Arizona Section 12-1364 Interpretation
Section 12-1364 defines "successful party" only in terms of the disparity between such an offer and the final judgment.
If the seller's offer "is rejected and the judgment finally obtained is less than or less favorable to the purchaser than the offer," the seller is deemed to be the successful party. 12-1364.
In other words, whether a party is "successful" is determined following a final resolution of the purchaser's underlying claim.
In Arizona there is no general right to an award of attorney fees; thus, a court may award such fees "only when expressly authorized by contract or statute." Burke v. Ariz. State Ret. Sys., 206 Ariz. 269, P 7, 77 P.3d 444, 447 (App. 2003).
And, "it is generally held that a party seeking a right or benefit under a statute bears the burden of proving that he comes within the ambit of the statute," Harvest v. Craig, 195 Ariz. 521, P 15, 990 P.2d 1080, 1083 (App. 1999), and is entitled to such an award. Woerth v. City of Flagstaff, 167 Ariz. 412, 419, 808 P.2d 297, 304 (App. 1990).
Section 12-1364 provides in part that, "[i]n any contested dwelling action, the court shall award the successful party reasonable attorney fees."
Accordingly, the dispositive issue is whether Dream Catcher is a "successful party" as contemplated by this section. In construing a statute, our "primary goal . . . is to give effect to the intent of the legislature." Cornman Tweedy 560, LLC v. City of Casa Grande, 213 Ariz. 1, P 8, 137 P.3d 309, 311 (App. 2006).
"The language of a statute is the most reliable evidence of its intent." Walker v. City of Scottsdale, 163 Ariz. 206, 209, 786 P.2d 1057, 1060 (App. 1989).
Furthermore, "the words of a statute must be construed in conjunction with the full text of the statute." Golder v. Dep't of Revenue, 123 Ariz. 260, 265, 599 P.2d 216, 221 (1979).