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Michele Molinario and Justin Ackerman Obtain Summary Judgment On Roadway Design Case

Posted Thursday November 09, 2017

PHOENIX, AZ (November 9, 2017) – On April 22, 2013, a traffic accident occurred at a rural Intersection in Yuma County, Arizona. The Intersection was equipped with STOP signs and flashing warning signs that controlled eastbound and westbound traffic along the Intersection. On the day of the accident, decedent was driving eastbound with two other passengers. Decedent allegedly stopped at the STOP sign at the Intersection and then proceeded forward. As she entered the Intersection, Decedent’s vehicle was struck by a truck. Decedent and her two other passengers subsequently died from their injuries sustained as a result of the accident.

Prior to the accident, the County had conducted routine review of the intersection, which included traffic studies and accident report reviews. In 2002, the County decided to implement flashing beacons with oversized stop signs on the east and westbound approach instead of installing a four way stop.

The successors of decedent and her passengers subsequently sued Yuma County for its alleged negligence to maintain the intersection by failing to install a four way stop. Yuma County moved for summary judgment on Plaintiffs’ claims, arguing that it was statutorily immune pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-820.01 and entitled to the affirmative defense contained in A.R.S. § 12-820.03.

Specifically, the County argued that because the it made an affirmative decision in 2002 to select, fund and install one form of traffic countermeasure over others at the Intersection, the County has immunity for this decision under both § 12-820.01. In addition, the County’s decision not to install additional traffic countermeasures after its 2002 decision to implement flashing STOP signs amounts to a determination of fundamental governmental policy that is also entitled to immunity under § 12-820.01(B). Thus, the County argued it was entitled to absolute immunity against Plaintiffs’ claims under both provisions of § 12-820.01.

Following oral argument by attorneys Michele Molinario and Justin Ackerman, the trial court agreed with the County and granted summary judgment in its favor, dismissing the case in its entirety.

Partner Michele Molinario has been a trial attorney since 2000. She has tried state and federal jury and bench trials and administrative law hearings. Michele concentrates her civil litigation practice on governmental entity defense with an emphasis on civil rights matters. She has defended public entities/municipalities and private prisons in Section 1983 claims that include police-related non-lethal and lethal force incidents, SWAT raid/breaching tactics, failure to protect incidents, failure to render medical care, and various search and seizure incident.

Justin Ackerman is an associate in our Appellate Department. After graduating as the Valedictorian of his class law school, Justin worked as a Law Clerk for the Honorable Michael J. Brown in Division One of the Arizona Court of Appeals. During law school, Justin sought out a variety of externships in order to build a solid foundation for an appellate practice, including externing on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Arizona Court of Appeals, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.


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