White v. Greater Arizona Bicycling Ass'n

In White v. Greater Arizona Bicycling Ass'n, 216 Ariz. 133, 163 P.3d 1083 (App. 2007), the wife and adult children of the decedent bicyclist brought a wrongful death action against a bicycling event organizer over the organizer's negligence regarding a cattle guard in the bike path. 216 Ariz. at 135,2-3, 163 P.3d at 1085. The wife and children gave uncontradicted testimony as to their relationship with the decedent, but the jury did not award damages to the children. Id. at5. The majority reversed, affirming the rule presented in Sedillo that an award of zero damages was impermissible when nothing in the record contradicted the testimony establishing the beneficiaries' relationships with the decedent. Id. at 141-42,29-30, 163 P.3d at 1091-92. The majority in White agreed that damages were not an element of a wrongful death claim: "Unlike in a traditional negligence case, damage to the plaintiff is not an element of liability in a wrongful death action." Id. at 138,16, 163 P.3d at 1088. The White majority appropriately differentiated between a negligence claim and a wrongful death claim by stating: "Instead, once a jury determines the defendant is liable for a wrongful death, it then, pursuant to 12-613, determines 'fair and just' damages 'to the surviving parties' as defined by 12-612." Id. The White majority then went on to hold, however, that "there must be support in the record, however slight, for a jury's decision to disregard a witness's testimony." Id. at 140,22, 163 P.3d at 1090.