Campbell v. Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Co

In Campbell v. Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Co., 120 Ariz. 426, 586 P.2d 987 (App. 1978), the court rejected Mountain States' contention that the plaintiff's claims, "though nominally sounding in contract and tort, really concerned the adequacy of appellees' services as public service corporations," and were, therefore, within the Commission's exclusive jurisdiction. 120 Ariz. at 428-29, 586 P.2d at 989-90. The court acknowledged the Commission has broad constitutional power to regulate public service corporations, noting article XV, 3, of the Constitution gives the Commission the authority to regulate rates and charges, and that article XV, 4, gives it the power to conduct hearings and investigate grievances and complaints. The court noted, too, that the legislature had enlarged the constitutionally granted powers of the Commission, such as, for example, giving it the power to address "'insufficient' practices." 120 Ariz. at 431, 586 P.2d at 992. The court stated: In this case, appellees have consistently argued that appellant's complaint is concerned only with the technical manner and means of providing telephone service. Were appellees' contentions supported by the complaint, we would have no trouble in affirming dismissal of the complaint on the ground of primary jurisdiction since questions involving only the manner and means of providing telephone service raise "issues of fact not within the conventional experience of judges," Far East Conference, supra, 342 U.S. at 574, 72 S. Ct. at 494, but within the duties and expertise of the Corporation Commission. Despite appellees' contentions, however, appellant's complaint deals with much more than the mere manner and means of providing telephone service. As our summary of the complaint above indicates, appellant has proffered three claims in tort--for tortious interference with telephone service, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy--and one claim for breach of contract. Obviously, each of these claims is elementally based on the manner and method of providing service, and other matters within the particular expertise of the Corporation Commission. However, the claims' most important aspects involve facts and theories of tort and contract far afield of the Commission's area of expertise and statutory responsibility. Indeed, appellant's tort and contract claims are the type of traditional claims with which our trial courts of general jurisdiction are most familiar and capable of dealing.120 Ariz. at 431-32, 586 P.2d at 992-93.