- Associated Press - Monday, April 4, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A former Miss Utah’s lawsuit against police who wrongly arrested her on bogus allegations that she stole from a skin-care company shouldn’t be derailed on a technicality, her lawyer argued before the Utah Supreme Court on Monday.

Tossing out the case over a court fee would set an unfair precedent for people who want to try to hold governments accountable for their mistakes, her attorneys said.

But lawyers for Provo, the city that employs the officers, said there are specific rules for lawsuits filed against governments, and the missed $300 fee should end the onetime beauty queen’s case.

The justices peppered both sides with questions, and no deadline was set for them to rule in the case.

Elizabeth Craig, who served as Miss Utah from 1991 to 1992, says she was legally selling donated surplus product from the Provo-based company Nu Skin and using part of the proceeds for charity.

Nu Skin employees were aware of the donated product, but others in the multimillion-dollar company saw the products for sale on eBay and set up a sting operation, she said in the suit.

Provo police went along with the trumped-up allegations designed to shut down any sales outside of Nu Skin’s multi-level marketing structure, Craig said in court documents.

Provo says their officers conducted their own investigation and acted properly in the case. Nu Skin has called Craig’s claims baseless.

Theft and other charges were dropped in December 2010, but Craig says media interest in the case nevertheless derailed her budding career as a motivational speaker and cost her thousands of dollars in legal fees.

A lawsuit Craig filed against the city in federal court has been dismissed.

The state-court lawsuit turns on whether Provo’s status as a government entity makes it immune from a law that gives plaintiffs like Craig more time to sue.

“The Immunity Act doesn’t allow for a lot for wiggle room,” said Gary Millward, an assistant Provo city attorney. He cited several cases where cases were tossed out because they weren’t filed within narrow timelines allowed by the law.

Craig’s lawyers said they followed the rules and paid the fee after they realized their mistake. None of the other cases Provo cited involved such a small detail, and reading the law so strictly stacks the deck against plaintiffs, they argued.

“An individual can’t do it. Even lawyers make mistakes,” said attorney Mark Stubbs.

An appeals court sided with Craig last year and revived the lawsuit tossed out by a lower court. Provo appealed that decision to the Utah Supreme Court.

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