from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. CV2016-005573
The Honorable Kerstin Lemaire, Judge
Rock LLP, Scottsdale By Douglas H. Allsworth and London A.
Burns Counsel for Defendant/Appellant
Borunda, Phoenix Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellee
Jennifer M. Perkins delivered the opinion of the Court, in
which Presiding Judge Randall M. Howe and Judge David D.
This case requires us to assess the interplay between two
standards of review where a legal question is raised on
appeal, and reviewed de novo, but the answer to the
legal question hinges on the factual findings of a jury,
which are reviewed for clear error.
This dispute concerns the part performance exception to
Arizona's Statute of Frauds, Arizona Revised Statute
("A.R.S.") section 44-101(6) ("Statute of
Frauds"). Theodore Valdez Sr. sued Randy Delgado for
breaching an alleged oral agreement to purchase a residence
and later convey title to Valdez. Valdez prevailed after a
three-day jury trial. The jury found that Valdez and Delgado
entered an enforceable oral contract, Valdez satisfied the
part performance exception to the Statute of Frauds, and
Delgado breached the contract. Delgado unsuccessfully moved
for judgment as a matter of law, arguing the alleged contract
was unenforceable under the Statute of Frauds. Delgado now
appeals the trial court's denial and award of specific
performance in favor of Valdez. For the reasons set forth
below, we affirm.
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
"We view the facts and the reasonable inferences
therefrom in the light most favorable to upholding the
jury's verdicts." Crackel v. Allstate Ins.
Co., 208 Ariz. 252, 255, ¶ 3 (App. 2004).
Valdez and Delgado were friends in 1998 when Delgado offered
to assist Valdez in purchasing a home. Valdez learned that
his barber was selling a run-down home (the
"Property") and told Delgado. Delgado agreed to
purchase the Property in 1999 and later convey title to
Valdez in 2014 if Valdez contributed $8, 000 toward the
initial down-payment and paid Delgado $438 per month for
fifteen years thereafter. Valdez also agreed to cover all
costs for cleanup, materials, and repairs.
On June 18, 1999, Delgado purchased the Property for $40, 000
in cash. Within the month, Valdez cleaned and remodeled the
home with help from family and friends before moving in. In
addition to the cleanup, Valdez made a number of improvements
to the home in 1999 and 2000 including installing new
plumbing; constructing a patio, carport, and porch; and
remodeling the bathroom and kitchen. In total, Valdez
estimated he spent $12, 000 on materials for cleaning up and
improving the Property. Valdez testified that he and Delgado
agreed that he was purchasing the Property for $8, 000 plus
$438 per month for fifteen years. Valdez further testified he
did not recall any agreement about the rate of interest on
the outstanding $32, 000, the total amount to be paid over
the fifteen-year period, who would pay property taxes, or
whether Delgado had lien rights over the Property.
In contrast, Delgado testified that he purchased the Property
for tax purposes and agreed to let Valdez rent the Property.
After discussing monthly rent with Valdez, he and Valdez
entered into a written month-to-month rental agreement,
signed in November 1999, that called for $600 per month in
rental payments with Valdez responsible for any repairs under
$300. At trial, Valdez testified that he did not remember
signing the rental agreement but that it looked like his
signature on the agreement. According to Delgado, Valdez
complained that $600 per month was too high and the two
orally modified the rental payments to $530 per month, which
Valdez paid from at least December 1999 through January 2016.
Delgado also testified he paid for a new water heater at some
point between 1999 and 2016 and agreed to give Valdez $1, 200
from his homeowner's insurance on the Property after a
hail storm in 2010.
Seventeen years after the alleged oral agreement, and two
years after Valdez should have received title from Delgado
under the agreement, Valdez stopped making monthly payments
and sued Delgado to quiet title in the Property. Delgado
moved for summary judgment under the Statute of Frauds.
Valdez countered that the Statute of Frauds was inapplicable
under the part performance exception.
After argument, the trial court denied Delgado's motion
for summary judgment, citing Valdez's "apparent
reliance on the purchase agreement by making significant
repairs, by paying a monthly amount that varied from the
amount alleged in the rental agreement, and the potential
application of the lost document exception to the statute of
frauds." In April 2018, the case proceeded to a
three-day jury trial, during which Valdez, Delgado, and four
other witnesses testified. At the close of evidence Delgado
unsuccessfully moved for judgment as a matter of law. The
jury found, by special verdict, that: (1) Valdez paid $8, 000
in cash to Delgado in 1999 "as a down payment" for
the Property; (2) Valdez made "substantial repairs and
improvements" to the Property "at his sole expense,
in reliance on an oral . . . agreement with Defendant Delgado
to convey title after 15 years"; (3) Valdez made
"15 years of monthly payments to Defendant Delgado in
reliance on an agreement of sale"; and (4) Delgado
breached a contract to transfer title to ...