Utah's Governmental Immunity Act has recently been held to foreclose the applicability of Utah's Savings Statute.
This new doctrine comes from the recent Utah Supreme Court case Craig v. Provo City, 2016 UT 40. The holding of Craig v. Provo City upholds the presumption in favor of government immunity, and clarifies an important issue of municipal law.
In January of 2010, a former Miss Utah and two others were arrested for allegedly stealing Nu Skin personal care products. Eventually, after the charges were dismissed, the three individuals sued Provo City for false arrests, malicious prosecution, conversion, and tortious interference with prospective business relations. However, because the plaintiffs had failed to file a necessary $300 bond required by the Governmental Immunity Act, their complaint was dismissed.
The plaintiffs refiled their complaint with the bond money, but the second complaint was filed after the one-year statute of limitations had run. Provo City moved to dismiss their complaint, arguing that it was barred by the statute of limitations. In response, the plaintiffs pointed to the Savings Statute—a Utah statute that extends the statute of limitations when cases are dismissed for procedural problems (like (say) failing to include a $300 bond with the complaint). The issue of whether the Governmental Immunity Act forecloses the operation of the Savings Statute was appealed to Utah's highest court, which held:
"We interpret the Governmental Immunity Act to foreclose the applicability of the Savings Statute . . . . [In so holding,] [f]irst, we set forth our understanding of the text and structure of the Governmental Immunity Act, explaining the basis for our conclusion that the Act speaks comprehensively on the procedure and requisite timing of a claim filed against the government, in a manner foreclosing the applicability of the Savings Statute. Second, we respond to two specific points . . . the notion that the Savings Statute can be applied without undermining the purpose of the Governmental Immunity Act, and the purported requirement of a 'plain statement' of the legislature’s intent to foreclose the Savings Statute." Craig v. Provo City, 2016 UT 40, ¶ 18.
The Utah Supreme Court's holding makes clear that the Governmental Immunity Act provides detail on the manner of filing claims against municipalities, and that other statutes do not undermine the procedures set forth in the Act. The court stated: "The Governmental Immunity Act's filing and timing standards are presented in such detail that we view them as occupying the field—as stating the all encompassing standards that dictate the timeliness of a claim asserted against the government." Id. at ¶ 26.
The holding supports the presumption in favor of government immunity, and it emphasizes that the Governmental Immunity Act reigns supreme when it comes to filing actions against government entities.