Grafitti-Valenzuela v. City of Phoenix – 9/27/2007

October 23, 2007

Arizona Court Of Appeals Division One Holds That The City Of Phoenix Was Not Negligent In Failing To Prevent A Sexual Assault At One Of Its Bus Stops.

On January 6, 2003, eleven-year-old Tiana Grafitti-Valenzuela was abducted from a City of Phoenix bus stop and raped. Her mother, Marie Grafitti, brought suit on her behalf against the City of Phoenix for negligently designing and maintaining the bus stop and failing to protect and warn Tiana “against the foreseeable criminal acts of third parties at the Bus Stop.” The trial court granted summary judgment for the City because “there was no question of material fact for the jury on the issues of duty and breach because Tiana’s abduction and sexual assault were unforeseeable as a matter of law.” Plaintiff appealed.

The Arizona Appeals Court affirmed the summary judgment on two grounds. First, it held that, although “as a matter of law . . . the City owed Tiana, as a user of the Bus Stop, a duty to keep the Bus Stop reasonably safe for Tiana’s use,” the City did not breach that duty: “Under the circumstances of this case, where there was no evidence that prior crimes had occurred at the Bus Stop, a reasonable jury could not find that the City breached the duty of care it owed Tiana because it did not install a $10,000 shelter and lighting at the Bus Stop.” Furthermore, even though crime had occurred at other Phoenix bus stops, the City did not have to warn Plaintiff because no crime had occurred at the bus stop in question. Second, the court held, in the alternative, that Plaintiff could not prove causation; “a reasonable jury could not find that [the rapist] would not have abducted Tiana if the City had installed a light and a shelter at the Bus Stop.”

Judge Barker authored the opinion; Judges Norris and Thompson concurred.