Thompson E. Fehr, Appellant,
John H. Stockton, Appellee.
District Court, Ogden Department The Honorable Ernest W.
Jones No. 150903545
Thompson E. Fehr and John T. Anderson, Attorneys for
Margaret H. Olson, Attorney for Appellee
Jill M. Pohlman authored this Opinion, in which Judge Diana
Hagen concurred. Judge Gregory K. Orme concurred, with
Thompson E. Fehr appeals the district court's order
dismissing with prejudice his complaint filed against John H.
Stockton. Fehr also seeks review of the district court's
judgment awarding attorney fees to Stockton. We reverse the
dismissal, vacate the attorney fees award, and remand for
Fehr alleges that he performed legal services for Stockton
pursuant to an oral agreement between Fehr and Stockton's
agent. Specifically, Fehr claims Stockton retained him on an
hourly basis to protect Stockton's intellectual property
through the filing and prosecution of several patent
applications concerning a retractable hose extension for a
vacuum. Fehr characterized his method of accounting as an
"open account," whereby he would enter (1) debits
on the account as he performed legal services and paid patent
maintenance fees for Stockton, and (2) credits on the account
as he received payments from Stockton or Stockton's
agent. Fehr alleges that he performed legal services for
Stockton "[b]eginning on or about January 7, 2003, and
continuing through January 20, 2015," and that he
"periodically provided [Stockton] invoices showing fees
earned, costs advanced, and payments received." The
district court reasonably inferred from these allegations
that Fehr sent Stockton "periodic invoices from
2003-2015." See generally Hudgens v. Prosper,
Inc., 2010 UT 68, ¶ 14, 243 P.3d 1275 (indicating
that in ruling on a motion to dismiss, courts draw "all
reasonable inferences [from the complaint's allegations]
in the light most favorable to the plaintiff" (quotation
In June 2015, Fehr sued Stockton to collect amounts he claims
are due and owing under the parties' alleged oral
agreement. He asserted a claim for breach of contract and
alternative claims for quantum meruit.
In response, Stockton moved to dismiss the complaint. He
argued that Fehr's claim for breach of an oral contract
was barred by the four-year statute of limitations applicable
to oral contracts. Similarly, Stockton argued that the
doctrine of laches barred Fehr's equitable claims.
Stockton also argued that the parties' alleged oral
agreement "is void under the statute of frauds"
because, by its alleged terms, it could not be performed
within one year. See Utah Code Ann. §
25-5-4(1)(a) (LexisNexis 2013). Finally, Stockton argued that
Fehr brought the suit in bad faith and requested that the
court award him attorney fees under Utah's bad faith
attorney fees statute, Utah Code section 78B-5-825.
The district court granted Stockton's motion to dismiss
with prejudice. It concluded that Fehr's complaint was
time-barred because his arrangement with Stockton pursuant to
the parties' alleged oral contract did "not meet the
definition of [an] open account." The court further
concluded, without discussion, that the complaint was
"barred by the . . . statute of frauds." The court
did not separately address Fehr's equitable claims or
Stockton's arguments that the claims were barred by the
After further briefing and in a separate order, the court
granted Stockton's motion for bad faith attorney fees
under section 78B-5-825. The court found that the case
"was without merit, frivolous and had little or no
weight in law or fact," and that Fehr "lacked
subjective good faith in filing the case."
Fehr filed a timely notice of appeal, claiming error in the
dismissal of his claims with prejudice and in the ...