D. Dustin Anderson v. Ford Motor Co., Maricopa County
Superior Court, CV-06-053189
In this product liability case, Dustin Anderson was driving a
2001 Pathfinder toward Flagstaff on Interstate 17. As he drove
on an icy portion of road, he lost control of the vehicle. The
Pathfinder went into a spin, entered the median and rolled over
several times. Anderson sustained a traumatic brain injury,
which he claimed occurred when his head was partially ejected
through his window frame and contacted the ground. He
alleged that the Pathfinder should have had electronic stability
control and that it should have had a safety canopy system that
activates side-curtain airbags in a rollover. He asked the jury to
award $9.6 million.
Nissan demonstrated that electronic stability control and
side airbags would not have prevented this rollover or plaintiffs’ injuries, and that neither of those systems were feasible in
a 2001 Pathfinder. This was the second year in a row in which
automotive manufacturers prevailed in a major verdict where
similar theories were raised.
E. Pat Linneen et al. v. City of Chandler et al., 22 Maricopa County
Superior Court, CV-2005-011881
Five high school students left campus in a car on a lunch
break. Shayna Linneen was driving a VW Beetle, and her passengers included Krystal Ebel and Tyler Spurbeck. A second
vehicle driven by Alfred Galaviz merged into Linneen’s lane
and she swerved to avoid it. The Linneen vehicle went into a
raised median island, hit a palm tree stump, pivoted and hit a
second palm tree. The VW was propelled into the oncoming
lane, where it was hit by a truck. Linneen and Ebel died as a
result of the crash and Spurbeck was injured. Plaintiffs alleged
that the tree stump caused the loss of control, that Chandler
failed to remove the tree stump from the median and that the
road design was not safe. Plaintiffs alleged that Galaviz made an
unsafe lane change. Plaintiffs asked the jury collectively for
approximately $6.6 million.
Chandler contended the road design was reasonably safe
and complied with the standard of care, and that the collision
with the truck would likely have caused fatal and serious injuries
even if the stump had not been in the median. Galaviz argued
that Linneen failed to reasonably observe his lane change and
overreacted. The jury found in favor of both defendants.
F. Duane Wozniak v. Employers Mutual Casualty Co., Maricopa
County Superior Court, CV-2006-015647
On February 5, 2004, Duane Wozniak’s vehicle was hit
head-on by another driver. The second driver paid his auto policy limits of $15,000 to Wozniak. Wozniak alleged he developed arthritis as a result of his injuries and he made an underinsured motorist claim to his insurance company, Employers
Mutual Casualty Co. Wozniak alleged that Employers Mutual
failed to properly handle his claim and breached its duty of
good faith. Wozniak made a pretrial demand of his $1 million
policy limit and at trial demanded an additional $3 million to
$5 million in punitive damages.
Employers Mutual argued it had offered money to settle
and was willing to continue negotiating but was cut short when
Wozniak filed suit.
G. Edwin Vigil et al. v. Starwood Hotels & Resort Worldwide, Inc.
et al., 23 Maricopa County Superior Court, CV-2006-008663
Edwin and Denise Vigil stayed at the Westin Kierland
Resort & Spa in Scottsdale for three days in July 2004. They
claimed that they were bitten by mosquitoes while they slept
and contracted West Nile virus as a result. The Vigils claimed
that the hotel failed to follow county advisories for treatment of
mosquitoes, failed to provide screens on patio doors, and failed
to warn about the mosquitoes. Edwin Vigil alleged that he had
arm weakness, dizziness, muscle twitching and fatigue and was
essentially unemployable. The Vigils asked for $1.5 million.
Starwood Hotels and its related defendants contended that
they followed county recommendations and hired a contractor
to deal with insects. Starwood also contended that the Vigils
were at fault for leaving the patio door open in spite of the
warnings on the doors to keep them closed, and that the mosquitoes came from the surrounding community rather than a
breeding site on its property.
H. Joochul Kim v. Arizona State University, United States District
Court for the District of Arizona, 2004-CV-1931
Joochul Kim was an Associate Professor at Arizona State
University. He was denied promotion to full professor. He
alleged that the denial was wrongfully based on his race and
Korean national origin. He asked for lost wages for the difference in salary, and alleged that $1 million would not be sufficient to compensate him.
Arizona State University defended that his research activity
record was insufficient to merit promotion. 24 Trends
Here are some observations on Arizona verdict trends, as we continue our multi-year analysis. This is the sixth year for this article
and we’ve reviewed about 1,800 verdicts. The graph on page 38
shows the chart of the top verdicts over the most recent five years.
The awards at the very highest end went up dramatically in
2007 and 2008 and leveled off somewhat in 2009. Punitive damages are still comparatively uncommon, but they were given more
often than ever in 2009. Federal court has continued to be statistically more favorable to defendants than state court on percentage of verdicts. The statistical chance of prevailing as a plaintiff in
any given case has ranged from 53 percent to 67 percent, and the
five-year average chance of winning as a plaintiff was 59 percent.
The outlying Arizona counties tended to generate defense verdicts
and relatively low plaintiffs’ verdicts, although the plaintiffs’ verdicts in those counties have been on the rise. Where Are They Now?
What happens to the big verdicts that make our “Top 10” list each
year? Many of them are appealed, some are paid, and, like the rest of
the universe of civil cases, many are settled. Although this is not a com-