Precision Heavy Haul v. Trail King (CA1 4/20/10)

This case holds that a comparative-negligence defense does not make damages “unliquidated.” Maybe.

Precision, a trucking firm, bought from Trail King a trailer that failed, causing property damage. Precision sued; the jury found Trail King 100% at fault and – damages being uncontested – awarded the amount sought by Precision. The court denied prejudgment interest, however, ruling that damages were unliquidated because Trail King had alleged comparative negligence. The Court of Appeals decided various other issues by memorandum and published this to address the interest issue.

Trail King argued that damages cannot be liquidated when a jury can apportion fault, citing cases from other states. Arizona law, though, is that uncertainty about liability does not create uncertainty about damages. The court remanded for an award of prejudgment interest.

But along the way the court said that “Given that the jury awarded Precision the entire amount of damages sought, only an award of prejudgment interest on those damages will make Precision whole.” Is this a meaningless rhetorical fillip? Or does it mean that this case only applies when the jury finds the defendant 100% at fault? Based on the discussion and the cases it cites, you could argue both ways.

If the court wanted to rule on only the 100% cases then it should have said so. The sentence probably sounded so good to somebody that nobody realized – or perhaps cared – that it  doesn’t actually make much sense.