Government Entities, Case Law Update October 2019
All summaries are written by Heather White and are for informational purposes only.
Amundsen v. University of Utah
Plaintiff sought damages for injuries she suffered during a surgery performed by a University of Utah School of Medicine professor at LDS Hospital. Plaintiff argued that her notice of claim was timely because it was filed within one year of when she knew or should have known she had a claim against the University. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) Plaintiff had sufficient information to put a reasonable person on notice that her claim might be against the State, instead of LDS Hospital; (2) because Plaintiff had reason to inquire long before she filed her notice of claim, her notice was untimely under the Utah Governmental Immunity Act; and (3) Plaintiff’s arguments based on the doctrine of res judicata and the Open Courts provision of the Utah Constitution were without merit. Therefore, the Utah Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s medical malpractice claim against the University of Utah based on the fact Plaintiff’s notice of claim was untimely.
Benavidez v. Howard
In this case, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that government attorneys defending a government entity employee in a civil case are entitled to absolute immunity for acts undertaken by the attorney in preparation for judicial proceedings and which occur in the course of his or her role as an advocate for the government. It confirmed, however, that immunity does not apply to administrative duties and investigatory functions that do not closely relate to an advocate’s preparation for judicial proceedings.
McGraw v. University of Utah
In this case, the Utah Court of Appeals ruled that a retaliation complaint did not constitute a valid notice of claim for a whistleblower claim because it was not directed and delivered to the appropriate office and the statute contained no exception for filing a notice of claim on the correct governmental entity but to someone other than the designated agent. It additionally ruled the plaintiff impermissibly filed an action in the district court before the expiration of the sixty-day waiting period, thereby depriving the court of jurisdiction.