By Terri Jo Neff |
One of the hardest tasks for an attorney is ensuring a client understands how difficult it is in Arizona to win a multi-million dollar award for damages. In fact, the State Bar of Arizona recently reported the statewide average plaintiff’s verdict in 2021 was less than $509,000, while the median plaintiff’s verdict was less than $200,000.
That is why so much attention gets focused on reports of verdict awards, to show clients the slim chances of big money—even in the most egregious of cases—and the amount of time it can take for a case to get to trial.
Tucson-based attorney Leighton Rockafellow Sr. is among those who shares the Top Ten civil verdict feature published each year in Arizona Attorney, the official magazine of the State Bar of Arizona.
“It is a way of letting our clients know that only a few cases go for the mega dollars, as the perception is that most of them do,” he told AZ Free News of the list, which does not include pre-trial settlements.
Here is a summary of the 2021 Top Ten verdicts
#1- Marquez v. Sobel, M.D. et al. – $5,000,000
In the case, the Plaintiff’s estate sued Dr. Sobel for failing to take her vital statistics during an appointment which should have revealed she was in sepsis at the time, a life-threatening medical emergency. The Plaintiff died three days later. Sobel successfully argued to the Maricopa County jury that another doctor, not named in the lawsuit, was the actual negligent party, cutting Sobel’s share of the judgment to just 5 percent ($250,000).
#2- Adams v. Arizona Senate – $2,750,000
Talonya Adams, a black female attorney, was fired in 2015 as a policy advisor for the Arizona Senate. Adams successfully argued to a federal jury in Phoenix that she was fired in retaliation for bringing to light her disparate pay based on sex and race. (It was the second time a jury ruled in Adams’ favor.)
#3- Mathis v. City of Buckeye – $1,800,000
Mathis was contracted to provide music at a demolition derby event at the Buckeye Arena when he was thrown from the bed of a pickup truck driven by a City of Buckeye employee. Mathis was in the truck after being asked by a city employee to help set up trash cans at the arena. The City accepted liability for the injuries but left the determination of damages to a Maricopa County jury.
#4- Alsadi v. Intel Corp. – $1,171,181
Alsadi was an HVAC employee of the company contracted to run an industrial wastewater facility owned by Intel Corp. In 2016 he was exposed to toxins at the facility and suffered permanent injuries. The case was decided by the federal judge during a bench trial (without a jury).
#5- Parker v. Hawley et al. – $1,029,999
Plaintiff Parker claimed fraud and negligent misrepresentation regarding the financial status of a business he invested in between 2013 and 2015. The company went bust soon after Parker’s last investment and Parker sued in 2016. A Maricopa County jury ruled in favor of Parker and awarded him the specific amount of damages he requested.
#6- Driscoll v. State of Arizona – $981,908
Driscoll was at work on Oct. 18, 2017 driving a semi tractor-trailer when it was struck by an Arizona Department of Corrections transport van at the intersection of Highway 87 and Bartlett Road in Coolidge. The DOC driver was killed; she was the van’s only occupant. The case was heard by a Pima County court which found in favor of Driscoll’s negligence claim.
#7- Stacey v. Minnick – $875,000
A two-vehicle accident in Yavapai County led to a bench trial and a post-appeal jury trial, both ending in favor of Robert Stacey. The judge who conducted the bench trial awarded Stacey $833,000 which was appealed by the defendant. A subsequent jury trial resulted in an even higher damages award in favor of Stacey.
#8- Reinsch v. Kingston et al. – $854,500
Reinsch sued the Arizona Department of Public Safety for injuries he and his daughter sustained when Kingston, a DPS trooper, crashed his state-owned vehicle into the family’s vehicle while on-duty. The award by a Maricopa County jury was for the father, as the daughter’s claim was settled without a trial.
#9- Chatman v. Ferrell et al. – $665,000
The Arizona Department of Child Safety removed Chatman’s sons from her custody after their paternal grandmother was granted emergency custody by a judge in another state. It took Chatman four months to regain custody despite the fact she previously secured a court order barring the grandmother from contact with the boys. DCS officials claimed qualified immunity against the mother’s lawsuit but a federal jury rejected the state’s argument.
#10- Zubia v. Pena et al. – $640,000
Zubia sued Pena (her former husband) and a lender after finding her signature was fraudulently affixed to a $150,000 promissory note Pena obtained in 2008 after the couple separated. Pena had used the house the couple co-owned since 1995 as collateral. When Pena defaulted on the loan, the house was put up for sale and Zubia sued for concealment fraud. Jurors in Maricopa County awarded judgment against Pena and the lender.