Lee v. Gaufin

In Lee v. Gaufin, 867 P.2d 572, 589 (Utah 1993), three members of the Court struck down a statute of repose for minors in medical malpractice cases under article I, section 24, the uniform operation of laws provision. The remaining justices concurred in the result on the ground that the statute violated article I, section 11. Id. at 590 (Zimmerman, J., and Hall, C.J., concurring.) The statute at issue required a minor to bring an action within two to four years after an alleged malpractice injury. Id. at 574-75. However, since a minor has no legal and ordinarily no actual ability to bring an action, the net effect of the statute was to deprive the minor of the cause of action before the minor was legally entitled to assert it. Id. at 578. The two-judge concurrence states: "The legislation's supporters have not carried their burden of proof. As the majority opinion demonstrates, the justifications advanced for the legislature's severe abridgment of the right of this narrow category of potential plaintiffs to bring their actions for actual injuries suffered are speculative, to put it charitably. The defenders of this legislation certainly have not shown that the effective elimination of the minor's legal right to sue for medical malpractice is a reasonable, nonarbitrary means for lowering medical malpractice premiums in Utah. Absent such a showing, they have failed to rebut the presumption of unconstitutionality that attaches to legislation that so severely limits a common law right of action protected by article I, section 11." (Id. at 592.)