Sedillo v. City of Flagstaff

In Sedillo v. City of Flagstaff, 153 Ariz. 478, 737 P.2d 1377 (App. 1987), the plaintiffs brought a wrongful death action against the City of Flagstaff after the decedent died from an auto accident caused by ice on the roadway. 153 Ariz. at 480, 737 P.2d at 1379. At trial, the decedent's wife, daughter, three sons from a prior marriage, and mother, all statutory beneficiaries under the wrongful death statute, testified as to their close family relationship with the decedent. Id. at 480, 482, 737 P.2d. at 1379, 1381. This testimony was not impeached, contradicted, or refuted by the City. Id. at 481, 737 P.2d at 1380. The jury, however, awarded zero damages to three of the beneficiaries: two of the decedent's adult children and the decedent's mother. Id. The majority of the Sedillo court held that an award of zero damages was insufficient because unrefuted evidence as to damages was presented at trial. Id. at 482, 737 P.2d at 1381. The court distinguished Quinonez because in that case there was contested evidence such that the jury could have come to the conclusion that an award of zero damages was appropriate. Id. The majority contrasted Quinonez with the circumstance in Sedillo where "the unimpeached evidence . . . demonstrates that the Sedillos all enjoyed close family relationships with decedent, and all suffered substantial emotional, and possibly financial, injuries due to his death." Id. In Sedillo v. City of Flagstaff, some of the decedent's survivors received very small damage awards and some received none. The Court held that "for those appellants who did not receive any damages, additur was not an available remedy because Arizona law clearly dictates that a court can grant additur only where the jury had awarded some damages." 153 Ariz. at 482, 737 P.2d at 1381. However, rather than receiving additurs, those plaintiffs who received nothing were entitled to a new trial. Id. (those who received no damages were entitled to some damages as statutory beneficiaries in light of the defendant's established liability).