Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Arizona Supreme Court
Varela v. FCA US LLC
The Supreme Court held that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (the Agency) has not established a clear policy objective concerning automatic emergency breaking (AEB) technology that preempts state tort law claims based on an auto manufacturer's alleged failure to install AEB.Plaintiff sued Chrysler alleging negligence, defective product design, defective product warning, and wrongful death. Chrysler moved to dismiss the lawsuit, asserting that it was preempted given the Agency's objectives regarding the development and deployment of AEB technology. The trial court granted Chrysler's motion. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Agency did not intend to preempt tort claims based on the absence of AEB. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court's order, holding (1) the Agency has neither conveyed an authoritative statement establishing manufacturer choice as a significant federal policy objective nor made explicit a view that AEB should not be regulated; and (2) therefore, the Agency has not established a policy objective that actually conflicts with the claims at issue. View "Varela v. FCA US LLC" on Justia Law
Welch v. Cochise Board of Supervisors
The Supreme Court held that Arizona's open-meeting and conflict-of-interest laws broadly confer standing based upon a claimant's interest in preserving the values of transparency and accountability that the laws enshrine, not because of a claimant's equitable ownership of tax revenues.The laws at issue in this case grant people affected by either an alleged violation or a public agency's decision standing to enforce their respective requirements. The open-meeting law also provides that legal action taken in violation of the law is null and void unless the public body later takes the proper steps to "ratify" that action. Before the Supreme Court was private claimants' standing to challenge alleged violations of Arizona's public accountability laws and the effect statutory ratification has on a private claimant's open-meeting claim. The Supreme Court vacated the portions of the court of appeals' opinion analyzing the laws' enforcement provisions through the lens of taxpayer standing, holding (1) Ariz. Rev. Stat. 38-431.07(A), and -506(B) grant standing to all who fall within the broader "zone of interests" protected by Arizona's public accountability laws; and (2) ratification under section 38-431.05(B) does not act as a complete cure to an open-meeting violation but merely negates the original action's default nullification. View "Welch v. Cochise Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law
State of Netherlands v. MD Helicopters, Inc.
The Supreme Court held that court-authorized procedures recognizing foreign country money judgments in a manner similar to Arizona's version of the Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgments Recognition Act, Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-3251 to -3254, can satisfy the Act's reciprocity requirement.The Act authorizes courts to recognize judgments originating from a foreign country with a "reciprocal law" that is "similar" to the Act. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether reciprocity requires a legislative act or if court decisions authorizing such procedures can be recognized. The superior court in this case recognized the judgment under the Act and permitted its enforcement in Arizona. In affirming, the court of appeals rejected the argument that the Act did not apply because the Netherlands did not have a reciprocal, similar legislative act, concluding that the Netherlands' legislatively enabled code of civil procedure, along with court decisions applying it, satisfied the reciprocity requirement. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a foreign country's formally recognized and enforced rule that authorizes recognition of Arizona money judgments can be established by a foreign country's caselaw. View "State of Netherlands v. MD Helicopters, Inc." on Justia Law
Sholem v. Honorable David Gass
In this case involving the construction of Ariz. R. Civ. P. 4(i), the Supreme Court held that, under Rule 4(i), if a plaintiff shows good cause for failing to serve a defendant within ninety days, a court is required to extend the time for service, but also under the rule, a court in its discretion may extend the period for service without a plaintiff showing good cause.Melissa Langevin filed a complaint against Dr. Steven Sholem. More than ten months after the ninety-day deadline had expired, Langevin filed a motion pursuant to Rule 4(i) seeking to extend the time for service. The trial court determined there was good cause to grant the motion and extended the deadline. After Langevin served Sholem he moved to dismiss, arguing that the complaint did not show good cause for extending the deadline. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no good cause for an extension under rule 4(i), but there were discretionary grounds in the record to deny Sholem's motion to dismiss. View "Sholem v. Honorable David Gass" 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
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
Gonzalez v. Nguyen
A defendant need not submit additional evidence outside the existing record to establish a “meritorious defense” in a motion to set aside a default judgment under Ariz. R. Civ. P. 60(c) (now 60(b)), and a trial court has broad discretion to determine whether a matter should be decided on the merits.In the instant case, after a hearing at which Plaintiff presented evidence and Defendants failed to appear, the trial court entered a default judgment. Defendants filed a Rule 60(c) motion to vacate the damage award. The trial court granted the motion on the grounds that the record suggested that the judgment amount was excessive. The court of appeals reversed and reinstated the default damages judgment, concluding that Defendants had no presented a “meritorious defense” to support the motion. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ decision and affirmed the trial court’s order, holding (1) evidence outside the extant record is unnecessary to establish the meritorious defense supporting the motion to vacate; and (2) although a possibly excessive judgment does not automatically entitle a defendant to vacate a default judgment, the trial court in this case acted within its discretion. View "Gonzalez v. Nguyen" on Justia Law
Butler Law Firm, PLC v. Honorable Robert J. Higgins
The Superior Court of Navajo County erred when it denied Defendants’ motion for change of venue in this legal malpractice action filed by a Hospital located in Navajo County against a professional limited liability company (PLLC) organized in Maricopa County and its attorneys, both Maricopa County residents.After the Hospital sued, Defendants moved to transfer venue to Maricopa County, arguing that venue in Navajo County was improper unless a statutory exception applied under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-401. The trial court denied the motion, finding that venue in Navajo was proper under section 12-401(5) because the Hospital “exclusively contracted business in Navajo County,” and under section 12-401(18), reasoning that LLCs should be considered corporations for venue purposes. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the PLLC was not required, expressly or by necessary implication, to perform in Navajo County; and (2) the trial court erred when it applied the subsection (18) exception on the basis that LLCs, like corporations, are amenable to veil-piercing, where venue and the alter-ego doctrine reflect different policy considerations. View "Butler Law Firm, PLC v. Honorable Robert J. Higgins" on Justia Law
Legacy Foundation Action Fund v. Citizens Clean Elections Commission
Ariz. Rev. Stat. 16-957(B)’s fourteen-day time limit for an appeal of a Citizens Clean Elections Commission penalty decision applies when the appellant challenges the Commission’s personal and subject-matter jurisdiction.The Commission in this case found probable cause to believe that Legacy Foundation Action Fund violated the Citizens Clean Elections Act, Ariz. Rev. Stat. 16-940 to -961 and thus assessed a civil penalty. Eighteen days after the Commission’s final decision, Legacy filed an appeal in the superior court. The superior court dismissed the appeal because it was not filed within fourteen days of a final Commission penalty decision as required by section 16-957(B). The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the superior court correctly dismissed the appeal. View "Legacy Foundation Action Fund v. Citizens Clean Elections Commission" on Justia Law
Vincent v. Shanovich
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