Yahweh v. City of Phoenix – 7/11/2017

July 30, 2017

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that a notice of claim to a public entity that only lists the alleged amount of damages does not satisfy the requirement of including a settlement offer.

The City of Phoenix issued a report with information about a police detective.  As a result the detective was placed on the “Brady List” of officers implicated in professional misconduct.  The detective contends that the report was defamatory.  Under the notice-of-claim statute (A.R.S. § 12-821.01), a person must file a written notice of claim before suing a public entity.  The notice must include a specific amount for which the public entity may settle the claim.

The detective filed a written notice with the City alleging both defamation and violations of the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).  The notice indicated that the detective would be seeking $1.5 million in damages for defamation.  It did not provide any damage figure for the alleged FMLA violations.

The detective later filed a complaint.  The City moved to dismiss for failure to file an adequate notice of claim.  The superior court dismissed the action because the notice did not contain a valid settlement offer.  The detective appealed and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

To satisfy the requirement that a notice of claim include a specific amount to settle the claim, the claimant must make an offer that the entity can accept.  The claimant must manifest a willingness to be bound by the offer.  Simply stating the amount of alleged damages does not show a willingness to accept that amount as settlement.  As a result, the detective’s notice of claim failed to satisfy the notice-of-claim requirements and his claims were correctly dismissed.

Judge Beene authored the opinion; Judges Johnsen and Downie concurred.