Falcon v. Maricopa County – 2/14/2006

February 16, 2006

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One Holds That a Claimant May Serve Notice of a Claim on a County Board of Supervisors Acting in Its Role as Chief Executive Officer by Serving One Member of the Board.

Plaintiffs sent notice of a medical malpractice claim to an elected member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, as required by A.R.S. § 12-821.01(A). Maricopa County moved for summary judgment after Plaintiffs filed a medical malpractice claim against the County, claiming that service on only one member of the Board was insufficient to fulfill the requirements of A.R.S. § 12-821.01(A). The trial court granted the motion and this appeal followed.

Judge Timmer reversed based on Rule 4.1(i) of the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires that service upon the county be effected by delivering a copy of the pleading to the chief executive officer, among others. Relying heavily on Blauvelt v. County of Maricopa (App. 1988), Judge Timmer held that a county’s board of supervisors constitutes that county’s chief executive officer. Applying secondary principles of construction to other aspects of Rule 4.1, Judge Timmer further held that a board of supervisors can be served through one member of the board.

Judge Timmer authored the opinion and Judge Ehrlich concurred. Judge Orozco concurred in part and dissented in part. Judge Orozco opined that service of the section 12-821.01(A) notice had to be made on either the entire Board of Supervisors or the Clerk of the Board, a statutorily mandated position.