OGDEN — The Utah Supreme Court called for a new trial Friday in the case of a family suing Ogden City for negligence after two bystanders died during a police chase in 2005.
In the court opinion, written by Associate Chief Justice Ronald Nehring, the justices said that the lawyer for Ogden City violated court orders by asking inflammatory questions during the original trial, creating prejudice. They concluded that the trial court erred by not granting the family's request for a new trial and reversed the lower court's decision.
Justice Thomas Lee filed a dissenting opinion.
The suit against Ogden was filed by the family of Jessica Nelson, who, along with Philemon "Bob" Ellis, was killed when their vehicle was broadsided by a man being chased by an Ogden police officer. At the time, Nelson had an 18-month-old daughter, who is named as the plaintiff in the suit.
In the opinion filed Friday, the justices included a transcription of a portion of testimony in which, they say, the defense violated pre-trial orders by asking questions irrelevant to the case, such as speculation about where Ellis and Nelson were going and questions about Nelson's father.
The justices also "condemn" the conduct of Ogden's counsel, Heather White, during the lower court's proceedings.
"We admonish her during the retrial of this case to exercise hyper-vigilance in the cause of scrupulously avoiding improper questioning."