Sanchez v. Maricopa County, No. 1 CA-CV 22-0572 (App. Div. I, December 7, 2023) (J. Furuya) https://www.azcourts.gov/Portals/0/OpinionFiles/Div1/2023/1%20CA-CV%2022-0572%20Sanchez,%20et%20al.%20v.%20Maricopa%20County.pdf
COUNTY HAS NO PRINCIPAL-AGENT RELATIONSHIP WITH EMPLOYEES OF SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT AND HAS NO VICARIOUS LIABILITY FOR ACTS OF AN EMPLOYEE OF THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT/SHERIFF IS A “PUBLIC ENTITY” WHICH CAN BE SUED DIRECTLY
Plaintiffs brought a negligence lawsuit pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-821.01 against Maricopa County for injuries they sustained in a car crash with a Maricopa County Deputy Sheriff driving a County vehicle. The trial court dismissed the case pursuant to Arizona Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) finding the County is not vicariously liable for the alleged negligence of a deputy sheriff. Plaintiff appealed claiming the County was liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior and that to hold otherwise would mean they had no remedy because the Sheriff is a nonjural entity that cannot be sued. The Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.
Because the Board of Supervisors for the County does not control the hiring, firing, training, supervision or day to day responsibilities and duties of individual employee/deputies in the Sheriff's Department the County does not have a principal-agent or employer-employee relationship with the individual deputies and therefore is not vicariously liable for their alleged injuries.
The court of appeal further found that the plaintiffs are not without a remedy here as they may sue the Sheriff independent of the County. The Sheriff qualifies as a “public entity” subject to suit under A.R.S. § 12-820(7). “Constitutional officers—such as sheriffs—are persons fulfilling a public role through service in duly elected governmental offices. Ariz. Const. art. 12, § 3. In other words, they are personal entities who act in a public capacity by virtue of their elected office.”
Finally, A.R.S. §§ 12-821 and -821.01 establish how to pursue a claim through a Notice of Claim against a governmental entity but these statutes do not create a right to sue a particular governmental entity.