Articles Posted in Arizona Supreme Court

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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

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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

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The Supreme Court held that governmental entities’ contract-based actions, including claims for indemnification, that fall within Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-552(A) are subject to the eight-year statute of repose, notwithstanding Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-510, which provides that claims by governmental entities are generally not barred by statutes of limitations, or the common law doctrine known as “nullum tempos occurit regi” (time does not run against the king). Carlos Tarazon sued the City of Phoenix after he developed mesothelioma while working on projects for the City. The City filed a third-party complaint against eight-two developers and eight contractors, seeking indemnification. The superior court granted the motions to dismiss filed by the Developers and Contractors, ruling that section 12-552(A) applied to bar the City’s claims. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the statute of repose applied for the Contractors having the requisite contractual relationship with the City; but (2) the statute of repose did not apply for the Developers whose only relationship with the City was as permittees. View "City of Phoenix v. Glenayre Electronics, Inc." on Justia Law

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A car driven by Courtney Cramer rear-ended a vehicle in which Tammy Munguia was a passenger. The next year, Munguia had surgery on her back to treat her persistent low back pain that resulted from the accident. The surgery did not cure Munguia’s symptoms and may have exacerbated her condition. Munguia subsequently filed a personal injury action against Cramer. Cramer filed a notice naming the surgeon as a nonparty at fault. The trial court granted Munguia’s motion to strike, concluding that, under the common law “original tortfeasor rule” (OTR), Cramer, as the original tortfeasor, was liable for the foreseeable risks arising from her tort, including subsequent medical negligence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the OTR does not preclude a defendant from alleging, or the trier of fact from considering, fault of a nonparty physician who treated the plaintiff for injuries allegedly sustained from the defendant’s tort; and (2) under the OTR, an individual who negligently causes an injury that reasonably necessitates medical treatment may also be liable for any enhanced harm proximately resulting from the individual’s negligence, including subsequent injury and related damages negligently but foreseeably caused by a medical provider. View "Cramer v. Hon. Starr" 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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Dudley Pounders, a New Mexico resident, was exposed to asbestos while working at a New Mexico power plant (Plant) more than thirty years ago. Dudley later moved to Arizona and, in 2008, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer associated with asbestos exposure. Dudley and his wife, Vicki, filed suit in Arizona against Defendants, including the successor-in-interest to the architect and design manager for three units at the Plant and the designer and manufacturer of industrial boilers used at the Plant. After Dudley died later that year, Vicki amended the complaint to assert claims for wrongful death. The trial court applied New Mexico substantive law to Vicki's claims, including New Mexico's statute of repose, which the court found applied to Vicki's wrongful death claim and barred the action. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that New Mexico substantive law applied to Vicki's wrongful death claim. View "Pounders v. Ensearch E&C, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant constructed a home that it sold to its initial purchaser. The initial purchaser, in turn, sold the home to Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs later learned the home's hillside retaining wall and home site had been constructed in a dangerously defective manner. Plaintiffs requested that Defendant cover the cost of repair, but Defendant claimed it was no longer responsible for any construction defects. Plaintiffs then filed an action against Defendant to force Defendant to cover the cost of repair. The trial court dismissed all of the claims, concluding, among other things, that Plaintiffs' negligence claims were barred by Arizona's economic loss doctrine. The court of appeals remanded for resolution of Plaintiffs' various negligence claims, concluding that, because Plaintiffs had no contract with Defendant, the economic loss doctrine did not bar their tort claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the economic loss doctrine did not bar Plaintiffs' negligence claims to recover damages resulting from the construction defects. Remanded. View "Sullivan v. Pulte Home Corp." on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court addressed whether an employer can be held vicariously liable for an after-work accident caused by an employee who was on an extended away-from-home assignment. The accident occurred when the employee was driving back to his hotel after dinner. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that an employee on out-of-town travel status is not acting within the course and scope of his employment while traveling to or from a restaurant for a regular meal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because the employee was not subject to his employer's control, he was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident, and therefore, the employer was not liable for the employee's actions.

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Arizona's Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Act (UMA) requires all insurers writing motor vehicle liability policies to also offer underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage that covers all persons insured under the policy. Any exceptions to UIM coverage not permitted by the UMA are void. Insurer in this case sought a declaratory judgment that it had validly denied Insured's UIM claim. Insured was injured while a passenger on a motorcycle driven by her husband, the named insured on a separate motorcycle policy issued also by Insurer. The Supreme Court held (1) the UMA required Insurer to provide UIM coverage for Insured under the auto policy, where Insured's total damages exceeded the amount of her tort recovery from her husband under the husband's motorcycle policy; and (2) the UMA did not permit Insurer to refuse to provide Insured with UIM coverage under her auto policy because she was partially indemnified as a claimant under the liability coverage of the separate motorcycle policy issued by Insured to her husband, whose negligence contributed to her injuries.

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In the underlying federal court action, an auto insurer (Insurer) sought a declaratory judgment that it had validly denied Insured's underinsured motorist (UIM) claim. Insured was injured while a passenger on a motorcycle driven by her husband, who had a motorcycle insurance policy with Insurer. Insured counterclaimed for breach of contract and bad faith. The U.S. district court certified several questions to the state Supreme Court. The Court held (1) Ariz. Rev. Stat. 20-259.01(G) required Insurer to provide UIM coverage for Insured under the auto policy, where Insured's total damages exceeded the amount of her tort recovery from her husband under the husband's motorcycle policy; and (2) Ariz. Rev. Stat. 20-259.01(H) did not permit Insurer to refuse to provide Insured with UIM coverage under her auto policy because she was partially indemnified as a claimant under the liability coverage of the separate motorcycle policy issued by Insurer to Insured's husband, whose negligence contributed to Insured's injuries.