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Ortiz v. Espinoza

Court of Appeals of Arizona, Second Division

December 12, 2013

Blanca Ortiz, a married woman in her individual capacity, Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
Sarah Espinoza, a single woman, Defendant/Appellee.

Not for Publication – Rule 111(c), Rules of the Arizona Supreme Court

Appeal from the Superior Court in Pima County No. C20117122 The Honorable Kenneth Lee, Judge

Weeks Law Firm PLLC, Marana By Stephen M. Weeks Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant

Law Office of N. Scott Redmon, Tucson By Ryan Redmon Counsel for Defendant/Appellee

Presiding Judge Kelly and Judge Espinosa concurred.

MEMORANDUM DECISION

ECKERSTROM, Judge

¶1 This civil action concerns an alleged sexual assault committed against plaintiff/appellant Blanca Ortiz when she was a guest in the home of defendant/appellee Sarah Espinoza. Ortiz challenges the trial court's grant of summary judgment against her. We affirm for the reasons that follow.

Factual and Procedural Background

¶2 We view the facts in the light most favorable to Ortiz, the party opposing summary judgment. See Wyckoff v. Mogollon Health Alliance, 232 Ariz. 588, ¶ 2, 307 P.3d 1015, 1016 (App. 2013). Ortiz and Espinoza were longtime friends. Ortiz also dated Espinoza's brother, Timothy Lance, in high school, and the two were briefly engaged. Thereafter, Ortiz graduated college, married a different man, and taught a community college program that helped young criminal offenders transition into the workforce. Lance became a violent methamphetamine user with multiple felony convictions. He often would beat women, and he had at least one conviction for domestic violence against the mother of his children. He had no history, however, of any sexual offenses.

¶3 In 2007, at Espinoza's request, Ortiz met Lance in California to provide him with employment information following his release from incarceration. Espinoza believed the two also carried on a sporadic romantic relationship around that time. In October 2010, Espinoza gave Lance money for a bus ticket from California to Arizona, where both she and Ortiz lived. Espinoza also allowed him to stay at her house.

¶4 That same month, Ortiz visited Espinoza's house after receiving an invitation from her to attend a small social gathering. According to Ortiz's affidavit, she was unaware Lance would be there. Based on their history, Espinoza expected Lance and Ortiz to have sex that evening, and she described them as appearing amicable. To another guest, Ortiz appeared uncomfortable around Lance. When Espinoza excused herself at the end of the evening to go to bed, leaving Lance and Ortiz alone together, he raped her as she was trying to leave the house. Ortiz then ran outside; she reported the crime to law enforcement officials several days later.

¶5 Ortiz brought a negligence action against Espinoza, asserting a claim of "premises liability." [1] The claim specifically alleged that because Espinoza knew Lance was a violent convict on her premises and was "infatuated" with Ortiz, Espinoza breached her duty to ensure Ortiz's safety as a guest by leaving her alone with him, rather than taking steps to see that she made it safely to her vehicle. The trial court granted Espinoza's motion for summary judgment without making express findings. This timely appeal followed the entry of judgment.

Discussion

¶6 On appeal, Ortiz characterizes her claim as one for negligence, and she maintains the trial court erred by granting summary judgment against her. "Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings and items in the record 'show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'" Delmastro & Eells v. Taco Bell Corp., 228 Ariz. 134, ¶ 7, 263 P.3d 683, 686-87 (App. 2011), quoting Ariz. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1). "We review a grant of summary judgment de novo, " and we will affirm a trial court's ruling if it is correct on any ground. Id. ΒΆ 8. An appellant carries the burden of ...


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