In these days of division in our country, we all can strive to respect the rule of law and help it to
unite us. As in the past, Arizona judges, juries and attorneys continued to accomplish law’s virtues in 2016.
Here are 2016’s leading verdicts. 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.
Arizona juries gave four verdicts of $10 million or higher, and 13 verdicts between $1 million and $10 million.
Three of the top verdicts were from federal court. The 10 highest awards were awards given by juries, none
in bench trials. The largest two verdicts were within two days of each other in April, both in federal court.
As ever, this article focuses on verdicts given in civil cases by Arizona juries and judges. Please see the endnotes
for any notable post-verdict activity or appeals as of the time we completed our writing. 2 The case numbers
are listed with the case name, and online dockets are available if you want to look at the post-trial lawyering
in more depth or see who the lawyers or judges were. 3 The focus here is on how the Arizona juries
and judges decided these cases, and what they awarded.
Sandra Coulbourn et al. v. Crane Company and The William
Powell Co., U.S. District Court for the District of
George Coulbourn worked as a civilian mechanic on Navy ships in
the 1960s and alleged he was exposed to asbestos dust. He developed mesothelioma, a terminal cancer in the lining of the lungs,
and he died in 2012. His family contended that Crane Company
and The William Powell Company failed to warn of the health
hazards of asbestos, failed to properly test asbestos-containing
products, failed to remove them from sale, and conspired to misrepresent the risks. The companies denied liability and contended
that numerous other companies and the Navy were negligent. The
jury awarded $9 million in compensatory damages and $8 million
in punitive damages. The jury found Crane Company 20 percent
at fault and The William Powell Company 5 percent at fault.
Ivy Jarvis et al. v. City of Phoenix et al., Maricopa County
Superior Court, CV2013-0161456
Kirk Jarvis, 43, was riding his motorcycle when he was
hit by a car driven by Patsy Santerelli. Santerelli had stopped at a
ONA VERDICTS IN 2016
painted stop line 24 feet away from an intersection, before starting
a left turn and then colliding with Jarvis, who died at the scene.
Jarvis’ family alleged that the City of Phoenix negligently designed
and maintained the intersection, and that its stop line location and
sight obstructions created a high accident risk. They argued that
Phoenix ignored prior complaints of poor visibility and that the
intersection was a low priority because it would be demolished
as part of a highway extension project. Phoenix contended there
were adequate sight lines at the intersection, which was constructed before 2000. Phoenix argued the intersection was safe because
no serious injuries had occurred there before, and that the intersection was controlled by the Arizona Department of Transportation. The jury awarded $11 million and found Phoenix 95 percent
at fault and non-party at fault Santerelli 5 percent at fault.
John Roe v. Charles Gibson, Coconino County Superior
This was a civil suit for child abuse. “John Roe” and
his parents claimed that family member Charles Gibson sexually
assaulted Roe over many years of his childhood. They claimed
he sustained severe emotional injuries as a result. Charles Gibson