After filing a lawsuit against the defendant, Matthew Rodgers, for injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident, Plaintiff Luis Anaya Soto died in an unrelated workplace accident. Soto’s wife, Elizabeth Quintero, was substituted as the personal representative of Soto in the suit. Rodgers filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the grounds that Arizona’s survival statute, A.R.S. § 14-3110, precludes recovery of punitive damages and damages for loss of enjoyment of life. Rogers also argued that Quintero failed to meet the clear and convincing standard required for recovery of punitive damages. The trial court granted the motion without explaining its reasons. Following a settlement agreement that preserved Quintero’s rights to appeal the ruling on the motion for partial summary judgment, Quintero appealed.
The Arizona Appellate Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Court held that A.R.S. § 14-3110 precludes recovery of damages for loss of enjoyment of life. Arizona’s survival statute precludes recovery for damages for pain and suffering. The Court explained that damages for loss of enjoyment of life were meant to be included as part of pain and suffering under the statute and reasoned that to find otherwise would be contrary to the Legislature’s intent. Additionally, the Court distinguished its holding in Ogden v. J.M. Steel Erecting, Inc., 201 Ariz. 32, 31 P.3d 806 (Ariz. App. 2001), which stated that when a jury makes a general damages determination, a court can properly instruct the jury on damages for loss of enjoyment of life as a component of those general damages without necessarily duplicating damages for pain and suffering.
In regard to the punitive damages, the Court held that punitive damages survive the death of both the plaintiff and the tortfeasor, noting that § 14-3110 does not preclude recovery of punitive damages. The Court went on to explain that because the trial court did not provide any reasoning for its grant of the motion for partial summary judgment, it would address the evidence supporting the claim for punitive damages. Citing Rodgers’ guilty plea to reckless driving and additional circumstantial evidence re Rodgers’ speed at the time of the collision, the Court found that a reasonable jury could find that Rodgers acted with sufficient recklessness to support an award of punitive damages.
Therefore, the Court affirmed the trial court’s decision regarding damages for loss of enjoyment of life but reversed its decision regarding punitive damages.
Judge Irvine authored the opinion; Judges Winthrop and Hall concurred.