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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for two counts of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, and other crimes and Defendant’s sentence of death for each murder, holding that no prejudicial error occurred in the trial proceedings. Specifically, the Court held (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Defendant’s pretrial motions for a change of venue and continuance; (2) Defendant’s claims of error in jury selection and voir dire were unavailing; (3) evidence of Defendant’s confession was properly admitted; (4) the trial court did not commit fundamental error under Simmons v. South Carolina, 512 U.S. 154 (1994) by failing to inform the jury that Defendant would not be eligible for release if sentenced to life imprisonment; (5) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing victim-impact evidence; and (6) there was no abuse of discretion in imposing the death sentence. The dissent argued at length that the death sentence is cruel and unusual punishment under the Arizona Constitution. View "State v. Bush" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that Ariz. Rev. Stat. 45-108 does not require the Arizona Department of Water Resources (ADWR) to consider unquantified federal reserved water rights when it determines whether a developer has an adequate water supply for purposes of the statute. This case stemmed from the ADWR’s 2013 adequate water supply approving Pueblo Del Sol Water Company’s application to supply water to a proposed development in Cochise County. The superior court vacated ADWR’s decision, concluding that the agency erred in determining that Pueblo’s water supply was “legally available” because ADWR was required to consider potential and existing legal claims that might affect the availability of the water supply, including the Bureau of Land Management’s unquantified federal water right. The Supreme Court vacated the superior court’s decision and affirmed ADWR’s approval of Pueblo’s application, holding that ADWR is not required to consider unquantified federal reserved water rights under its physical availability or legal availability analysis. View "Silver v. Pueblo Del Sol Water Co" on Justia Law

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At issue in this workers’ compensation case was whether, when a worker settles a claim against a third party for less than the limits of the third party’s insurance, the worker may obtain a judicial determination of whether the insurance carrier’s lien should be reduced to account for the employer’s comparative fault. Victor Leija died during the course of his employment. Victor’s family claimed workers’ compensation benefits through Twin City Fire Insurance Company, Victor’s employer’s workers’ compensation carrier. Twin City accepted the claim. The Leijas also filed a negligence action against third parties who allegedly negligently caused Victor’s death. Meanwhile, Twin City asserted its right under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 23-1023(D) to fully enforce a lien against all settlement proceeds to the extent of past and future workers’ compensation benefits. After the Leijas and the third-party defendants settled, Twin City filed this action to fully enforce its lien. The Leijas counterclaimed, requesting that the superior court set a trial to establish the employer’s proportionate fault and the resulting amount of Twin City’s lien. The superior court ruled in Twin City’s favor. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a claimant who settles all third-party claims is not entitled to a post-settlement trial to determine the percentage of employer fault solely to reduce or extinguish the insurance carrier’s lien. View "Twin City Fire Insurance Co. v. Leija" on Justia Law

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At issue was when the statute of limitations commences on credit card debt subject to an optional acceleration clause. The Supreme Court held that Mertola LLC’s lawsuit seeking to collect an outstanding credit card debt from Alberto and Arlene Santos (together, Santos) was barred by the six-year statute of limitations pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-548(A)(2), despite the credit card agreement in this case giving the bank the option of declaring the debt immediately due and payable upon default. Santos defaulted on the credit card debt, and Mertola eventually acquired Santos’s debt. Mertola sued for breach of the account agreement, seeking the entire outstanding balance. The superior court granted summary judgment for Santos, concluding that the breaches alleged by Mertola occurred more than six years prior to the filing of this action. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that although the statute of limitations for a missed payment begins to run when the payment is due, the cause of action as to future installments does not accrue until the creditor exercises the acceleration clause. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ opinion and affirmed the trial court, holding that when a credit card contract contains an optional acceleration clause, a cause of action to collect the entire outstanding debt accrues upon default. View "Mertola, LLC v. Santos" on Justia Law

Posted in: Banking, Contracts

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s conviction for transportation of a narcotic drug for sale, holding that the trial court’s remedy for a Batson violation of reinstating wrongfully excluded jurors to the venire was proper. During Defendant’s trial, the prosecutor violated Defendant’s equal protection rights by using peremptory strikes to remove Hispanic jurors from the venire, in violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). Defendant moved for a mistrial and dismissal of the entire venire. The trial court denied the motion and empaneled the first nine jurors who had not been struck, including two of the reinstated jurors. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court’s remedy of restoring the impermissibly excluded juror to their prior places on the venire and forfeiting the State’s peremptory challenges was sufficient. View "State v. Urrea" on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice action, the Supreme Court held that a stipulated dismissal with prejudice of an agent-surgeon does not preclude a party from asserting a claim against the surgeon’s principal for its own independent negligence, and this is true even when the independent negligence claim requires proof of the surgeon’s negligence. Plaintiffs filed medical malpractice actions against Hospital and Surgeon alleging that Surgeon was negligent in his surgical care and that Hospital was both vicariously liable for Surgeon’s negligence and independently negligent. Plaintiffs subsequently entered into a settlement agreement with Surgeon precluding Plaintiffs from pursuing claims against Hospital based on a theory of vicarious liability, although Plaintiffs could bring independent claims against Hospital. Hospital moved to dismiss the remaining claims on the ground that they were derivative of Surgeon’s negligence. The trial court agreed and dismissed most of Plaintiffs’ remaining claims against Hospital. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiffs’ claims for negligent credentialing, hiring, and supervision were based on Hospital’s independent negligence and thus were preserved in the settlement agreement with Surgeon; and (2) the holding in DeGraff v. Smith, 62 Ariz. 261 (1945), that a stipulated dismissal with prejudice operates as an adjudication that the dismissed party was not negligent in the treatment of the plaintiff, is disavowed. View "Kopp v. Physician Group of Arizona, Inc." on Justia Law

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A policy exclusion for personal liability “under any contract or agreement” does not apply to relieve an insurer of its duty to defend its insured, an alleged builder-vendor, against a claim for negligent excavation brought by the home buyer because the negligence claim arose from the common law duty to construct the home as a reasonable builder would. After rockslides damaged his property, the home buyer sued the alleged builder-vendor, asserting breach of contract, negligence, and fraud-based claims and alleging that the rockslides were the result of improper excavation during construction. The builder-vendor’s insurer declined the tender of defense on grounds that there was no coverage under the relevant insurance policies. The builder-vendor sought damages and declaratory relief. The superior court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurer. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the policy’s “contractual liability” exclusion did not apply. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the contractual liability exclusion did not relieve the insurer of its duty to defend the builder-vendor against the home buyer’s negligence claim. View "Teufel v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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When two legal parents disagree about whether visitation is in their child’s best interests, both parents’ opinions are entitled to special weight under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 25-409(E). However, neither parent is entitled to a presumption in his or her favor, and the parents’ conflicting opinions must give way to the court’s finding on whether visitation is in the child’s best interests. At issue in this case was whether the family court abused its discretion in awarding Grandparents visitation after Mother and Father’s divorce. Mother objected to the visitation. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that Father’s opinion on visitation, not only Mother’s, was entitled to special weight under section 25-409(E). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) when two legal parents’ visitation opinions conflict, neither parent is entitled to a presumption in his or her favor, and neither opinion is entitled to special weight because the court’s determination of whether visitation is in the child’s best interests controls; and (2) the family court did not abuse its discretion in this case. View "Friedman v. Roels" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Ariz. Const. art. II, 22(A)(1) and Ariz. Rev. Stat. 13-3961(A)(2), on their face, violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause because the provisions categorically prohibit bail without regard for individual circumstances. The provisions at issue categorically prohibit bail for all persons charged with sexual assault if “the proof is evident or the presumption great” that the person committed the crime, without considering other facts that may justify bail in an individual case. In the instant case, Defendant with charged with sexual assault, and the superior court set his bail at $70,000. The court of appeals vacated the bail order, holding that sexual assault “remains a non-bailable offense.” The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ opinion and affirmed the superior court, holding that courts must engage in an individualized determination by conducting a section 13-3961(D) hearing before denying bail to a person charged with sexual assault. View "State v. Honorable Kevin Wein" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Ariz. Const. art. II, 22(A)(1) and Ariz. Rev. Stat. 13-3961(A)(2), on their face, violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause because the provisions categorically prohibit bail without regard for individual circumstances. The provisions at issue categorically prohibit bail for all persons charged with sexual assault if “the proof is evident or the presumption great” that the person committed the crime, without considering other facts that may justify bail in an individual case. In the instant case, Defendant with charged with sexual assault, and the superior court set his bail at $70,000. The court of appeals vacated the bail order, holding that sexual assault “remains a non-bailable offense.” The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ opinion and affirmed the superior court, holding that courts must engage in an individualized determination by conducting a section 13-3961(D) hearing before denying bail to a person charged with sexual assault. View "State v. Honorable Kevin Wein" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law