Law School Case Brief
Whyte v. Blair - 885 P.2d 791 (Utah Sup.Ct. 1994)
Utah Code Ann. § 30-1-4.5 clearly directs that a court or administrative order may establish that a marriage was previously entered into and that it was lawful as of that time. Utah Code Ann. § 30-1-4.5(2) states that the court or administrative order must be entered within one year following the termination of that relationship. An order that recognizes a marriage and is entered after the relationship has terminated must, by necessity, recognize that the marriage existed before the order was entered. Thus, the order merely recognizes that a woman and a man have by their prior consent and conduct entered into a marital relationship, although it was not theretofore formally solemnized or otherwise legally recognized. Section 30-1-4.5 declares that such a marriage is valid despite not having been solemnized. Thus, if the elements of § 30-1-4.5 subsections (1)(a) through (e) are established, then a lawful marriage may be found to have existed prior to the entry of the order by a court or administrative body.
Plaintiff claimant lived with his wife for three years before he was injured in an automobile accident; however, the marriage was never solemnized. Following the automobile accident, the claimant filed a claim with defendant insurance company asserting that he was lawfully married to his wife and was covered under her auto insurance policy as a member of her family and, after the company rejected the claim, filed an action to recover. The the Salt Lake County Third District Court (Utah), denied the claimant's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the insurance company. Plaintiff sought appellate review.
Did the trial court err when it required good cause to have been shown to enter an order recognizing plaintiff claimant's marriage?
The court held that Utah Code Ann. § 30-1-4.5 permitted an order to establish that a lawful marriage existed prior to the entry of a court or administrative order. The court held that good cause need not have been shown for the trial court to have entered an order recognizing the claimant's marriage because his relationship with his wife satisfied the requirements of Utah Code Ann. § 30-1-4.5(1)(a)-(e), and the order was not a nunc pro tunc order, but an order merely adjudicating a prior judicial fact or status. The court reversed the trial court's judgment.
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