Boyd v. State – 12/5/2023

June 21, 2024

Arizona Court of Appeals, Division One holds that (1) claims brought by minor victims of sexual misconduct brought pursuant to HB 2466’s one-time exception reviving otherwise time-barred claims until December 31, 2020, are not subject to the Arizona law requiring persons with a claim against a public entity to file a notice of claim no later than 180 days after the cause of action accrues; and (2) the Arizona statute providing that a notice of claim is deemed denied by operation of law 60 days after filing does not prevent claimants from filing suit before the 60-day period ends.

In 2019, the Arizona legislature passed HB 2466. The law extended the statute of limitations for claims brought by plaintiffs who were the victims of sexual misconduct as minors to 12 years after they turn 18. It also provided a one-time exception for plaintiffs whose claims would otherwise be barred by the new statute of limitations, allowing them to bring their claims no later than December 31, 2020. Glen Boyd, who alleged he was sexually abused by a correctional officer while in ADJC custody when he was 16, filed a notice of claim on December 20, 2020, and his complaint against the State, ADJC, and the correctional officer on December 29, 2020. The superior court granted the correctional officer’s motion to dismiss and denied all other pending motions as moot.

The issues on appeal were (1) whether Boyd complied with A.R.S. § 12-821.01(A), which requires service of a notice of claim within 180 days after it accrues, and (2) whether A.R.S. § 12-821.01(E) required him to wait 60 days after filing his notice of claim before filing the complaint. Arizona law requires plaintiffs with claims against a public entity to file the lawsuit within one year after the claim accrues. HB 2466 provides two exceptions to that one-year period. First, by extending the statute of limitations to allow minor victims of sexual misconduct to bring their claims within twelve years after they turn 18, and second by allowing a one-time exception for individuals who would otherwise be barred from asserting a claim to do so before December 31, 2020. The State argued that, notwithstanding HB 2466, Boyd was required to file his claim 180 days after his claim accrued, which according to the state happened on May 27, 2019, when the law became effective.

The Arizona Court of Appeals rejected that argument. The plain language of the law permitted plaintiffs to bring their claims by December 31, 2020, “notwithstanding any other law.” Requiring claimants to file suit within 180 days of May 27, 2019, would operate to shorten the period and deprive claimants of more than 13 months of the law’s revival period. Secondary interpretation principles likewise support the Court’s holding. The legislature’s purpose was to revive minor sexual misconduct victims’ causes of action any time between the law’s effective date and December 31, 2020. Reading the law to suspend the one-year post-accrual filing period for those claims, yet leave the 180 post-accrual filing period for the notice of claim in place, would unreasonably frustrate the legislature’s intent.

The State also argued that Boyd’s claim was barred because he did not wait 60 days after filing his notice of claim. Arizona law provides that a claim against a public employee or entity is deemed denied 60 days after its filing unless the claimant is advised that is denied earlier in writing. The State contended that Boyd’s claim was invalid because permitting a plaintiff to file a complaint before the 60 days expire would deprive the public entity of the opportunity to investigate the claim and decide whether to accept the offer made in the notice. The Court disagreed. The appeals court looked to the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision in James v. City of Peoria, 253 Ariz. 301 (2022), which held that a public entity has the statutory right to accept a plaintiff’s offer made in the notice of claim. Accordingly, the court of appeals reasoned that a plaintiff who takes actions to further the litigation, like hiring experts or filing a complaint, risks incurring unnecessary costs if the public entity accepts the notice offer within the 60-day period. However, it refused to read a mandatory 60-day waiting period into the law. Finally, the court noted that even if law did impose a 60-day waiting period on claimants, it would have been suspended by HB 2466 for the same reasons the 180 day post-accrual filing period for the notice of claim was.

Judge Brown authored the opinion, in which Judges Perkins and Morse joined.

Posted by: Michael Price