to make sure that I guess I'm understanding how the
parties anticipate approaching the Tier 2 aspect of it. That
you just present your evidence and then if they come up with
a verdict of $300, 000 or more, it gets reduced?"
Hill's counsel responded, "Right, " while
Pilot's counsel responded, "Yeah, I think we deal
with that after trial."
At trial, Pilot's expert testified as expected with no
objection. The jury awarded $640, 989 in damages to Pilot.
Pilot then filed a motion to amend his pleading under rule
15(b) of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure, arguing that
"the issue of damages exceeding $299, 999 was tried by
implied consent." The trial court denied the motion,
ruling that Hill "had no reason to believe the evidence
presented by [Pilot's] expert was being introduced to
allow [Pilot] to recover damages above $300, 000, and was not
simply introduced to establish what, if any, injuries [Pilot]
suffered for purposes of recovering damages up to $299,
AND STANDARD OF REVIEW
Pilot challenges the trial court's denial of his rule