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Summers v. Gloor

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

February 2, 2016

LISA SUMMERS, a single woman, Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant/Appellant,
v.
BRENDA GLOOR, a single woman; THE GLOOR FAMILY BAKERY, INC. dba THE BREAD BASKET BAKERY, an Arizona corporation; 4 BEEZ BAKERY, INC., an Arizona corporation, Defendants/Counter-Claimants/Appellees

          Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County. No. CV2011-095916. The Honorable Mark F. Aceto, Retired Judge.

         Sanders & Parks, P.C., Phoenix, By G. Gregory Eagleburger, Patrick B.N. Solomon, Counsel for Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant/Appellant.

         Baird, Williams & Greer, L.L.P., Phoenix, By William D. Sawkiw, Counsel for Defendants/Counter-Claimants/Appellees.

         Presiding Judge Kenton D. Jones delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Judge Samuel A. Thumma and Judge Peter B. Swann joined.

          OPINION

Page 931

          Kenton D. Jones, Judge:

         [¶1] Lisa Summers appeals from a judgment (1) in favor of Appellees (collectively Gloor) on their counterclaim for unjust enrichment, and (2) awarding Gloor attorneys' fees and costs. We conclude Gloor was not precluded from seeking equitable relief as an alternative to her defenses of recoupment and offset to Summers' contract claim under

Page 932

the circumstances presented, and the award to Gloor on her counterclaim was consistent with the evidence presented and the jury's verdict and interrogatory response. We further find the trial court acted within its discretion in deeming Gloor the successful party and awarding attorneys' fees and costs. For these reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS[1] AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         [¶2] In June 2011, Summers, who owned a successful fruit stand business, filed a complaint alleging Gloor breached a contract between them by failing to repay more than $400,000 in loans Summers had made to Gloor and seeking specific performance of an alleged agreement that Gloor would give Summers a fifty percent partnership interest in her bakery business. Gloor acknowledged Summers had loaned her money to help with her bakery but denied promising Summers any ownership interest in the bakery in exchange. Gloor also maintained she had substantially repaid Summers by providing labor and bakery product to Summers' fruit stand and asserted affirmative defenses to Summers' contract claim, including recoupment and offset,[2] as well as a counterclaim for unjust enrichment arising from the value of the goods and services Summers received.[3]

         [¶3] Summers acknowledged receiving labor and bakery product from Gloor, but denied any agreement to accept goods or services as repayment for the loans. Summers further argued any value received from Gloor's labor and bakery product was outweighed by the value of fruits and vegetables Summers provided to Gloor's bakery.

         [¶4] Summers' contract claim proceeded to a jury trial in February 2014. The jury was not asked to consider Gloor's equitable counterclaim in any respect; rather, the parties agreed the equitable claim would be decided by the court after the jury returned its verdict. See Ariz. R. Civ. P. 39(j) ( " Issues not demanded for trial by jury . . . shall be tried by the court." ). Following the presentation of evidence and argument, the jury was instructed upon the elements of a claim for breach of contract, as well as Gloor's affirmative defenses of recoupment and offset as follows:

Gloor claims the defense of recoupment. The defense of recoupment reduces, satisfies, or eliminates any damages Summers might have in the amount proven by Gloor.
. . .
Gloor claims that any damages Summers claims are subject to the affirmative defense of setoff or offset.
The right of setoff or offset allows people or entities that owe each other money to apply their mutual debts against each other, thereby avoiding the absurdity of making A pay B when B owes A.

         [¶5] Acknowledging the jury's verdict could be dispositive on the equitable claim, the parties agreed to propound certain special interrogatories to ...


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