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Hyland v. Dixie State University

United States District Court, D. Utah

May 16, 2017

DALLAS HYLAND, Plaintiff,
v.
DIXIE STATE UNIVERSITY, a public university in the State of Utah; DELL BEATTY, in his personal and official capacities; DON REID, in his personal and official capacities, FRANK LOJKO, in his personal and official capacities, RHIANNON BENT, in her personal and official capacities; BRENT YERGENSEN, in his personal and official capacities; and JOHN DOES I-V, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' PARTIAL MOTION TO DISMISS

          TED STE WART United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on State Defendants Del Beatty, Don Reid, Frank Lojko, Rhiannon Bent, and Brent Yergensen's (“Defendants”) Partial Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant the motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises from Hyland's disciplinary suspension as a student at Dixie State University. In Hyland's fourth cause of action, Hyland alleges that Defendants defamed him by publishing a false statement that Hyland had sexually harassed another student. On November 20, 2013, Hyland served a “Notice of Claim & Intent to Commence Legal Action” on Defendants, who made no decision to accept or deny Hyland's claim. On January 20, 2015, Hyland filed his Complaint. However, Hyland has never filed an undertaking. The parties disagree (1) whether an undertaking was required; and if it was, (2) whether the Court should dismiss Hyland's fourth cause of action with or without prejudice.

         II. STANDARD

         An argument regarding subject-matter jurisdiction “may be raised by a party, or by a court on its own initiative, at any stage in the litigation.”[1] “If the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.”[2]

         The Utah Governmental Immunity Act (“UGIA”) “establishes the parameters under which parties may bring suit against governmental entities for injuries.”[3] The Act requires plaintiffs to file an undertaking in the amount of at least $300 at the time the action is filed.[4]“Compliance with the Immunity Act is necessary to confer subject matter jurisdiction upon a trial court to hear claims against governmental entities.”[5] “[F]ailure to comply with the Immunity Act requires a trial court to dismiss a complaint.”[6]

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. THE UNDERTAKING REQUIREMENT

         It is undisputed that Hyland failed to file an undertaking. Hyland argues, without citation, that the undertaking requirement does not apply to actions brought in federal court. Hyland's argument is based on language in Utah Code Section 63G-7-601 that “[a]n action brought under this chapter shall be governed by the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure to the extent that they are consistent with this chapter.”[7] The next subsection directs that “the plaintiff shall file an undertaking.”[8] Hyland interprets these two subsections to mean that an undertaking is not necessary when a case is filed in federal court because the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are applied.[9]

         The subsections cited by Hyland do not support his interpretation. Nothing in the language of Section 63G-7-601 suggests that the undertaking requirement is conditional on the rules of civil procedure applied by a court. In addition, both this Court and the Tenth Circuit have consistently applied the undertaking requirement to suits filed in federal court.[10] Therefore, the Court finds that the undertaking requirement applies in this case and that Hyland's failure to comply with the UGIA requires the dismissal of his fourth cause of action. Whether the cause of action must be dismissed with prejudice depends on whether a recent amendment to the UGIA applies retroactively.

         B. RETROACTIVITY OF THE UGIA AMENDMENT

         In Craig v. Provo City, the Utah Supreme Court held that a savings statute in Utah Code Section 78A-2-111 was foreclosed by the UGIA, and that a failure to pay an undertaking was therefore grounds for dismissal with prejudice after the one-year limitations period had expired.[11] In response to Craig, the Utah Legislature amended the UGIA in March, 2017 to provide: “A claimant may commence an action after the time limit . . . if: (i) the claimant had commenced a previous action within the time limit . . .; (ii) the previous action failed or was dismissed for a reason other than on the merits; and (iii) the claimant commences the new action within one year after the previous action failed or was dismissed.”[12]

         Utah law codifies the presumption that “[a] provision of the Utah Code is not retroactive, unless the provision is expressly declared to be retroactive.”[13] However, there is a “longstanding exception to the general rule of nonretroactivity[:] Remedial and ...


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