Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division, Department D
Not for Publication – Rule 28, Arizona Rules of Civil Appellate Procedure
Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County Cause No. CV2010-032269 The Honorable Randall H. Warner, Judge
Christopher S. Short, P.C., Christopher S. Short Attorneys for Appellee.
Trullinger & Wenk, P.L.L.C. Charles E. Trullinger and Russell F. Wenk Attorneys for Appellants.
DONN KESSLER, Judge.
¶1 Sharon Matlock-Page and Robert Page ("the Pages") appeal from a judgment in favor of Sharon's son, Keith Matlock ("Matlock"). They argue that the trial court erred when it answered a jury question regarding contract formation and timing. For the following reasons, we affirm.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
¶2 In 2008, Matlock provided the Pages with $35, 000 to be used as a down payment on their home. The Pages contended the transaction was a gift, and Matlock contended the transaction was a loan. Matlock argued the Pages promised to repay the funds within a few months after the loan began, and the Pages claimed that they only agreed to pay Matlock back after he allegedly denied them access to their grandchildren in 2010. There is no evidence of a written contract or loan formalized at the time Matlock gave the Pages the funds. The Pages made one payment to Matlock in February 2010, but refused to make any further payments. In later emails from December 2010, the Pages acknowledged that that they were indebted to Matlock.
¶3 Matlock brought an action against the Pages for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Matlock and awarded him $33, 100. In response to supplemental verdict forms to explain which claim(s) the jury found for Matlock, the jury returned only the form finding for Matlock on the breach of contract claim.
¶4 The Pages timely appealed. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes ("A.R.S.") section 12-2101(A)(1) (Supp. 2012).
ISSUE AND STANDARD OF REVIEW
¶5 The Pages argue that in responding to a jury question, the trial court erroneously instructed the jury that not all of the elements of a contract need exist at the same time for a contract to be formed, thus causing the jury to misapply the facts when reaching its verdict. "We review de novo the question [of] whether jury instructions correctly stated the law." State v. Morales, 198 Ariz. 372, 374, ¶ 4, 10 P.3d 630, 632 (App. 2000) . "We consider all of the instructions together to determine whether they misled the jury, " and "[w]e will reverse only if an erroneous instruction prejudiced the appellant's rights." Desert Mountain Props. Ltd. v. Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 225 Ariz. 194, 199, ¶ 11, 236 P.3d 421, 426 (App. 2010); see also State ex rel. Thomas v. Granville, 211 Ariz. 468, 471, ¶ 8, 123 P.3d 662, 665 (2005) ("[W]e read the jury instructions as a whole to ensure that the jury receives the information it needs to arrive at a legally correct decision.").
¶6 "The purpose of jury instructions is to inform the jury of the applicable law in terms it can readily understand." Barrett v. Samaritan Health Servs., Inc, 153 Ariz. 138, 143, 735 P.2d 460, 465 (App. 1987). The trial court initially ...