Justia Civil Procedure Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Arizona Supreme Court
Wallace v. Honorable Smith
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
Legacy Foundation Action Fund v. Citizens Clean Elections Comm’n
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
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