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New Arizona Case: Punitive Damages Survive Death/ Loss Enjoyment of Life Damages Do Not Survive Death

Torts – Damages – Loss Enjoyment of Life & Punitives

Quintero v. Rogers., 543 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 29 (Az Ct. App. Div. 1, November 18, 2008) (Judge Irvine). LOSS OF ENJOYMENT OF LIFE DAMAGES EXPIRE WITH THE DECEDENT BUT PUNITIVE DAMAGES DO NOT.

Soto was injured in an automobile accident and sued adverse driver Rodgers. During the pendency of the injury claim arising out of this automobile accident Soto died in an unrelated work place accident. The plaintiff Elizabeth Quintero was substituted into the action as plaintiff upon Luis Soto's death.

Thereafter the defendant brought a Motion for Summary Judgment claiming that Soto's claims for “loss of enjoyment of life” and punitive damages were extinguished with the plaintiff's death.

The court examined Arizona's survival statute, Arizona Revised Statute §14-3110 and found “pain and suffering” damages do not survive death and “lost enjoyment of life” damages are but a species of pain and suffering.

In contrast, the court held that the survival statute does not preclude an award of punitive damages. Punitive damage are “not aimed at compensation but principally at retribution and deterring harmful conduct.” Because they do not compensate for the victim's injuries, they survive the victim's death unless the survival statute says otherwise and the court finds it does not.

Finally the court overturned the trial court's granting of summary judgment on the question of punitive damages. The court found that although generally exceeding the speed limit is insufficient by itself to support punitive damages here the records indicated Rodgers had been weaving in and out of traffic and that he plead guilty to reckless driving and endangerment. Rodgers admission guilt for recklessness based and resulting misdemeanor convictions are binding admissions upon him in Quintero's suit. His reckless behavior is the precise conduct Rawlings cited as an example of when a jury may find punitive damages appropriate.

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