Arizona’s Civil Verdicts in 2017
The trend continues. Total trials are down. For the first time ever in Arizona, defense verdicts exceeded Plaintiff’s verdicts. Only one verdict was over $10 million. Four of the top ten verdicts came from Pima County. Many of the top ten verdicts were not injury cases but were business disputes. Mohave, La Paz, Yuma, Pinal, Santa Cruz, Cochise, Graham, Coconino, Greenlee and Apache County reported no civil verdicts in 2017. Here are the top ten verdicts in order of award:
$15,000,000: Pima county medical malpractice case against Banner Hospital for negligent administration of a blood clotting agent that led to death of the patient. The award was reduced by 20% as the patient allegedly did not give a proper medical history. This is the largest malpractice verdict in Pima County since 2004.
$7,903,494.58: Dram shop case for a bar over-serving a drunk motorist who killed a man on a small motor scooter. $4 million of the award was against the bar for punitive damages meaning “to punish, not to compensate.” 60% fault assigned to the drunk driver, 40% assigned to the bar. Collectability of this award is in doubt as most car policies don’t have limits high enough to satisfy this judgment and most bar policies exclude punitive damages.
$6,533,308.85: Insurance breach of contract and bad faith case. The insured had a disability policy with Country Life and claimed a serious brain injury prohibited him from gainful employment. Country Life paid for one year and then discontinued payments on questionable medical review of the insured’s records. The jury found the disability to be genuine and awarded contractual benefits to the insured.
$3,324,970.00: This dispute was between the Town of Springerville and a contractor for improper design of an airport runway. The jury found the plans to be insufficient and awarded the town the costs of bringing the runway up to industry standards.
$2,556,000: This case came out of the Phoenix VA scandal of a few years back. The Veteran claimed he could not get appointments timely and once he did he was improperly treated and cancer detection was delayed. The delay led to a much worse outcome. As this was against the VA, the case was decided by a Federal Judge, not a jury.
$2,292,398.70: This was another bench trial concerning a bank suing over a defaulted loan. The judgment was in favor of the bank for loan principal only. Not a very exciting case.
$1,600,000: This grew out of a workplace incident. An employee of one company lost an eye when an employee from another company startled him while he was on a ladder. The jury found for the injured worker against the employer of the at fault employee. As this case arose out a workplace accident there would be a large Worker’s Compensation Lien that would have to be paid back so the true value of the award is unknown.
$1,500,000: Custom made gun barrel on a Remington Rifle exploded in the owner’s hand causing amputation of his dominant hand. Defendants included the company that made the gunsmithing equipment, and the company that made a spray used in the custom barrel making process. There were two non-parties named partially at fault. This award found the non-parties 75% at fault. The gun owner was found to be 20% at fault so a total of 95% of this award is meaningless.
$1,344,808.69: This case involved the sale of a mobile home park. The buyer claimed fraud and misrepresentation in the represented value of the assets that were transferred. The jury found the seller to be 70% at fault and the buyer to be 30% at fault for lack of due diligence so the award is reduced by 30%.
There were 360 civil verdicts statewide in 2006, but only 190 in 2017. Defendants won 52% of the time in 2017. In Pima County Plaintiff’s won 65% of the time: In Maricopa County only 48% of the time.
Keep this in mind the next time you hear someone talk about “runaway jury verdicts.” They are few and far between, and none of them happened in Arizona in 2017. This is a conservative state, and the verdicts represent that.