Cal-Am Props. v. Edais Eng’g (5.23.22)

We noticed this had not posted correctly so here it is.

The Arizona Supreme Court holds a design professional separately hired by a contractor owes no duty to the owner of the property. Easy enough. The trial court and the court of appeals both reached this same conclusion. The foreseeability analysis discussed in Donnelly is no longer good law.

This opinion has a distracting style. There are seven justices on our supreme court and each writes differently. When one justice comments on another’s draft opinion, judicial etiquette is not to comment on matters of style. Style receives little attention. Law clerks rarely possess mature legal writing ability, and judicial opinions are not law review articles.a few modest Here are a few suggestions. First, when referring to the earlier Donnelly opinion, using “our holding” or “we held” is awkward. Donnelly was decided 38 years ago. The “we” is better used when speaking for the court today or what the law still is. When referring to prior decisions and distancing from those cases, perhaps use “the court” or even “this court.” Second, a sentence is not a paragraph even when tacking a citation on the end. If an opinion needs to have headings – most short opinions never do– then use headings. Third, placing commentary in string citations is distracting and confusing. Fourth, scattered throughout this opinion are unnecessary prepositional phrases. Good advice from Judge Ruggero Aldisert in his legal opinion writing book: “Examine each sentence word for word, phrase by phrase and clause by clause to see what can be cut.” Finally, this opinion ends, as none should, with dicta suggesting other possibilities for relief. This leaves us wondering. We wonder what an “assignment of liability” means and whether the “third-party beneficiary doctrine” may be useful in some other case. We wonder what, if anything, was newly decided.

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