Sabina v. Yavapai County Flood Control Dist

In Sabina v. Yavapai County Flood Control Dist., 196 Ariz. 166, 993 P.2d 1130 (App. 1999), the plaintiff had asserted a negligence claim against the Yavapai County Flood Control District after she fell into a drainage ditch owned by the City of Sedona but regulated by the flood control district. The plaintiff in Sabina alleged that the district had been negligent because it had known about the dangerous condition (an unlit, unguarded drainage ditch), but had not exercised its regulatory powers to require that the danger be corrected. The Court affirmed a summary judgment in favor of the district, finding that, although the district might have been negligent in failing to correct the dangerous condition, the injury- causing event had been outside the scope of the district's regulatory authority. Therefore, the court concluded, the hazard fell outside the range of the district's duty and had not resulted from the recognizable risk that had made the district's conduct negligent. The court in Sabina acknowledged the intersection between duty and causation. The court quoted W. Page Keeton et al., Prosser and Keeton on the Law of Torts 42, at 274 (5th ed. 1984), to illustrate that "'it is quite possible to state every question which arises in connection with 'proximate cause' in the form of a single question: was the defendant under a duty to protect the plaintiff against the event which did in fact occur?'" Sabina, 196 Ariz. 166, P 18, 993 P.2d at 1134. The court then explained: If we confine ourselves to the first part of Prosser's question--was the defendant under any sort of duty--and defer addressing the second part--did the duty encompass the event which did in fact occur--the answer to the first part undisputably is yes. The Flood Control District had the regulatory duty to restrict or prohibit floodplain uses that were "dangerous to health, safety, and property due to water or erosion hazards." Yavapai County Ordinance 1987-1, 1.4 (emphasis added). And in performance of that regulatory duty, the District had the common law duty "to act reasonably in the light of foreseeable and unreasonable risks." Sabina, 196 Ariz. 166, P 18, 993 P.2d at 1134.