from the Superior Court in Yavapai County No.
P1300CV201600271 The Honorable Patricia A. Trebesch, Judge
Watters Law PLLC, Tucson By Andrea E. Watters Counsel for
Murphy, Schmitt, Hathaway & Wilson PLLC, Prescott By
Milton W. Hathaway, Jr. Counsel for Defendant/Appellee
Kent E. Cattani delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
Presiding Judge Diane M. Johnsen and Judge Jennifer M.
Loretta Donovan appeals from the superior court's entry
of summary judgment in favor of Yavapai County Community
College District dba Yavapai College ("Yavapai
College") based on Donovan's purported failure to
comply with Arizona's notice of claim statute, Arizona
Revised Statutes ("A.R.S.") § 12-821.01.
Donovan's notice of claim described multiple causes of
action against multiple public entities but set forth only a
single settlement amount-$450, 000-rather than making a
separate settlement demand on each entity. Because the notice
of claim unequivocally set forth a definite and exact amount
by which any of the entities could completely satisfy its
liability, however, the notice satisfied the statutory
requirement of a "specific amount for which the claim
can be settled." See A.R.S. §
12-821.01(A). Accordingly, we reverse and remand for further
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
The Northern Arizona Council of Governments (the
"Council") employed Donovan at the Prescott Valley
Head Start program. She worked in a building owned by the
Council located on land leased from Yavapai College. In fall
2014 and spring 2015, Donovan saw mold in the building, and
exposure to the mold allegedly resulted in her physical
injury. At some point after Donovan complained to the Council
about the mold and the Council's failure to remedy the
problem, she was fired.
On October 16, 2015, Donovan sent a notice of claim to
Yavapai College, the Council, and several other government
agencies and officials. She alleged that (1) the Council was
liable for wrongfully discharging her in violation of Arizona
public policy, and (2) Yavapai College, as the land owner,
was liable to her "under the law of premises liability
and negligent supervision." The letter did not set forth
any specific claims against the other recipients.
Donovan's letter stated that she would "accept the
sum of $450, 000 as full and final settlement." The
offer was not accepted, and six months passed.
Donovan then sued Yavapai College asserting, consistent with
the notice of claim, causes of action grounded in premises
liability and negligence. Yavapai College moved for summary
judgment, urging that Donovan's notice of claim had
failed to identify a specific sum that she would accept from
Yavapai College individually to settle her claim against it.
The superior court granted summary judgment, ruling that the
notice of claim did not comply with Arizona law because it
"did not apportion a demand to reflect the amount sought
from the Defendant Yavapai College to settle the claim"
and therefore left Yavapai College "unable to evaluate
its own liability."
Donovan timely appealed. We have jurisdiction under A.R.S.
Summary judgment is proper if there are no genuine disputes
of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law. Ariz. R. Civ. P. 56(a); Orme Sch. v.
Reeves, 166 Ariz. 301, 305 (1990). We review summary
judgment de novo, viewing the facts in the light most
favorable to the party against whom judgment was entered, to
"determine whether any genuine issues of material fact
exist and whether the court properly applied the law."
Havasupai Tribe v. Ariz. Bd. of Regents, 220 Ariz.
214, 223, ¶ 27 (App. 2008); see also Yollin v. City
of Glendale, 219 Ariz. 24, 27, ¶ 6 (App. 2008).
A notice of claim that satisfies A.R.S. § 12-821.01 is a
necessary prerequisite to filing a lawsuit against a public
entity. See Deer Valley Unified Sch. Dist. No. 97 v.
Houser,214 Ariz. 293, 295, ¶ 6 (2007); see
also A.R.S. § 12-821.01(A). The purpose of the
statute is to provide the entity an opportunity to
investigate the claim, to assess its potential liability, to
reach a settlement before litigation, and to budget and plan.
Havasupai, 220 Ariz. at 223, ¶ 30 (citing
Deer Valley, 214 Ariz. at 295, ¶ 6). The notice
of claim thus must contain a sufficient description of the
facts underpinning the entity's alleged liability,
together with a "specific amount for which the claim can
be settled." A.R.S. § 12-821.01(A); see also
Deer Valley, 214 Ariz. at 296, ¶ 9. The settlement
offer must reflect a "manifestation of willingness to
enter into a ...