Wrongful Death Verdict
Jury Awards $10.45 Million in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against the City of Phoenix
Karson Jarvis v. City of Phoenix, Maricopa County Cause No. CV2013-016145
On November 3, 2016, a Maricopa County Superior Court
jury awarded $11 million to the plaintiff in a wrongful death claim
against the City of Phoenix for negligent design and maintenance of an
The jury assigned 95% of fault to the City of Phoenix,
making the net award $10.45 million.
Schneider & Onofry attorneys Jason Kelly and
Chuck Onofry represented the plaintiff.
Facts of the Case
On April 2, 2013, during the Tuesday evening rush hour,
43-year-old Kirk Jarvis was riding his motorcycle home from work,
westbound on Pecos Road approaching 17th Avenue in Phoenix. Another
motorist, Patsy Santerelli, was southbound on 17th Avenue and had
stopped in order to make a left turn onto Pecos Road. In compliance with
Arizona law, she came to a complete stop at the painted stop line in the
turn lane. The stop line was approximately 24 feet away from the
intersection. From that position, Ms. Santerelli’s sight distance was
less than half of what was required by traffic engineering standards.
From the stop line, Ms. Santerelli slowly moved forward
and had started her turn when her car struck Mr. Jarvis’s motorcycle.
Mr. Jarvis died at the scene. He is survived by his son,
Karson, who turned five years of age just a month after his father’s
Wrongful Death Litigation
During the pretrial litigation, Kelly and Onofry
discovered numerous prior reports from motorists complaining of poor
visibility and, during heavy traffic hours, difficulties in making left
turns from the intersection. Further, through work orders and
photographs, field technicians documented numerous visual obstructions.
For over three years, and despite citizen requests, the City took no
In response to the plaintiff’s allegations of negligent
maintenance, the City of Phoenix stated that it had not kept the
intersection clear of obstructions because maps showed that the
intersection was controlled by the Arizona Department of Transportation
(ADOT). However, further discovery showed that, during the 1990s, the
City had improperly built this intersection over ADOT right-of-way land
and had never submitted to ADOT the proper design documentation.
At trial, Kelly and Onofry successfully argued that the
condition of the intersection created a high accident risk. Evidence
elicited at trial indicated that local residents believed that stop
lights were installed at other intersections along Pecos Road only after
fatalities occurred. Phoenix officials considered this particular
intersection safe because no serious injuries had occurred until Kirk’s
death, and its engineers claimed there were other, more dangerous
intersections in Phoenix. Further, Kelly and Onofry argued that the City
had made maintenance of the intersection a low priority, as the
intersection would at some point be demolished as part of the planned
Loop 202 extension that is now underway.
Kelly and Onofry pointed out that the intersection could
have been made safe simply by cutting out the bushes and trees, moving
the painted stop line closer to the intersection or, as is more common
in Phoenix, simply removing the stop line altogether. However, rather
than address the safety issues raised by the public, the City ignored
the complaints, ultimately resulting in the events that led to the death
of Mr. Jarvis.
After seven days of trial and two hours of deliberation,
the jury awarded $11 million in damages to Mr. Jarvis’s son, finding
that the City of Phoenix was 95% at fault and imposing liability of
$10.45 million. The remainder was assigned to Ms. Santerelli, a
non-party at fault.
During the course of the litigation, the City of Phoenix
rejected multiple Offers of Judgment from the plaintiff. Pursuant to the
Offer of Judgment rule, legal sanctions against the City total more than
$1.1 million, in addition to the jury award.
Arizona Republic article
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