District Court, Manti Department The Honorable Wallace A. Lee
Charles A. Gruber and David L. Morgan, Attorneys for
C. Trentadue, Noah M. Hoagland, and Britton R. Butterfield,
Attorneys for Appellee
Diana Hagen authored this Opinion, in which Judges Michele M.
Christiansen and Kate A. Toomey concurred.
This case arises from a tragic car accident that resulted in
the death of Brady Simons. Brady's parents, David and Allison
Simons (collectively, the Simonses), brought this wrongful
death action against Sanpete County in their capacities as
heirs and personal representatives of Brady's estate. The
district court granted summary judgment in favor of Sanpete
County, ruling that the county did not owe Brady a duty of
care. Because we conclude that the public duty doctrine
applies and that Sanpete County did not form a special
relationship with Brady, we affirm.
After a motorist hit and killed a deer on SR-89 outside of
Gunnison, Utah, she called Sanpete County's dispatch
center at 6:21 a.m. to report the incident and notify
authorities that the deer was lying in the middle of the
road. Unfortunately, Utah Highway Patrol-the agency
responsible for responding to such calls-never received
notification of this dangerous road condition.
At approximately 6:50 a.m., a second motorist, who was
driving northbound on SR-89, hit the deer carcass, causing
her vehicle to cross the center line and collide head-on with
Brady's vehicle. Both drivers died as a result of the
The Simonses sued Sanpete County,  alleging that
[b]ut for the negligence of [Sanpete County], the Second
Motorist would not have hit the dead deer carcass, would not
have lost control of her vehicle, would not have crossed over
into Brady's lane, and would not have collided with Brady
resulting in the Accident and serious injuries which took
Sanpete County filed a motion for summary judgment,
contending that the public duty doctrine bars the
Simonses' negligence claims as a matter of law. In
granting summary judgment, the district court concluded that
the public duty doctrine applies in this case because Sanpete
County's obligation to maintain its highways extends to
anyone who may travel on them, and its failure to remove the
deer carcass was an omission that did not contribute to the
danger that otherwise existed. In addition, the district
court determined that no special relationship had been
created by statute or by Sanpete County's conduct.
Accordingly, the court concluded that "the public duty
doctrine prevents [the Simonses'] recovery in this
The Simonses timely appeal.
AND STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Simonses contend that the district court erred in
granting summary judgment in favor of Sanpete County.
Specifically, the Simonses argue that (1) the public duty
doctrine is inapplicable because Sanpete County performed an
affirmative act when the dispatcher answered the warning call
and (2) upon learning of the dangerous road condition,