Corbett v. Manorcare of Am. Inc., 146 P.3d 1027 (Ariz. Ct. App. 2006)

Plaintiff appealed from trial court’s grant of summary judgment to Manor Care, its dismissal of claims against an individual, and its award of attorney’s fees to the defendants. Plaintiff originally sued the parent corporation. The case was removed to federal court where, after discovery, Plaintiff amended the complaint to sue the subsidiaries. The court granted a motion to dismiss the subsidiaries without prejudice, finding that the claims were time-barred. The trial court later dismissed the claims against the parent company, finding that Plaintiff sued the wrong defendant. That case was timely appealed to the Ninth Circuit. Later, while the district court case was pending, Plaintiff brought suit against the subsidiaries. The defendants moved for summary judgment alleging Plaintiff was barred by res judicata and estoppel. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion. Plaintiff appealed and failed to raise the contract and common law negligence claims on appeal; they were deemed abandoned. Regarding statutory negligence and violations of the Arizona Adult Protective Services Act, the court found that the parties in the district court action were not the same since at the time summary judgment was granted, the subsidiaries had been dismissed without prejudice. Thus, res judicata did not apply. The subsidiaries then argued that the district court’s ruling that dismissal of the subsidiaries in the district court action based on the claims being time-barred estopped the plaintiff from litigating that issue again in State court. The court found the statute of limitations issue had not been fully litigated and estoppel did not apply, in part, because the limitations period was changed by the legislature while the district court action was pending. The court reversed the award of attorney’s fees, finding insufficient evidence to support it, but indicated that the trial court could revisit the issue after the trial court proceedings concluded.

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