Branting v. Salt Lake City

In Branting v. Salt Lake City, 47 Utah 296, 153 P. 995 (Utah 1915), the Court considered the applicability of the statute of limitations to a suit brought by the plaintiff in equity. Id. at 1000-01. In that case, Salt Lake City had passed several ordinances for the purpose of constructing a sewer and had assessed and levied a special tax on the property abutting the sewer to cover the construction costs. Id. at 996. The plaintiff filed suit against the city, arguing that the city had exceeded its authority and requesting that the court declare the city's actions void and of no effect. Id. at 996, 1000. As a defense, the city pleaded the four-year statute of limitations contained in the version of the "catch-all" statute of limitations then in effect. Id. at 1000. The plaintiff responded that the statute did not apply because his suit was merely "an action to remove a cloud from the title, or is one to quiet the title to real property." Id. In addressing the plaintiff's argument, the Court set forth the now well-established general rule that the catch-all statute of limitations "applies to all actions for relief that are not otherwise covered by any other section." Id. at 1001. However, the Court also set forth an exception to this general rule: "[Actions by which nothing is sought except to remove a cloud from or to quiet the title to real property as against apparent or stale claims are not barred by the statute of limitations . . . though all actions in which the principal purpose is to obtain some affirmative relief, as was the case here, clearly come within the provisions of the statute of limitations." Id. The plaintiff in Branting did not simply seek to have an adverse claim to his property adjudicated because the city had never questioned the plaintiff's title or asserted an adverse claim to it. Id. at 1000. Rather, the plaintiff sought to have the proceedings whereby the city sought to assess and levy the tax on his property declared illegal and annulled. Id. Because this constituted affirmative relief and not merely a settling of adverse claims to the title to real property, the four-year catch-all statute applied, and the plaintiff's claim was barred because he had not filed his suit until nearly five years after his cause of action accrued. Id. at 1001.