Monarrez v Utah Department of Transportation

Monarrez filed a claim for damages with Department. Department issued a denial letter more than 60 days after the claim was filed. Monarrez sued Department and several John Doe defendants more than one year after the 60 day mark but less than one year after the letter was issued. The district dismissed the case as time bared and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Court granted Certiorari and affirmed. It held that under Utah Code 63G-7-403, a claim against a government entity can only be denied either by the entity or its insurer issuing a written denial which starts the limitations clock or it can denied by operation of law by the running of the 60 day period in 403(1)(b). The Court held the two methods of denial are mutually exclusive as allowing a written denial after the 60 day period would read the automatic denial out of the statute and thus a claim can only be denied once and the later issued purported denial in this case did not restart the clock as it was legally superfluous. As Monarrez filed more than one year after the 60 day automatic denial, the case was time barred and properly dismissed. The Court distinguished precedent cited by Monarrez holding those cases dealt with statute which permitted the extension of timelines which 403 does not allow. The Court held the rule announced here applies retroactively because being a California citizen does not excuse compliance with 403 and there is no reliance issue as there is no change in the law and there is no evidence Monarrez relied upon his proposed interpretation. The Court rejected Monarrez’s estoppel argument as nothing in the purported denial letter language of respectfully denying the claim is specifically and clearly restarting the clock or otherwise waiving a limitations defense. It finally held the dismissal of the John Doe claims was correct as the Doe defendants have not been served and there may be issues about whether the claims relate back to the initial complaint as well as the allegations the Doe defendants work for or were controlled by Department which requires dismissal on limitations grounds and if the Doe defendants were not employed or controlled by department then there are no factual allegations demonstrative liability.