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Luna v. Luna

Court of Appeals of Utah

April 11, 2019

Luis Luna, Appellant,
v.
Maria Luna, Appellee.

          Third District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable James D. Gardner No. 160903176

          Daniel F. Bertch, Attorney for Appellant

          Joel D. Taylor and Matthew D. Church, Attorneys for Appellee

          Judge Ryan M. Harris authored this Opinion, in which Judges Kate Appleby and Jill M. Pohlman concurred.

          HARRIS, JUDGE.

         ¶1 While giving her brother Luis Luna (Luna) a ride to work, Maria Luna (Sister) was involved in an automobile accident in which Luna was injured. Luna sued Sister for negligence, yet during depositions testified unequivocally that the traffic light was green in Sister's favor. Sister contends-and we agree-that this testimony constitutes a binding judicial admission that Luna cannot contest at trial, and we therefore conclude that the district court properly entered partial summary judgment against Luna on the issue of whether the light was green. While this fact alone does not entitle Sister to complete summary judgment, the court's entry of judgment in Sister's favor was appropriate on the facts of this case, where Luna produced no evidence of negligence other than potential testimony about the color of the traffic light. We therefore affirm the district court's summary judgment order, as well as a challenged discovery order.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 Sister was giving Luna a ride to work one morning when their vehicle was struck by another driver (Driver) at an intersection controlled by a traffic light. Because Driver and Sister each entered the intersection perpendicular to one another, the light could not have been green for both of them. Luna sustained injuries from the accident, and eventually brought suit against both Driver and Sister for negligence and other related claims. In his complaint, Luna alleged that Driver had caused the accident by running a red light or, in the alternative, that Sister had caused the accident by running a red light. Luna also alleged that both drivers had failed to maintain a proper lookout and failed to yield to the other vehicle.

         ¶3 All parties to the suit were deposed, and Sister and Driver each testified that they had the green light when they entered the intersection. Luna was deposed twice and, during each deposition, his testimony was given through a Spanish-language interpreter. Each time, he testified-repeatedly-that the light was green for Sister when she entered the intersection. At his first deposition, he testified as follows:

Q. Did you see the color of the light as you were entering the intersection?
A. Yes. It was green.
Q. How long had the light been green before you entered the intersection?
A. Since we went through it until it hit us.
Q. How many seconds had the light been green before you entered the intersection?
A. I would not be able to tell you.
. . . .
Q. You don't know how far back you were from the intersection when you first noticed the color of the light?
A. I will repeat myself. It was green when we went through it.
. . . .
Q. So what I want to know is exactly where was your car in relation to the intersection when you first noticed the color of the light. . . . I'm just trying to figure out where you were when you first noticed the light.
A. Well we saw it-we were driving, we saw that it was green, and when we passed through the intersection it was already green. We were okay.
. . . .
Q. Was the light always green from the moment that you first saw it until the moment of the impact?
A. Yes.

         ¶4 Three weeks later, Luna was again deposed. Though he stated that he did not give the road the same attention as he would have had he been the one behind the wheel, he again emphasized that the light was green when Sister entered the intersection:

Q. Now based on your previous testimony the last time we were here, you were absolutely adamant that the light was green as you proceeded through the intersection; is that correct?
A. Yes.
. . . .
Q. You were in the car the day the accident happened; correct?
A. Yes, of course.
Q. You saw the light was green as you were going through the intersection; correct?
A. Well, I'll tell you again, yes, I was looking, but I wasn't looking to see who else was looking. I was merely focused on the idea that I was headed to work. So I'll tell you again, all I had on my mind was what I would be doing when I got to work, and that's what occupied my thinking. . . . Any ...

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