Utah Affirmative Defense: Laches

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The Utah Supreme Court held in Papanikolas Bros. Enterprises v. Sugarhouse Shopping Ctr. Associates, 535 P.2d 1256, 1260 (Utah 1975), that:

Laches is not mere delay, but delay that works a disadvantage to another. To constitute laches, two elements must be established:
(1) The lack of diligence on the part of plaintiff;
(2) An injury to defendant owing to such lack of diligence.
Although lapse of time is an essential part of laches, the length of time must depend on the circumstances of each case, for the propriety of refusing a claim is equally predicated upon the gravity of the prejudice suffered by defendant and the length of plaintiff's delay.

The existence of laches is one to be determined primarily by the trial court; and reviewing courts will not interfere with the exercise of the trial court's diescretion in the matter, unless it appears that a manifest injustice has been done, or the decision cannot reasonably be found to be supported by the evidence. In addition, a reasonable delay caused by an effort to settle a dispute does not invoke the doctrine of laches.

In addition of delay, factors considered by the courts in determining the existence or nonexistence of laches are the relative harm to defendant, in view of plaintiff's delay, if he is required to remove the structure which violates the covenant; the relative harm to the plaintiff, if he is confined to an action for damages; the proximity of the expiration date of the covenant; and the defendant's good faith, or the absence thereof; in connection with his violation of the covenant.