Arizona’s Duty Framework in Negligence Cases

Andrew W. Gould & Erica Leavitt

Arizona’s courts, like most courts, have wrestled with the limits of tort liability in negligence cases. Two basic frameworks have been developed to address this issue: duty and causation. Under a duty framework, a court determines, as a matter of law, whether a defendant owes a duty of care to a plaintiff before the specific facts of the case are considered. If the court determines the defendant owed no duty of care to the plaintiff, “an action for negligence cannot be maintained.” In contrast, under a causation framework, the basis for limiting liability is whether a plaintiff can prove that the defendant’s wrongful conduct was a proximate cause of her injury. This causation determination is generally a factual question for the jury.

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