For the past 13 years, I’ve written the cover story of the state bar magazine, Arizona Attorney, about Arizona verdicts. The latest one is out. Here are 2016’s top Arizona verdicts, significant defense verdicts, punitive awards, venue variations and trends.
The largest Arizona verdict in 2016 of more than $27 million was a hostile business break-up. The highest Arizona verdicts were also about asbestos exposure of a shipyard worker that resulted in mesothelioma, a road design case about visibility at an intersection that resulted in a motorcycle driver’s death, a civil suit for child abuse, and a medical malpractice verdict against a hospital. They also included an insurance bad faith verdict out of one of Phoenix’s worst hail storms, an impaired driver who struck a person waiting for a bus, a condemnation case for elimination of a street access route, a death in a psychiatric facility, and a pedestrian struck in a crosswalk.
One additional verdict was reported to us after publication, Summitbridge Credit Investments IV, LLC v. White Mountain Lakes Development and Marketing, Inc. et al., Pima County Superior Court, C20141458. White Mountain Lakes Development and Marketing took a loan of $8,592,603 from a bank in 2005. It later defaulted and Summitbridge Credit Investments IV acquired the loan in 2013. It foreclosed on the property and sued to recover the principal loan amount (after credit for the sold property), interest, and late charges. After a bench trial, the court awarded $10,097,534.46.
Arizona juries gave five verdicts of $10 million or higher, and thirteen verdicts between $1 million and $10 million. Three of the topmost verdicts were from federal court.
The number of verdicts reversed its declining trend. Based on the number of verdicts reported, the number of Arizona cases that are tried all the way to verdict had until 2016 been steadily declining for six years. That trend reversed in 2016 and the number of verdicts increased by 18%, back to approximately 2014 levels.
Medical malpractice verdicts for plaintiffs have continued to become more common in Arizona, and larger in amount. This rise started four years ago, and continues to show as a trend.
Reliably year over year, counties with smaller populations and on the outer geographical parts of Arizona lean more conservatively on verdicts, and tend to return defense verdicts or plaintiff’s verdicts that are relatively lower.
Punitive damages remain rare and are generally given by Arizona factfinders only when they are presented with aggravating or extreme facts. We typically see punitive damages awarded in roughly ten cases per year. Amounts range considerably.
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