Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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An order granting or denying a motion filed pursuant to Rule 85(A) of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure is a special order made after final judgment under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-2101(A)(2), which confers jurisdiction on the court of appeals to decide whether the ruling was correct. Petitioner filed a motion pursuant to Rule 85(A) to correct a clerical error in a judgment. Specifically, Petitioner moved to replace a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) with one that complied with the dissolution decree between him and his wife. The family court denied the motion, concluding that the decree and QDRO were clear and unambiguous because no appeal had been taken. Petitioner appealed. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, concluding that Petitioner’s motion failed to assert any issues that could not have been raised in a timely appeal from the QDRO. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ decision, holding that the court of appeals had jurisdiction to decide whether the family court correctly denied Petitioner’s Rule 85(A) motion. View "Vincent v. Shanovich" on Justia Law

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At issue in this medical malpractice action was Ariz. R. Evid. 615 and the proper remedy for technical Rule 615 violations. Rule 615 generally provides that a trial court, at a party’s request, must order witnesses excluded so that they cannot hear other witnesses’ testimony. The Supreme Court held that Rule 615, when invoked, prohibits a party from providing prospective trial witnesses with transcripts of prior witnesses’ trial testimony. The court further held (1) a violation of this prohibition is not presumptively prejudicial in a civil action, but even when no prejudice is shown, the trial court must take some corrective action by fashioning an appropriate remedy under the circumstances; and (2) although expert witnesses are not automatically exempt from the Rule, a trial court must permit a witness to hear (or read) a prior witness’s testimony if a party shows that such an exception is essential to that party’s claim or defense. View "Spring v. Bradford" on Justia Law

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Under Ariz. R. Civ. P. 15(c), an amended complaint naming a new defendant relates back to the original complaint if the newly added defendant knew or should have known the plaintiff mistakenly failed to name him or her as a party in the original complaint. Dianne Flynn, who was injured in a car accident with Sarah Campbell, sued Campbell’s insurance carrier, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, requesting compensatory damages and punitive damages. State Farm moved to dismiss the complaint on the basis that, in Arizona, there is no right of direct action against an insurance carrier for damages claimed as a result of an accident with one of its insureds. Flynn then filed an amended complaint removing State Farm and naming Campbell. Campbell moved to dismiss the amended complaint, arguing that it did not “relate back” under Rule 15(c) and was therefore time-barred. The superior court dismissed the amended complaint. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Flynn’s mistake was cognizable under Rule 15(c) as a mistake concerning the identity of the proper party. View "Flynn v. Campbell" on Justia Law

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Although a trial court should be circumspect when modifying a jury verdict, the court nonetheless may do so if it states the Ariz. R. Civ. P. 59(a) or (i) grounds for the order and explains its ruling with sufficient particularity to avoid speculation as to its order of a conditional new trial or additur or remittitur. After a jury trial in this personal injury case, Michael Soto was awarded $700,000. Defendants moved for a new trial, or to alter or amend the judgment, and for remittitur under Rule 59, requesting that Michael’s award be reduced. The trial court granted a remittitur pursuant to Rule 59(i) and reduced Michael’s award to $250,000. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s order conditionally granting a new trial and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that Defendants carried their burden of establishing that the trial court’s remittitur and new trial order was supported by substantial evidence and was not an abuse of discretion. View "Soto v. Sacco" on Justia Law

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Martha and Mario Madrigal sued the City of Mesa. After the case was settled by the Madrigals’ second attorney, Raymond Slomski, the Madrigals’ first attorney, Edward Fitzhugh, assigned his rights under the parties’ contingent fee agreement to Al Carranza. Carranza later sued the Madrigals (“the fee-collection action”). The Madrigals subsequently divorced pursuant to a decree that allocated the remaining funds from the as-yet-unresolved fee-collection action. Mario and Carranza then entered into a settlement agreement that called for a portion of the disputed funds to be released to Mario and Carranza. The superior court approved the agreement. Slomski filed an interpleader action contesting the settlement. Thereafter, Martha successfully moved to set aside the order approving the settlement. Carranza then moved to substitute Fitzhugh as the real party in interest in both the fee-collection action and the interpleader action. The superior court denied the substitution request and court granted summary judgment in favor of Martha in the fee-collection action. The court of appeals affirmed summary judgment but reversed the denial of Carranza’s motion to substitute in the fee-collection action. The Supreme Court vacated in part, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motions to substitute. View "Carranza v. Madrigal" on Justia Law

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Petitioners sued Respondents. Respondents, represented by counsel, made a settlement offer. The offer subsequently expired. Respondents’ counsel later extended a new settlement offer with terms that mirrored the prior offer. Petitioners’ attorney timely accepted the offer, and the trial court accepted the settlement (February 8 settlement). After Respondents’ attorney learned that he lacked authority to extend the settlement offer, he made a new settlement offer, which materially varied from the February 8 settlement. Petitioners moved to enforce the February 8 settlement. The trial court granted the motion, concluding that Respondents’ attorney had actual and apparent authority to extend the settlement offer and, alternatively, that Respondents were equitably estopped from disputing that authority. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that because Respondents’ assent to the agreement was not in writing, the requirements of Ariz. R. Civ. P. 80(d) were not met, and the agreement was unenforceable as a matter of law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because the parties in this case did not dispute the existence and terms of the February 8 settlement, Rule 80(d) did not apply; (2) even if Rule 80(d) applied, the agreement satisfied the rule; and (3) the agreement was enforceable because the attorney acted within the apparent authority given by his clients. View "Robertson v. Alling" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a personal injury suit against Defendant, BCI Coca-Cola Bottling Co. BCI rejected Plaintiff’s offer of judgment to settle, and the case proceeded to trial. The jury rendered a verdict for Plaintiff and awarded her damages. The trial court entered a total award of $2,135,867, which included prejudgment interest under Ariz. R. Civ. P. 68(g) as a sanction against BCI for rejecting Plaintiff’s offer of judgment. At issue in this case was whether the prejudgment interest was interest on an “obligation” under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 44-1201(A) or interest on a judgment” under section 44-1201(B). The trial court concluded that the prejudgment interest awarded as a sanction pursuant to Rule 68(g) was interest on an “obligation,” thus entitling Plaintiff to the ten percent rate set forth in section 44-1201(A). The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the applicable rate for prejudgment interest under Rule 68(g) in this case was 4.25 percent based on section 44-1201(B). View "Metzler v. BCI Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Los Angeles, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2006, Wife and Husband divorced. In 2011, the superior court conducted a hearing on the parties’ post-decree petitions. Prior to the hearing, Wife filed a petition seeking reimbursement for certain 2010-11 expenses under the terms of the decree of dissolution. The court, however, did not consider the expenses at the hearing. On November 1, 2011, the court entered an order resolving all of the issues listed in the pretrial statement and denied Wife’s request for attorneys’ fees. Shortly thereafter, the court vacated this fee ruling. On September 12, 2012, the court awarded Wife a judgment on the 2010-11 expenses and again denied her request for attorneys’ fees. On October 11, 2012, Wife appealed from both the November 1, 2011 and September 12, 2012 orders. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal from the November 1, 2011 order as untimely. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ order and remanded, holding a family court order that neither resolves a pending request for attorneys’ fees nor includes language making the order appealable is not final for purposes of appeal. View "Bollermann v. Nowlis" on Justia Law