Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arizona Supreme Court
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The case involves a dispute between investigative journalist Amy Silverman and the Arizona Department of Economic Security (ADES). Silverman requested access to records maintained by the Adult Protective Services (APS), a program within ADES, for her research on issues affecting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. ADES denied her request, citing a state law that generally shields APS records from public inspection, except for certain exceptions, including one for "bona fide research." Silverman sued ADES, arguing that her journalistic activities qualified as "bona fide research."The Superior Court in Maricopa County ruled in favor of Silverman, finding that her journalistic activities qualified as "bona fide research" and ordered ADES to produce the requested documents after redacting personally identifying information. ADES appealed this decision, and the Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case back to the Superior Court. The Court of Appeals concluded that "research" under the exception must be conducted for "educational, administrative, or scientific purposes" and that ADES still has discretion whether to disclose APS records.Both parties were dissatisfied with the Court of Appeals' decision and filed petitions for review with the Supreme Court of the State of Arizona. The Supreme Court concluded that "bona fide research" under the relevant statute occurs when the researcher engages in a good faith and genuine study to acquire more knowledge, discover new facts, or test new ideas concerning reporting or stopping the abuse, exploitation, or neglect of vulnerable adults. The court also held that anyone, including journalists, can qualify under the bona fide research exception. However, the court found that ADES has discretion whether, and on what conditions, to release APS records for bona fide research. The court vacated the Court of Appeals' opinion, affirmed the Superior Court's judgment insofar as it denied ADES's motion to dismiss, but reversed the judgment for Silverman and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "SILVERMAN v ADES" on Justia Law

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The case involves the Arizona Republican Party (ARP) and its attorneys, who challenged the manner in which Maricopa County election officials conducted a mandatory hand count of ballots following the 2020 general election. The ARP argued that the hand count should have been based on precincts rather than voting centers, as prescribed by the Election Procedures Manual (EPM). The trial court dismissed the ARP's complaint and awarded attorney fees against the ARP and its attorneys under A.R.S. § 12-349(A)(1) and (F), which provides for such fees if a claim is groundless and not made in good faith. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's rulings.The Supreme Court of the State of Arizona held that the attorney fees award was improper because the ARP's claim was not groundless, thus there was no need to determine whether the claim was made in the absence of good faith. The court found that the ARP's claim was more than "barely" colorable, as there was a plain-language conflict between § 16-602(B), which requires a precinct hand count, and the 2019 EPM, which permits a voting center hand count. The court also disagreed with the lower courts' rulings that the ARP's claim was groundless due to the unavailability of remedies, the applicability of the election-law time bar on post-election challenges to pre-election procedures, and laches. The court vacated the trial court’s and the court of appeals’ attorney fees awards. View "ARIZONA REPUBLICAN PARTY v RICHER" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute over insurance coverage following a fatal jet ski accident. The owner of A.C. Watercraft Rental, Sayed Mohammed, had sought liability insurance for all his business-owned watercraft through Farm Bureau Property and Casualty Insurance Company, which connected him with Great Divide Insurance Company. However, a Yamaha watercraft involved in a fatal accident was not listed in the policy schedule. Following the accident, Mohammed filed a claim with Great Divide for defense and indemnification, which was denied due to the jet ski not being listed in the policy. Subsequently, the deceased's father, Garbis Satamian, sued A.C. Watercraft, which had to bear its own defense costs.The Superior Court in Maricopa County dismissed Satamian's claims against Great Divide, Farm Bureau, and Risk Placement Services (RPS) on the grounds of statute of limitations. The court found that A.C. Watercraft learned of the negligent procurement of insurance when Great Divide denied coverage in January 2016, and that it “sustained injury in May 2017, when [A.C. Watercraft] incurred attorneys’ fees and costs defending itself.” The court ruled that both the negligent procurement of insurance claim and the promissory estoppel claim were time-barred because each accrued no later than May 2017.Satamian appealed the dismissal, arguing that the discovery rule should have tolled the statute of limitations and that the claims could not have accrued until his underlying action against A.C. Watercraft was final and non-appealable. The Court of Appeals rejected Satamian’s arguments and affirmed the lower court's decision.The Supreme Court of the State of Arizona affirmed the lower courts' decisions, holding that the negligent procurement of insurance and promissory estoppel claims accrued when an insured incurs its own litigation costs for defense against a claim due to an insurer’s negligent failure to obtain insurance coverage. The court found that A.C. Watercraft knew or should have known both the “who” and the “what” of the negligent procurement cause of action by May 2017, and expired by May 2019. The promissory estoppel claim began to accrue by May 2017, and expired by May 2020. Because Satamian filed this lawsuit in June 2021, both claims were time-barred. View "Satamian v. Great Divide Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of the State of Arizona considered whether the Arizona Legislature repealed or otherwise restricted A.R.S. § 13-3603 by enacting the abortion statutes in Title 36, specifically A.R.S. § 36-2322, which prohibits physicians from performing elective abortions after fifteen weeks’ gestation. The case arose from a motion for relief under Arizona Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5)–(6), seeking to set aside the permanent injunction against § 13-3603 imposed in 1973 following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade.Previously, the trial court granted the motion, vacating the judgment in its entirety to allow full enforcement of § 13-3603. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that licensed physicians who perform abortions in compliance with Title 36 are not subject to prosecution under § 13-3603.The Supreme Court of the State of Arizona held that § 36-2322 does not create a right to, or otherwise provide independent statutory authority for, an abortion that repeals or restricts § 13-3603. The court concluded that absent the federal constitutional abortion right, and because § 36-2322 does not independently authorize abortion, there is no provision in federal or state law prohibiting § 13-3603’s operation. Accordingly, § 13-3603 is now enforceable. The court affirmed the trial court’s judgment vacating the injunction of § 13-3603, vacated the court of appeals’ opinion and stay of enforcement of § 13-3603, and remanded to the trial court for potential consideration of the remaining constitutional challenges to §13-3603 alleged in Planned Parenthood’s complaint for declaratory relief. View "Planned Parenthood v. Mayes" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Supreme Court of Arizona was asked to clarify whether Proposition 209, a voter initiative, repealed or affected the validity of a particular portion of the Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S. § 33-1126(A)(11)). The Court held that Proposition 209 neither expressly nor implicitly repealed A.R.S. § 33-1126(A)(11), which was enacted by the Arizona legislature after the drafting of Proposition 209 but before it was voted on.The case arose when Erica Riggins filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and claimed an exemption under A.R.S. § 33-1126(A)(11), which was an exemption for certain types of federal and state tax credits. The Chapter 7 Trustee objected, arguing that Proposition 209, which amended a number of debt collection statutes and was passed by voters after the enactment of A.R.S. § 33-1126(A)(11), repealed the tax credit exemption.Upon review, the Court found that the voters did not expressly repeal A.R.S. § 33-1126(A)(11) by passing Proposition 209, as the proposition did not contain any language suggesting such a repeal. The Court also found that Proposition 209 did not implicitly repeal A.R.S. § 33-1126(A)(11) because the two did not conflict with each other. Both sought to enhance debtor protections, with Proposition 209 increasing the value of certain exemptions while A.R.S. § 33-1126(A)(11) added a new exemption for tax credits. As such, the Court declared A.R.S. § 33-1126(A)(11) to be still operative. View "In re: RIGGINS" on Justia Law

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In the case before the Supreme Court of the State of Arizona, the appellant, Yvette Rosenberg, contested the validity of a beneficiary deed executed by her late uncle, Alex Brandt, which left two properties to Marilyn Sanders, Brandt's former girlfriend. Rosenberg claimed that Sanders procured the deed through undue influence. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Sanders, holding that Rosenberg had not presented evidence from which a reasonable trier of fact could conclude that Sanders unduly influenced Brandt in executing the deed. The court of appeals reversed, adding a new ninth factor to the existing eight-factor test for undue influence, namely the relevance of a grantor's post-execution statements.The Supreme Court of the State of Arizona affirmed the trial court's decision and held that adding a grantor's post-execution statements as a new ninth factor in the undue influence test was unnecessary. The Court found that Brandt's post-execution statements were not relevant to the claim of undue influence as they did not address his state of mind, mental condition, or the circumstances present at the time of the execution of the deed. The Court concluded that Rosenberg's evidence of susceptibility and the existence of a close relationship between Brandt and Sanders were insufficient to defeat summary judgment. The Court also found that Rosenberg's inferences did not create a genuine dispute of material fact concerning whether Sanders exerted undue influence at the time of executing the deed, or whether the deed was the product of Sanders' undue influence. Therefore, the Court affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Sanders. View "ROSENBERG v SANDERS" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court resolved a conflict between Arizona Rule of Civil Appellate Procedure (ARCAP) 7(a)(4)(A), which instructs courts to include "damages, costs, attorney's fees, and prejudgment interest" when setting the amount of a supersedeas bond, and Ariz. Rev. Stat. 12-2108(A)(1), which instructs courts only to include damages, in favor of the rule.The superior court entered judgment against Robert Wallace for wrongfully filing a UCC-1 lien and awarded statutory damages plus attorney fees and costs. Wallace appealed, asking the court to set a supersedeas bond at $0 under section 12-2108(A)(1). The court, however, calculated the bond under ARCAP 7(a)(4)(A), including the statutory damages, attorney fees, and costs. Wallace filed a petition for special action in the Supreme Court challenging the rule's validity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) ARCAP 7(a)(4)(A) and section 12-2108(A)(1) are in direct conflict; and (2) section 12-2108(A)(1) regulates a procedural area of law within the purview of the judicial branch and therefore must yield where it conflicts with ARCAP 7(a)(4)(A). View "Wallace v. Honorable Smith" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the superior court could adjudicate the challenge brought by Legacy Foundation Action Fund to the subject matter jurisdiction of the Clean Elections Commission in a collateral proceeding and that issue preclusion did not apply under the circumstances.The issues raised in this appeal stemmed from a 2014 election-related dispute between Legacy and the Commission. Legacy failed timely to appeal the final administrative decision of the Commission assessing a penalty for Legacy's violation of the Citizens Clean Elections Act. Therefore, the Supreme Court ruled that the superior court lacked appellate jurisdiction to decide the issue of whether the Commission acted within its subject matter jurisdiction. At issue before the Supreme Court here was whether the superior court could adjudicate the issue of the Commission's jurisdiction in a collateral proceeding. The Supreme Court answered (1) because a judgment entered by a tribunal lacking subject matter jurisdiction was void the superior court could adjudicate Legacy's challenge to the Commission's subject matter jurisdiction in a collateral proceeding; and (2) because the Commission did not serve as a neutral decision maker in deciding its own jurisdiction, Legacy was deprived of a full and fair adjudication of the issue, and therefore, issue preclusion did not apply. View "Legacy Foundation Action Fund v. Citizens Clean Elections Comm'n" on Justia Law

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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

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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