Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Arizona Supreme Court
Hwal’Bay Ba: J Enterprises, Inc. v. Honorable Jantzen
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the superior court denying a tribal entity's motion to dismiss a tort action against it, holding that the tribal entity did not prove it was a subordinate economic organization entitled to share the Indian tribe's sovereign immunity. Sara Fox was seriously injured while rafting on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Fox suffered her injuries on Arizona state land. The rafting boat was operated by Grand Canyon Resort Corporation (GCRC), a tribal corporation whose sole shareholder was a federal recognized Indian tribe, the Hualapai Indian Tribe. Fox and her husband filed suit against GCRC and the Tribe. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction because Defendants possessed sovereign immunity from suit. The trial court dismissed the complaint against the Tribe but declined to dismiss the complaint against GCRC, finding it was not protected by sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that GCRC failed to carry its burden to show it was a subordinate economic organization of the Tribe so that a denial of immunity would "appreciably impair" the Tribe's "economic development, cultural autonomy, or self-governance." View "Hwal'Bay Ba: J Enterprises, Inc. v. Honorable Jantzen" on Justia Law
Normandin v. Encanto Adventures, LLC
The Supreme Court reversed the summary judgment in favor of Encanto Adventures LLC on Marcie Normandin's premises liability claim, holding that Encanto was not immunized by Arizona's recreational use statute, Ariz. Rev. Stat. 33-1551, for injuries Normandin, a recreational user, sustained after falling in Encanto Park. The trial court granted summary judgment for Encanto based on the recreational use immunity provided by section 33-1551(A). The court of appeals affirmed, concluding, among other things, that Encanto was immune as a "manager" under section 33-1551(A). The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Encanto was not a "manager" of land used for recreational purposes and, therefore, was not immune from liability under the statute. View "Normandin v. Encanto Adventures, LLC" on Justia Law
Jackson v. Eagle KMC LLC
At issue was whether Arizona’s automatic assignment provision in Ariz. Rev. Stat. 23-1023(B) applies when an employee receives workers’ compensation benefits under another state’s laws. The Supreme Court held that the law of the state in which the employee’s workers’ compensation is paid determines the assignment rights of the employer and employee, thus reversing the superior court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the third-party tortfeasor in this case. Plaintiff, a South Carolina resident, was employed as a semi-trick driver with a Nebraska limited liability company, which, in turn, contracted with Defendant, an Arizona company, to provide training for Plaintiff in Arizona. Plaintiff was a passenger in a semi-truck driving by Defendant’s employee was the truck rolled, injuring Plaintiff. Plaintiff received workers’ compensation in Nebraska paid for by the LLC. Plaintiff then filed this personal injury action against Defendant. The Supreme Court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant, concluding that, pursuant to section 23-1023(B), Plaintiff had no legal interest in the action. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because Plaintiff received workers’ compensation benefits in Nebraska, Nebraska’s law regarding assignment applied to her claims against Defendant in this action; and (2) because Nebraska does not have an automatic assignment provision, Plaintiff had a legal interest in those claims. View "Jackson v. Eagle KMC LLC" on Justia Law
Conklin v. Medtronic, Inc.
The Supreme Court held that an Arizona common law failure-to-warn claim based on a medical device manufacturer’s failure to submit adverse event reports to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is impliedly preempted. Plaintiff and his wife sued Defendant alleging several common law tort claims, including strict liability and negligence claims for failure to provide adequate and timely warnings. Defendant moved to dismiss under Ariz. R. Civ. P. 12(6)(b), asserting that Plaintiff’s claims were expressly and impliedly preempted under federal law. The superior court granted the motion and dismissed the action with prejudice. The court of appeals vacated the dismissal of Plaintiff’s failure-to-warn claim, finding it neither expressly nor impliedly preempted, and otherwise affirmed. The Supreme Court disagreed with the court of appeals and affirmed the superior court’s judgment, holding that because only federal law, not state law, imposes a duty on Defendant to submit adverse event reports to the FDA, Plaintiff’s failure-to-warn claim was impliedly preempted under 21 U.S.C. 337(a). View "Conklin v. Medtronic, Inc." on Justia Law
Hopi Tribe v. Arizona Snowbowl Resort Limited Partnership
The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment in favor of Arizona Snowbowl Resort Limited Partnership (Snowbowl) and the City of Flagstaff on the public nuisance claim brought by the Hopi Tribe, holding that environmental damage to public land with religious, cultural or emotional significance to the plaintiff is not special injury for purposes of the public nuisance doctrine. The Tribe brought a claim of public nuisance based on Snowbowl's use of reclaimed wastewater for snowmaking on Northern Arizona’s San Francisco Peaks. At issue was whether the Hopi sufficiently alleged a “special injury” for an actionable public nuisance claim. The Tribe alleged that it would suffer special injury by the interference with the Tribe’s cultural use of the public wilderness for religious and ceremonial purposes. The trial court ruled that the Tribe failed to satisfy the special injury requirement on the basis of religious or cultural practices. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that while the Tribe sufficiently alleged that the use of reclaimed wastewater on the San Francisco Peaks constituted a public nuisance the Tribe failed to articulate any harm beyond that suffered by the general public. View "Hopi Tribe v. Arizona Snowbowl Resort Limited Partnership" on Justia Law
Ryan v. Napier
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
Glazer v. State
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
Twin City Fire Insurance Co. v. Leija
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
Kopp v. Physician Group of Arizona, Inc.
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
Teufel v. American Family Mutual Insurance Co.
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