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To obtain an area variance, an applicant must show that strictly applying a zoning ordinance will cause “peculiar and exceptional practical difficulties” that deprive a property of privileges enjoyed by other similarly zoned properties. This dispute arose from the City of Phoenix Board of Adjustment’s grant of a variance on a parcel of land in Phoenix. The superior court upheld the variance, finding that the variance was an area variance and not a use variance, that the Board was authorized to consider area variances, and that sufficient evidence supported the Board’s decision. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Board did not act within its authority in granting the variance. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ opinion and affirmed the judgment of the superior court, holding (1) the Board acted within its discretion in finding that special circumstances applied to the property; (2) the property owner did not create the special circumstances; (3) the variance required was an area variance that was necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of substantial property rights; and (4) the variance would not be materially detrimental to the surrounding area. View "Pawn 1st, LLC v. City of Phoenix" on Justia Law

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Because the warranty of workmanship and habitability is imputed into every residential construction contract, it is a term of the contract, and therefore, the successful party on a claim for breach of the warranty qualifies for an attorney-fee award under a controlling contractual fee provision or, barring that, Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-341.01. Defendants contracted with Plaintiff to build a basement at their home. Defendants refused to pay to the full contract amount after the work was completed, and Plaintiff sued for the unpaid contract amount. Defendants counterclaimed for breach of the implied warranty of workmanship and habitability. The jury found in Defendants’ favor on their claim for breach of the implied warranty. The trial court awarded Defendants attorney fees pursuant to a contractual fee provision and section 12-341.01. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment, holding that the implied warranty was a term of the contract, and as the successful party in the claim to enforce the warranty, Defendants were entitled to their reasonable attorney fees. View "Sirrah Enterprises, LLC v. Wunderlich" on Justia Law

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The plain language of Ariz. Rev. Stat. 3-1261(B), which provides that no two brands of the same design or figure shall be adopted or recorded, precluded the Arizona Department of Agriculture (Department) from recording “two brands of the same design or figure” regardless of their location. The Department in this case allowed Eureka Springs to record a “bar seven” brand, even though it was identical to a previously recorded brand owned by David Stambaugh, because it was placed on a different location on the cattle. Stambaugh sued the Department. The superior court granted summary judgment in part for the Department, concluding that section 3-1261 gave the Department discretion to consider the location of a brand on an animal in determining whether two brands are of the same design or figure. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that section 3-1261(B) is ambiguous. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the statute was unambiguous and precluded the Department from adopting or recording identical brands. View "Stambaugh v. Killian" on Justia Law

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Proposition 206, “The Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act,” which increased the minimum wage and established earn paid sick leave, does not violate the Arizona Constitution’s Revenue Source Rule, Separate Amendment Rule, or Single Subject Rule. Proposition 206 was approved by the Arizona electorate in the November 2016 election. The Proposition increases Arizona’s minimum wage incrementally over a three-year period and then requires annual increases. It also requires employers to provide mandatory sick leave of one hour for every thirty hours worked. Petitioners filed suit seeking a declaration that Proposition 206 is unconstitutional and also sought to preliminarily enjoin implementation and enforcement of the Proposition. The superior court denied a preliminary injunction. Petitioner subsequently sought special action relief with the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding that Proposition 206 does not violate the identified provisions in the Arizona Constitution. View "Arizona Chamber of Commerce v. Honorable Daniel J. Kiley" on Justia Law

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In this employment dispute, Employee filed an action in superior court alleging an unjust enrichment claim against Employee. Employee moved to compel arbitration under the parties’ employment contract’s arbitration provision and brought a claim for severance pay. The superior court granted the motion. Employer asserted various counterclaims. The arbitrator ruled in favor of Employer, finding that Employer properly rescinded the contract based on Employee’s underlying misrepresentations and omissions. The final arbitration award fully settled all claims and counterclaims submitted. The superior court confirmed the award but also granted Employer leave to amend its complaint to reassert its counterclaims. The superior court granted Employer’s motion to amend its complaint. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Employer, having not specifically challenged the contract’s arbitration provision, may not amend its complaint and litigate its various claims against Employee in this action. View "Hamblen v. Honorable Ralph Hatch" 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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Pursuant to Ariz. R. Crim. P. 11.4(b), a defendant who asserts an insanity defense and voluntarily undergoes a mental health exam must disclose a complete copy of the mental health expert’s examination report, including any statements made by the defendant concerning the pending charges against him. Defendant asserted the defense of insanity, or guilty except insane, to charges for armed robbery and felony murder. Two experts prepared reports that included statements that Defendant made about the pending charges. When the State requested copies of the experts’ reports defense counsel produced copies but redacted Defendant’s statements. The State filed a motion to compel, seeking disclosure of unredacted copies. The superior court denied the motion based on Austin v. Alfred, 163 Ariz. 397 (Ariz. Ct. App. 1990). The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Rule 11.4(b) requires a defendant to disclose his statements contained in a mental health expert’s report. The court thus disapproved of Austin to the extent it holds that such statements must be redacted under Rule 11.4(b). View "State v. Honorable Hugh Hegyi" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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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25 U.S.C. 1911(b) of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) addresses transfer only of foster care replacement and termination-of-parental-rights actions and does not apply to state preadoptive and adoptive placements. The Department of Child Safety moved to terminate the parental rights of the parents of A.D., a member of the Gila River Indian Community. After the juvenile court terminated the rights of A.D.’s parents the foster parents intervened and filed a petition to adopt A.D. The Community moved to transfer the proceedings to its tribal court under section 1911(b). The juvenile court denied the motion, finding that the foster parents had met their burden of showing that good cause existed under section 1911(b) to deny the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed the juvenile court’s denial of the Community’s motion to transfer, holding that ICWA does not govern the transfer of preadoptive and adoptive placement actions, but state courts may nonetheless transfer such cases involving Indian children to tribal courts. View "Gila River Indian Community v. Department of Child Safety" on Justia Law

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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