loyalty, unjust enrichment, conversion and misappropriation of trade
secrets. The jury found Nelcela to be jointly and severally liable. 15 On
counterclaims by Nelcela against Post Integrations for failure to pay
for work performed, the jury awarded $147,569.
Herman Martinez and Romelia Martinez v.
Desert Sky Esplanade, L.L.C. and Michael
Manzutto, Maricopa County Superior
Two verdicts also tied for number 9 this year.
On January 7, 2005, 16-year-old Sarah
Martinez was a passenger in a vehicle driven
by third-party defendant Michael Manzutto.
The vehicle was traveling on a road open to
the public but privately owned by Desert Sky Esplanade shopping
center. Manzutto, 24, hit a speed hump on a curve and lost control of
his vehicle. The vehicle struck a tree, and Martinez sustained injuries
that resulted in her death. Martinez’s parents claimed that Desert Sky
Esplanade did not place any warning signs for the curve and speed
hump and that the speed hump did not meet city and federal specifications. Martinez was not wearing a seatbelt but the jury was instructed not to attribute fault on the seatbelt issue. Desert Sky Esplanade
defended that it was not governed by regulations because the road was
private, and that the speed hump conformed with industry standards.
Desert Sky Esplanade also claimed that Manzutto was speeding.
The jury awarded Martinez’s parents a total of $5 million. The jury
found Desert Sky Esplanade 50 percent at fault and Manzutto 50 percent at fault. 16
2009 Reported Arizona Verdict Averages vs. Medians
Randolph Groom v. Roger
Clyne and Susan Clyne,
Santa Cruz County
Superior Court, CV-
Randolph Groom was riding his motorcycle on State Route 82 after dark at about 6:00
p.m. on December 8, 2005. A cattle trailer driven by Roger Clyne
turned left ahead of him and Groom hit the trailer’s left side. The
trailer’s lights were not working, and eyewitness testified that the
motorcycle headlight was not on. Methamphetamine and marijuana metabolites were found in Groom’s blood, and Groom
argued he was not impaired; the Clynes argued he was impaired.
Groom was not wearing a helmet, and the two sides disagreed
about whether it would have prevented his injuries. The Clynes
argued that Groom was completely at fault for impairment and
not wearing a helmet, plus that he was speeding and had enough
time to react and avoid the collision. Groom sustained severe
traumatic brain damage plus multiple orthopedic injuries. Susan
Clyne argued that her son was operating his own independent
contracting business at the time and that he was not her employee, and the jury agreed with her.
The jury awarded $5 million against Roger Clyne. The jury
found Groom 75 percent at fault and Roger Clyne 25 percent at
fault. This was the third “Top 10” verdict in six years resulting
from a motorcycle accident. So let’s be careful out there.
Averages and Medians By Venue
Averages and medians by each venue are as follows. To calculate
an average for a particular county, we add up all the verdict
totals, then divide by how many verdicts there are. In some
counties, typically a few extra-large verdicts skew the averages
higher, so taking a look at the medians as well can help. To calculate the median, we place the verdicts in value order and find
the middle number, where exactly half of the verdicts are higher and half are lower. Both the average and the median verdicts
are analyzed for each venue below, rounded to the nearest dollar, and summarized in the chart to the left.
The statewide average verdict17 in 2009 was $1,384,215.
That was about half of 2008’s statewide average. However, the
statewide median in 2009 was $78,125, the highest the median
has been in recent years. That tells us that while the very top verdicts were not as high in 2009, the majority that round out the
greater part of the verdicts increased. The statewide median was
25 percent higher than what it has been the past three years.
The United States District Court for the District of Arizona
had the highest average. It produced 5 of the Top 10 verdicts of
the year, and its average was $7,304,775. Arizona’s federal court
reported 31 civil verdicts in 2009, a few more than usual.
Sixteen of those were defense verdicts. Even the federal court’s