from the Superior Court in Maricopa County The Honorable
Michael D. Gordon, Judge No. CV2013-011046
of the Court of Appeals, Division One 239 Ariz. 516 (App.
Michael Abernethy (argued), Law Office of James Michael
Abernethy PLLC, Phoenix, Attorney for Michael Soto
G. Hochuli, Lori L. Voepel (argued), Justin M. Ackerman,
Jones, Skelton & Hochuli P.L.C., Phoenix, Attorneys for
Anthony M. Sacco, Total Transit Inc. dba Discount Cab and
Discount Enterprises, Inc.
Brnovich, Arizona Attorney General, Daniel P. Schaack,
Assistant Attorney General, Robert R. McCright, Assistant
Attorney General, Phoenix, Attorneys for Amicus Curiae State
N. Roth, Joshua D. Bendor, Osborn Maledon P.A., Phoenix; and
Brad Holm, Phoenix City Attorney, Phoenix, Attorneys for
Amicus Curiae City of Phoenix Jeffrey C. Warren, Amanda
Heitz, Bowman and Brooke LLP, Phoenix, Attorneys for Amicus
Curiae Arizona Association of Defense Counsel.
JUSTICE LOPEZ authored the opinion of the Court, in which
CHIEF JUSTICE BALES, VICE CHIEF JUSTICE PELANDER, and
JUSTICES BRUTINEL, TIMMER, BOLICK and BERCH (Retired)
This case concerns the standards a trial court applies in
granting a new trial or ordering remittitur or additur under
Arizona Rule of Civil Procedure 59. Although a trial court
should be circumspect when modifying a jury verdict, it
nonetheless may do so if it states the Rule 59(a) or (i)
grounds for the order and explains its ruling with sufficient
particularity to avoid speculation as to its basis.
This case arises from a motor vehicle accident, the salient
facts of which are not in dispute. Michael Soto and his wife
Julie (the "Sotos") were passengers in a taxi cab
driven by Anthony Sacco when it collided with another
vehicle. The Sotos sued Sacco, Discount Enterprises Inc., and
Total Transit, Inc. doing business as Discount Cab
(collectively "Defendants"). Defendants admitted
Sacco's negligence and respondeat superior liability. A
jury trial ensued to determine damages.
As a result of the accident, Michael sustained multiple
fractures to his dominant arm and underwent surgery to
permanently implant a plate and screws to stabilize it. The
Sotos testified that Michael experienced significant pain and
emotional distress since the accident, preventing him from
participating in physical activities he previously enjoyed.
Michael's treating physician, however, placed no
limitations on his activities and told him to use his arm
normally, using pain as a guide ∗ Justice
Andrew W. Gould has recused himself from this case. Pursuant
to article 6, section 3, of the Arizona Constitution, the
Honorable Rebecca White Berch, Justice of the Arizona Supreme
Court (Retired), was designated to sit in this matter. when
engaging in physical activity. Michael's medical bills
totaled $40, 538.40, but he made no claim for future medical
expenses or lost wages.
At trial, the Sotos urged the jury to award Michael $725, 000
in damages. Defendants suggested an award between $90, 000
and $120, 000. After deliberating, the jury awarded $700, 000
to Michael and $40, 000 to Julie. Defendants then moved for a
new trial, or to alter or amend the judgment, and for
remittitur under Arizona Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a)(1),
(5), (7) and (8), and Rule 59(i), requesting that
Michael's award be reduced to not more than $350, 000.
The trial court found that the jury verdict in favor of
Michael "was excessive and not supported by the
evidence, " and granted a remittitur pursuant to Rule
59(i), reducing Michael's award to $250,
000. The Sotos rejected the
court's remittitur and appealed from the new trial order
that became effective after they declined the remittitur.
The court of appeals affirmed. Soto v. Sacco, 239
Ariz. 516 (App. 2016). It rejected the Sotos' argument
that conditional grants of new trial under Rule 59(i) are
subject to Rule 59(m), which requires the trial court to
specify with particularity the ground(s) on which the new
trial is granted. The court of appeals instead concluded that
"Rule 59(i) does not require the trial court to specify
the particulars in relation to which the verdict was
excessive" and upheld the trial court's remittitur.
Soto, 239 Ariz. at 519 ¶ 12 (quoting
Hancock v. Linsenmeyer, 15 Ariz.App. 296, 299
(1971)) (internal quotation marks omitted). The court
determined that the trial court "could reasonably
conclude that the ...