Williams v. Baugh – 2/20/2007

February 27, 2007

Arizona Court of Appeals Division Two Holds that ARS 13-807 Does Not Preclude a Defendant From Raising an Affirmative Defense in a Civil Proceeding Arising out of Acts for Which he has been Convicted in a Criminal Case.

In 2003, Williams and Baugh had a disagreement in a bar during which Williams threatened Baugh with a knife. Later that night, a friend drove Baugh to Williams’ home, where he entered and struck Williams with a gun. Baugh pled guilty to aggravated assault and burglary. Williams then sued Baugh in tort alleging “physical assault and battery.” Baugh responded to Williams’ motion for summary judgment arguing justification, contributory negligence, and comparative fault. The Superior Court, however, precluded Baugh from raising his justification defense, reasoning that such a defense was precluded by ARS 13-807. Baugh filed an interlocutory appeal.

Division Two first noted that it had jurisdiction under ARS 12-2101(G). On the merits, the Court noted that Section 13-807 prohibits defendants from denying in a civil case “the essential elements” of their criminal conviction. The Court further explained, however, that 13-807 makes no mention of affirmative defenses. Reasoning from the presumption that the legislature is aware of existing statutes when crafting new ones, see Washburn v. Pima County, 81 P.3d 1030, 1035 (App. 2003), the Court held that the legislature cannot be said to have intended to include any affirmative defenses within the class of arguments precluded by Section 13-807 so long as the affirmative defense does not itself contradict the essential elements of the criminal conviction.

The Court found that raising a justification defense, in this case, does not contradict any essential elements of aggravated assault. The Court also held that neither a defense of contributory negligence or comparative fault principles challenge any of the “essential elements” of aggravated assault. Thus Baugh can properly raise those arguments against liability to Williams.

The Court, therefore, REVERSED the judgment of the Superior Court. Judge Howard authored the opinion and Judges Pelander and Vasquez joined.