Beynon v. Trezza – 4/13/2009

April 23, 2009

Arizona Court of Appeals Division Two Holds, In the Context of a Legal Malpractice Claim, a Legal Claim Against the State is Legally Barred Where the Claimant’s Notice of Claim Provides No Facts Whatsoever to Explain or Justify a Particular Damage Claim.

Daniel Beynon (“Beynon”) was driving a vehicle when it collided with another vehicle driven by a state employee.  A state adjuster went to Beynon’s residence where the adjuster provided Beynon with a notice of claim form, which he assisted Beynon in filling out.  OnMarch 25, 2002, Beynon visited a chiropractor where he claimed to have realized that the costs for his treatment would be greater than he previously realized, and so he filled out a new notice of claim form.  On the claim form, Beynon requested $50,000 but indicated only that the state employee did a u-turn in front of him which caused him to collide with her.  Beynon provided no facts explaining how he arrived at his $50,000 settlement figure. Thereafter, Beynon retained attorney Thrush to represent him on his claim against the State.  Although Thrush spoke to the adjuster prior to the expiration of the one-year statute of limitations period, Thrush did not file an action against the State on Beynon’s behalf.  As a result, Beynon filed a legal malpractice claim against Thrush.  Thrush moved for summary judgment, arguing that Beynon’s notice of claim was insufficient as a matter of law, and thus that Thrush’s failure to file caused Beynon no prejudice.  The trial court granted Thrush’s motion and this appeal followed.

TheArizonaAppeals Court first concluded that the Arizona Supreme Court’s recent decision in Backus v. State, 2009 WL 703269 (Ariz.Mar. 19, 2009), did not change the basic requirement that a claimant must at least furnish some facts to support the amount claimed in a notice of claim.  Because Beynon failed to describe his injury or even claim to be injured, his notice of claim was insufficient, and thus Thrush’s alleged malpractice could not have prejudiced Beynon’s claim.  The Arizona Appeals Court next rejected Beynon’s argument that the State actually accepted Beynon’s notice of claim, reasoning that there was no evidence in the record that the adjuster approved or validated Beynon’s notice or that the adjuster even possessed the authority to do so.  TheAppeals Court also pointed out that Beynon’s notice of claim was procedurally flawed because he failed to serve a copy on the Attorney General. 

Chief Judge Pelander authored the opinion; Judges Howard and Espinosa concurred.