Case Summary: Wonzie Barrientos v. Matt Jones, Ogden City, et al.
Posted on Aug. 17, 2012

How far can an attorney go in attacking a person’s character in a case?  The Utah Supreme Court considered that in the recent case Wonzie Barrientos v. Matt Jones, Ogden City, et al.

Wonzie Barrientos is the young daughter of Jessica Nelson. On a fateful night in December 2005, Bob Ellis, an older man, phoned Jessica at her step-mother’s house and asked her for a ride. Jessica agreed.

Nearly four hours later, elsewhere in the city of Ogden, Officer Matt Jones became suspicious that Eddie Bustos had visited a “drug house.” Officer Jones believed that he saw Eddie commit several traffic offenses, so he turned on his lights and sirens. Eddie did not stop. For more than a mile, Jones pursued Eddie through Ogden at high speeds. Twice, Jones’ commander ordered him to stop the chase.   Shortly after the second command, Jones slowed, but seconds later, Eddie ran a red light and his car slammed into Jessica and Bob’s car. Jessica was killed.

High speed police chases through densely populated areas have sometimes ended tragically for innocent bystanders, just as this one did. For that reason, Wonzie’s caretakers consulted an attorney who determined that the facts warranted bringing a case.    

At trial, Jones and Ogden’s attorney improperly attacked Jessica and Bob’s character. The jury determined that Jones and Ogden had not been negligent. However, because of the unfair character attacks, the Utah Supreme Court reversed the jury verdict. The case will settle or go to trial a second time. 

There are several rules that apply to lawsuits against cities and other government bodies that do not apply to suits against private companies or individuals. It is paramount to select attorneys who are familiar with these rules and procedures and have successfully sued government in the past.  Several attorneys at Jones Waldo have successfully pursued many such cases, including Stephen Clark, Kathleen McDonald, and Bret Hanna.

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Author

kathleenAttorney Kathleen McDonald

Kathleen is a shareholder at Jones Waldo.  She specializes in litigation with a particular emphasis on appeals and commercial litigation.  Kathleen has written or argued appeals in the Tenth Circuit, the Utah Court of Appeals, and the Utah Supreme Court.  Kathleen specializes in construction, environmental, civil rights, and commercial litigation.

Kathleen received her law degree with honors from the University of Arizona in 2004.  She received her undergraduate degree from Oberlin College.  Kathleen has unusually well-rounded legal experience; in law school, Kathleen clerked with an in-house corporate attorney and worked in government.  She also clerked at the Utah Court of Appeals.  

Local Foundations

Kathleen volunteers a significant amount of time each week with a variety of community programs including the Tracy Aviary, the Bennion Center and Friends of Animals.

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