Bischel v. Merritt

In Bischel v. Merritt, 907 P.2d 275 (Utah Ct. App. 1995), the then-controlling version of the Immunity Act was "generally silent about how notice should be filed with the governing body" of a governmental entity. Id. at 278. Because of this statutory ambiguity, the plaintiff, who had a claim against Salt Lake County, called the county commission for clarification. Id. at 276. The plaintiff was told to direct the notice to a person at the county attorney's office. Id. The plaintiff then called that person and received confirmation of the delivery instructions. Id. After the notice was served, the county challenged its validity because it was directed to the county attorney's office rather than the county commission. Id. The court of appeals held that the notice was adequate, recognizing the statutory ambiguity and interpreting the notice requirements "in a manner consistent with the overall purpose" of the Immunity Act. Id. at 278. The court of appeals reasoned that the notice was consistent with the purpose of the Immunity Act because it served to notify the entity that actually investigated and settled claims against the county--the county attorney's office. Id. at 278-79. In the court's view, the plaintiff complied with the Immunity Act because she followed the instructions provided by "the statute and the County Commission." Id. at 279. In Bischel, the plaintiff received the erroneous delivery instructions from an agent of the entity that was allegedly liable for the plaintiff's injury.