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Cheek v. Iron County, 2019 UT 50 (Aug. 16, 2019)

Aug 16, 2019

Plaintiff filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court against Iron County and Iron County’s attorney in his official capacity.  On a motion to dismiss, the federal court dismissed the federal claims with prejudice and the state claims without prejudice.  Plaintiff refiled her case in state court against Iron County’s attorney, and the district court dismissed the claims on res judicata grounds.  The supreme court held that a dismissal is presumptively on the merits, with limited exceptions which apply when the dismissal addresses an “initial bar” to the court’s authority, such as lack of jurisdiction, improper venue, or failure to join an indispensable party.  Because the federal court dismissal was “not driven by limitations on the court’s authority,” res judicata barred the plaintiff’s state lawsuit.