Since my last blog on Arizona law, there have been three new decisions from the Arizona Supreme Court and Arizona Appellate Court that have an impact on our personal injury law practice. Here is a quick summary of what you need to know:
1. In a very messy insurance case involving gross misconduct of an insurance company and agent , the Arizona Court of Appeals found that an insurance application is not admissible evidence if it was not attached to the policy or sent to the customer when the contract was being formed, even if the contract was an oral one. Second, it would not recognize "forgery" as a tort in Arizona. After reviewing the insurance company's conduct, the court also reduced punitive damages from a ratio of 13:1 to 4:1.
What this means: a. The Arizona courts continue to protect consumers by requiring insurance companies and their agents to adhere to strict guidelines and communicate with crystal clear transparency with consumers about what policy they are selling and what the buyer is receiving in return, b. Do not file a claim for forgery, because there is no such thing (though, the conduct of forgery can be included in other legal claims, such as bad faith and fraud), and c. The Arizona courts seem to be following a modern pattern of reluctance to award a large punitive damage award if it far exceeds what the plaintiff recovered on other claims.
2. An Offer of Judgment that requires plaintiff to satisfy all liens does not require a subtraction of those lien amounts from the Offer to determine if plaintiff's failure to accept the Offer results in sanctions.
What this means: A party cannot argue that an Offer of Judgment is actually higher or lower than the final judgment based on the amount of liens involved in the case.
3. A defamation claim will not be barred by the one year statute of limitations if the defamatory statement was made over a year ago, but then republished within the year the claim was filed.
What this means: Though a plaintiff is limited to one cause of action for defamation (i.e. you can't file 20,000 defamation claims against someone because they published 20,000 books with the same defamatory statement), a republishing, editing or modification of the original statement can constitute a separate cause of action and restart the statute of limitations. The more someone opens their mouth, the more likely they are keeping the window open for someone to file a claim against them.
Want to read more details about these decisions and others? Check out our Law Updates.