Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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In this negligence action, the Supreme Court held that a negligence claim based solely on an officer’s intentional use of physical force is inappropriate. Rather, the appropriate state-law claim is for battery. Plaintiff filed this complaint seeking damages for dog-bite injuries he received when a law enforcement officer intentionally released a police dog against him. The jury found in favor of Plaintiff and awarded him $617,500 in damages. The court of appeals affirmed in a split decision. The Supreme Court vacated the opinion of the court of appeals and reversed the trial court’s judgment, holding (1) while plaintiffs cannot assert a negligence claim under the circumstances of this case, plaintiffs may base a negligence claim on conduct by the officer that is independent of the intentional use of physical force; (2) at trial on a battery claim, expert witnesses cannot suggest to the jury that Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989), is the legal standard for deciding the applicability of Ariz. Rev. Stat. 13-409, which provides a justification defense for law enforcement officers who use physical force. View "Ryan v. Napier" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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When asked to decide the rate at which interest on a $7.8 million judgment Plaintiff obtained against the State accrued pending appeal, the Supreme Court held that the interest rate prescribed by Ariz. Rev. Stat. 41-622(F) applied to the judgment. Plaintiff filed this negligence action against the state, and the jury awarded her $7.8 million. The State’s appeal was unsuccessful. While the judgment was supposed to be paid from the State’s Risk Management Revolving Fund, the judgment was erroneously paid from the Construction Insurance Fund (CIF). When the mistake was discovered, the CIF was reimbursed from the Revolving Fund. In 2015, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment to resolve the calculation of post-judgment interest. At issue was whether, because the judgment had initially been paid from the CIF, it was subject to the rate of interest prescribed by Ariz. Rev. Stat. 44-1201(B) instead of the lower rate prescribed by section 44-622(F) for judgments paid from the Revolving Fund. The superior court concluded that the lower rate applied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 41-622(F) applied to the entire judgment, including any portion for which the State may be reimbursed by its excess insurance coverage. View "Glazer v. State" 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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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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An employer who used asbestos materials in its workplace before 1970 has no duty to protect the public from so-called secondary asbestos exposure, which is off-site contact with employees who may have been carrying asbestos fibers on their work clothes. Plaintiff sued Reynolds Metal Company and others, alleging that the defendants negligently caused Ernest Quiroz’s death. Specifically, Plaintiffs alleged that when Quiroz’s father was working at Reynolds’ plant, his clothes were contaminated with asbestos fibers and that Quiroz was exposed to the asbestos fibers, eventually causing Quiroz’s mesothelioma. The superior court granted summary judgment for Reynolds. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Reynolds did not owe a duty to protect the decedent from exposure to take-home asbestos where no special relationship existed between Reynolds and the decedent, and no duty existed based on public policy; and (2) this Court rejects the duty framework contained in the Restatement (Third) of Torts: Liability for Physical and Emotional Harm, and therefore, no duty existed on that basis. View "Quiroz v. Alcoa Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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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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An actionable claim for abuse of a vulnerable adult under the Adult Protective Services Act (APSA), Ariz. Rev. Stat. 46-451 through -459, requires proof that (1) a vulnerable adult (2) has suffered an injury (3) caused by abuse (4) from a caregiver. Plaintiff filed this action against Defendants, alleging abuse and neglect of a vulnerable adult under APSA. The superior court granted summary judgment for Defendants after applying the four-part test adopted in Estate of McGill ex rel. McGill v. Albrecht, 57 P.3d 384 (Ariz. 2002). The Supreme Court reversed summary judgment based on Plaintiff’s ASPA abuse claim, holding that an actionable ASPA abuse claim requires proof of the four basic elements set forth in the statute. In making this determination, the court abolished the four-part test for an actionable claim set forth in McGill. View "Delgado v. Manor Care of Tuscon AZ, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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A patient owes a duty a reasonable care to a caregiver with respect to conduct creating a risk of physical harm to the caregiver. Further, the firefighter’s rule does not bar caregivers’ recovery when responding to an emergency. Plaintiff contracted with the Arizona Department of Economic Security to provide in-home care to Defendant, who was developmentally disabled. Plaintiff sued Defendant for negligence, alleging that Defendant had negligently placed himself in jeopardy of falling, thereby requiring her to rescue him and be seriously injured in the process. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant based on the firefighter’s rule. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a patient owes a duty of reasonable care to a caregiver allegedly injured by the patient’s actions, thereby making the patient potentially liable for negligence; and (2) the court declines to extend the firefighter’s rule to caregivers to prohibit their recovery when responding to an emergency. View "Sanders v. Alger" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury