Davidson v. Prince
813 P.2d 1225 (1991)

  • Prince was driving a truck filled with cows.  He crashed and the cows escaped.  The cows ran out into the road, and one of them attacked and injured Davidson.
  • Davidson sued Prince for negligence for releasing dangerous crazed cows into the road.
  • At trial, Davidson argued that he was about 40 feet away from the cow when it charged.
    • Forensic evidence estimated the distance at about 22 feet.
  • Prince attempted to introduce a letter written by Davidson to Prince, where he admitted that he was only about 10 feet away from the cow when it charged.
  •  The Trial Court found Prince negligent, but also found Davidson 40% at fault for cornering the cow that attacked him.  They awarded $27k in damages.  Davidson appealed.
    • Davidson argued that the letter was not admissible because it was part of a settlement negotiation.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court looked to Utah Rule 408 (identical to FRE 408), which basically says that offers to compromise or settle a case are not admissible.
    • However, the Appellate Court looked at the language in the letter Davidson had written and concluded that it was not an offer to compromise, but instead just an attempt to inform Prince of the facts of the accident.
      • The letter demanded payment in full and suggested that Davidson would not compromise one bit.
  • Basically, the rule is that if are trying to negotiate an out-of-court settlement, any statements you make in the course of that negotiations are inadmissible.  However, that doesn’t apply to all correspondence with the opposing party, just settlement negotiations.