Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Villasenor v. Evans

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

December 20, 2016

JOSEPH VILLASENOR, an individual, Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
CORAL J. EVANS, an unmarried woman, Defendant/Appellee.

         Appeal from the Superior Court in Coconino County No. S0300CV201400367 The Honorable Mark R. Moran, Judge

         AFFIRMED

          Timothy A. La Sota, PLC, Phoenix By Timothy A. La Sota Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant.

          John Trebon, PC, Flagstaff By John Trebon Co-Counsel for Defendant/Appellee.

          Jones, Skelton & Hochuli, PLC, Phoenix By Eileen Dennis GilBride Co-Counsel for Defendant/Appellee.

          Judge Peter B. Swann delivered the opinion of the court, in which Presiding Judge Andrew W. Gould and Judge Patricia A. Orozco joined.

          OPINION

          SWANN, JUDGE

         ¶1 In this defamation case, the superior court entered summary judgment in favor of the defendant based on the plaintiffs failure to comply with the notice of claim statute, Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) section 12-821.01. We hold that because § 12-821.01 applies to all actions brought against public employees related to acts within the scope of their employment, and the undisputed evidence established that this is such an action, the plaintiff's failure to comply with § 12-821.01 warranted summary judgment. We therefore affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2 In 2013 and 2014, Joseph Villasenor worked as a consultant and lobbyist for a developer that faced public opposition related to its efforts to obtain a zoning change from the Flagstaff City Council and build a multi-family residential student housing project. Coral J. Evans, an elected member of the Council and the Vice Mayor, had conversations with Villasenor about the project and held a meeting that she, Villasenor, and a community organizer attended. A local newspaper later published an article about the meeting. In response to the article, Evans sent an e-mail to the newspaper asking it to publish a follow-up story to correct what she perceived as misinformed reporting. She included a forwarded copy of an e-mail she had received from the community organizer, and she described that e-mail as "a very fair accounting of what happened in [the] meeting."

         ¶3 Villasenor brought a defamation action against Evans related to statements in her e-mail and the e-mail she forwarded. Evans moved for summary judgment based on Villasenor's failure first to serve a notice of claim under A.R.S. § 12-821.01.

         ¶4 Villasenor does not dispute that he failed to serve a notice of claim under § 12-821.01. He also does not dispute that Evans was a Councilmember and the Vice Mayor, that his employer's project had engendered public controversy, that the proposed zoning change was set for a Council vote, or that Evans had communicated with him about the project and arranged the meeting. He argues, however, that he was not required to comply with § 12-821.01 because Evans either was not a public employee or had acted outside the scope of her public employment.

         ¶5 In support of his first contention, Villasenor argued that under A.R.S. § 12-820 and various sections of the Flagstaff City Code, Evans was a City "officer" rather than a City "employee." In support of his second contention, Villasenor argued that Evans had presented insufficient evidence to show that she had acted within the scope of her public employment.[1] He asserted that Evans held concurrent employment as the executive director of a neighborhood association, had made statements to him regarding the project's potential impact on her family members and friends, and had participated in conversations about the project in both a professional and a personal capacity. Villasenor stressed that Evans had sent the e-mail from a personal device and e-mail account, and had not copied her fellow Councilmembers or other political figures. He finally asserted that the City was not paying for Evans's defense.

         ¶6 Evans replied and presented evidence that the City was paying for her defense and that no City policy prohibited her from using a personal electronic ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.