ARS Section 12-821 Interpretation

In Johnson v. Superior Court, 158 Ariz. 507, 509 n.1, 763 P.2d 1382, 1384 n.1 (App. 1988), the Court determined that, because the term "public employee" refers to "a person authorized to act," "the statutes governing claims against public entities or employees are applicable only in situations where public employees have acted in the scope of employment." Thus, under Johnson, the scope of employment language need not be present in 12-821 because that restriction is encompassed by the definitions of "employee" and "public employee" in 12-820(1) and (5). The legislature modified 12-821 in 1993, eliminating the notice of claim requirement and stating the one-year statute of limitations applied only to personal injury claims "involving acts that are alleged to have occurred within the scope of the public employee's employment." 1993 Ariz. Sess. Laws, ch. 90, 8. In 1994, the legislature, without comment or explanation, removed the scope of employment language. 1994 Ariz. Sess. Laws, ch. 162, 1. The legislature's alteration of 12-821, however, does not suggest our interpretation of 12-820's definitions in Johnson was error. Furthermore, by the same bill that modified 12-821 in 1994, the legislature enacted the notice of claim statute, 12-821.01, which also contains no reference to the public employee's scope of employment. 1994 Ariz. Sess. Laws, ch. 162, 2. The notice of claim statute has consistently been applied only to claims arising out of acts by public employees in the scope of their employment. See, e.g., Salerno v. Espinoza, 210 Ariz. 586, P11, 115 P.3d 626, 629 (App. 2005); Crum v. Superior Court, 186 Ariz. 351, 352-53, 922 P.2d 316, 317-18 (App. 1996). To interpret 12-821 to encompass acts outside an employee's scope of employment would be inconsistent with those decisions. See Ruth Fisher, 202 Ariz. 107, P12, 41 P.3d at 648.