Christenson v. Michel

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Christenson v. Michel, Case No. 20000781-CA, Filed July 27, 2001 IN THE UTAH COURT OF APPEALS


Richard Christenson,
Plaintiff and Appellant,


Uwe Michel, et al.,
Defendants and Appellees.

(Not For Official Publication)

Case No. 20000781-CA

July 27, 2001 2001 UT App 231 -----

Third District, Salt Lake Department
The Honorable David S. Young

Denver C. Snuffer, Jr., Sandy, for Appellant
Bruce J. Nelson and Bradley R. Helsten, Salt Lake City, for Appellees


Before Judges Jackson, Orme, and Thorne.

ORME, Judge:

As plaintiff in this action, appellant necessarily has standing to complain about the scope of the judgment entered. However, appellant wholly fails to demonstrate that the language in the judgment concerning the rights of the other defendants is incorrect. Accordingly, we decline to disturb that aspect of the judgment, but note that the rights of any named defendant not actually served or otherwise properly made a party to the action cannot be prejudiced by the judgment. Such defendants, of course, retain the ability to collaterally challenge the judgment. See PGM, Inc. v. Westchester Inv. Partners, Ltd., 2000 UT App 20,¶¶4-5, 995 P.2d 1252 (explaining that collateral attack of a judgment is available to persons and entities not parties to action and not in privity with a party); Taylor v. Barker, 70 Utah 534, 539, 262 P. 266, 267 (1927) ("The law is well settled that as a general rule a judgment is effective only between the parties to the action and their privies, and that no rights whatever, either in favor or against strangers to the judgment, are acquired, lost, or affected by reason of the judgment.").

Appellant's challenge to the attorney fee award is well-taken. Appellee's fee application was simply not in accordance with the requirements of Dixie State Bank v. Bracken, 764 P.2d 985, 990 (Utah 1988). In Dixie State Bank, the Utah Supreme Court explained that the trial court's "award of attorney fees must be supported by evidence in the record." Id. at 988. The trial court should be able to ascertain the following from the affidavit or other evidence provided: 1. What legal work was actually performed?

2. How much of the work performed was reasonably necessary to adequately prosecute the matter?

3. Is the attorney's billing rate consistent with the rates customarily charged in the locality for similar services?

4. Are there circumstances which require consideration of additional factors, including those listed in the Code of Professional Responsibility? Id. at 990 (footnotes omitted).

In the present case, appellee failed to provide the trial court with the information that would allow it to answer at least the first and second questions. The affidavit that appellee provided to the court fails to describe in reasonable detail the work performed and the hours spent on each task. Without this information, the trial court is wholly unable to determine how many of the hours logged were reasonably necessary to accomplish work that was appropriate to the efficient and proper prosecution of this lawsuit.

Accordingly, we vacate the award of attorney fees and remand for reconsideration of attorney fees once appellee has submitted an adequately detailed application, as contemplated by Dixie State Bank. See id. at 990.

Gregory K. Orme, Judge -----


Norman H. Jackson,
Associate Presiding Judge

William A. Thorne, Jr., Judge