Hess vs. Johnson

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  • Topic: Marriage, Damages, Pleading
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  • Published : November 12, 2012
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This opinion is subject to revision before publication in the Pacific Reporter.

IN THE UTAH COURT OF APPEALS ----ooOoo---Layne D. Hess, an individual, Plaintiff, Appellant, and Cross-appellee, v. Jody Johnston, an individual, Defendant, Appellee, and Cross-appellant. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) OPINION (For Official Publication) Case No. 20060497-CA F I L E D (June 21, 2007) 2007 UT App 213

----Third District, Salt Lake Department, 050919801 The Honorable J. Dennis Frederick Attorneys: Paxton R. Guymon and Joel T. Zenger, Salt Lake City, for Appellant and Cross-appellee David W. Scofield, Salt Lake City, for Appellee and Cross-appellant ----Before Judges Davis, McHugh, and Orme. McHUGH, Judge: ¶1 Plaintiff Layne D. Hess appeals the trial court's order dismissing his complaint, with prejudice, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, see Utah R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). Defendant Jody Johnston cross-appeals, arguing that the trial court committed error when it denied her motion for sanctions under rule 11 of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure, see Utah R. Civ. P. 11. We affirm. BACKGROUND 1

In considering the correctness of an order dismissing a complaint, we assume the truthfulness of each of the facts alleged by plaintiff. See Oakwood Vill. L.L.C. v. Albertsons, Inc., 2004 UT 101,¶9, 104 P.3d 1226.


¶2 Hess and Johnston started dating in mid-April 2004 and within three months, they decided to marry. Johnston found an engagement ring she liked, and Hess commissioned a jeweler to craft one like it. The couple planned to marry sometime in November 2004, but mutually decided that they would take their time in planning the wedding to ensure their finances were in order. ¶3 About this time, Johnston told Hess that, during their engagement, she wanted to go on some trips and wanted Hess to have a vasectomy. Hess complied with these requests. Hess began by paying for the couple to take a seven-day cruise to Alaska at the end of July. In August, Hess underwent the vasectomy procedure requested by Johnston. And in September, after Johnston expressed an interest in traveling to France to introduce Hess to friends she had met while living there years earlier, Hess paid for the couple to travel to France for three weeks. Before leaving on the trip, Hess paid the balance on the custom engagement ring so that he could present Johnston with it while in France. After returning from France, Hess and Johnston twice rescheduled the wedding, first, from November 2004 to May 5, 2005, and then to July 9, 2005. In October 2004, Johnston also asked Hess to help purchase a vehicle for her son. Hess contributed $2400 toward the automobile. ¶4 In late April 2005, without any forewarning or explanation, Johnston returned the engagement ring to Hess and informed him that she would not be his wife. Hess attempted, numerous times, to obtain an explanation from Johnston, but she refused to offer any excuse for breaking off the engagement. ¶5 In November 2005, Hess brought suit against Johnston seeking restitution under four different legal theories: (1) conditional gift, (2) unjust enrichment, (3) promissory estoppel or reasonable reliance, and (4) breach of contract. Central to all the claims is the argument that but for Johnston's promise to marry him, Hess would not have paid for the engagement ring, the Alaskan cruise, the trip to France, or the vehicle for Johnston's son. Hess sought restitution in the form of reimbursement for Johnston's portion of the travel expenses, the medical costs of the vasectomy and a reversal procedure, the money given toward the vehicle, and the difference between the purchase price of the engagement ring and its eventual sale price. In response, Johnston sought sanctions under rule 11 of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure and moved to dismiss the complaint, with prejudice, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The trial court denied the motion for sanctions but dismissed...
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