Aloia v. Gore

Citation64 Arizona Cases Digest 9,506 P.3d 34
Decision Date15 February 2022
Docket Number1 CA-CV 20-0431
Parties Gwendolyn ALOIA, et al., Plaintiffs/Appellees/Cross-Appellants, v. Stephen GORE, Defendant/Appellant/Cross-Appellee.
CourtCourt of Appeals of Arizona

64 Arizona Cases Digest 9
506 P.3d 34

Gwendolyn ALOIA, et al., Plaintiffs/Appellees/Cross-Appellants,
Stephen GORE, Defendant/Appellant/Cross-Appellee.

No. 1 CA-CV 20-0431

Court of Appeals of Arizona, Division 1.

FILED February 15, 2022

Burg, Simpson, Eldredge, Hersh & Jardine PC, Phoenix, By David Kendell TeSelle, Holly B. Kammerer, Michael S. Burg, Paul D. Friedman, Taylor C. Young, Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellee-Cross Appellant

Schneider & Onofry PC, Phoenix, By Timothy O'Connor, Co-counsel for Defendant/Appellant-Cross Appellee

Schneider & Onofry PC, Yuma, By James Christopher Golden, Co-counsel for Defendant/Appellant-Cross Appellee

Presiding Judge Randall M. Howe delivered the opinion of the court, in which Judge Brian Y. Furuya and Judge Michael J. Brown joined.

HOWE, Judge:

¶1 A jury awarded Gwendolyn Aloia and nine other plaintiffs (collectively, the "Donor Families"), $8.5 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages against defendant Stephen Gore and other defendants for various torts involving the mishandling of the body parts of the Donor Families’ deceased loved ones. The trial court granted Gore's motion for relief from judgment under Arizona Rule of Civil Procedure Rule ("Rule") 60(b), ruling that the punitive damages award was constitutionally excessive and reducing it to $8.5 million.

¶2 Gore appeals that ruling, arguing that the trial court erred in failing to reduce the award even more. The Donor Families cross-appeal, arguing that because Gore first challenged the punitive damages award in an untimely motion for new trial under Rule 59, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to consider the issue in a Rule 60 motion.

¶3 We agree that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to consider the Rule 60(b) motion because Rule 60(b) cannot be used to evade the timeliness requirement of a motion for new trial under Rule 59 in this instance. We therefore vacate the trial court's judgment reducing the jury's punitive damages award and remand the matter to the trial court for re-entry of the original judgment.

506 P.3d 36


¶4 In 2003, Gore founded Biological Resource Center, Inc. ("BRC"). BRC accepted donated bodies and supplied specimens to medical, academic, and research facilities. It represented that it would not sell any of the bodies but would accept a processing fee from requesting institutions. Contrary to that representation, however, BRC sold the donated specimens. In addition, some specimens that BRC distributed were contaminated. As a result of an FBI investigation, Gore pleaded guilty to one count of illegal control of a criminal enterprise for providing institutions with contaminated and unauthorized human tissue. The Donor Families and other plaintiffs sued Gore and others alleging various torts and claiming emotional harm. A jury awarded the Donor Families $8.5 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages.

¶5 After the jury verdicts in the Donor Families’ favor against Gore, the trial court ordered that all "parties and/or counsel" confer and submit one form of final judgment that addressed "all remaining claims and all remaining parties," including claims involving other plaintiffs and other defendants that had been resolved without trial, because it wanted to enter one final judgment disposing of the entire case. At a request by the parties at a later status conference, the trial court ordered that the parties lodge a proposed form of partial final judgment resolving the Donor Families claims against Gore within 10 days. The Donor Families lodged a form of judgment on December 23, 2019, and served a copy of that form of judgment on Gore through TurboCourt. The trial court signed the Donor Families’ proposed judgment against Gore as a partial final, appealable judgment under Rule 54(b) on January 24, 2020. That same day, the trial court also signed another partial final Rule 54(b) judgment in favor of other defendants. The clerk of court filed these judgments the same day.

¶6 The clerk of court, however, did not notify any party that the judgments had been signed and filed, as Rule 58 required. On January 28, 2020, the Donor Families saw the signed judgments after receiving notice of filing related to the other Rule 54(b) partial final judgment. On February 4, 2020, Gore's attorney received a copy of a motion to strike the Rule 54(b) judgment in favor of the other defendants through TurboCourt. Six days later, Gore's attorney received notice of a motion filed by the other defendants to correct their Rule 54(b) judgment. That motion noted that the judgment involving the other defendants had been entered on January 24, 2020, but stated that the clerk had failed to send notice of the judgment. The trial court then amended the other judgment, and the clerk sent notice of that amended judgment to Gore on February 25, 2020, but Gore's attorney made no filings in response to the notice or reviewed the docket to determine if a partial final judgment against Gore had been filed. Instead, upon receiving the February 25, 2020, filing, an electronic calendaring software system Gore's attorney used set a deadline to file post-judgment motions as starting on that date. On March 12, 2020, Gore then moved for new trial or remitter under Rule 59 asserting that the punitive damages exceeded constitutional due process protection.

¶7 The Donor Families moved to strike Gore's motion for new trial as untimely. Gore's attorney then reviewed the docket and found that the partial final judgment in favor of the Donor Families and against Gore had been signed by the trial court and entered by the clerk of court on January 24, 2020. Gore moved to extend time to file his Rule 59 motion and under Rule 6(b)(2). Gore later moved to extend time to file post-judgment motions and to file a delayed appeal under Rule 60(b) and Arizona Rule of Civil Appellate Procedure ("ARCAP") 9. Gore argued that counsel's mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect required relief from the final judgment under Rule 60(b)(1) and that, in the alternative, extraordinary circumstances of hardship or injustice warranted relief under Rule 60(b)(6). The trial court struck Gore's Rule 59 motion as untimely and denied his time extending motions under Rule 6(b) and ARCAP 9 as likewise untimely. It requested, however, further briefing on Gore's Rule 60(b) motion.

¶8 After more briefing, the trial court ruled that Gore could raise his claim that the

506 P.3d 37

punitive damages exceeded constitutional protections outside the ambit of Rule 59 and that relief under Rule 60(b)(1) and 60(b)(6) was appropriate. For Rule 60(b)(1), the court did not fault actions by Gore's attorney and found the attorney was mistaken but justified in believing that he would receive notice from the clerk of court and that one final judgment would come at the end of litigation. It concluded that Gore's attorney had acted with sufficient due diligence in staying apprised of the docket. It also found that the circumstances warranted relief under Rule 60(b)(6),...

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2 cases
  • Angelica R. v. Popko
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Arizona
    • March 31, 2022
    ...or denying a motion to set aside a judgment is reviewed for an abuse of discretion, Aloia v. Gore , No. 1 CA–CV 20-431, 252 Ariz. 548, 506 P.3d 34, 37 ¶ 11 (App. Feb. 15, 2022), but the interpretation of a procedural rule is a question of law reviewed de novo, id. ; In re Reymundo F. , 217 ......
  • State v. Crain
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Arizona
    • June 9, 2022
    ...newly discovered evidence, or fraud—does not alter the judgment, 512 P.3d 100 see Aloia v. Gore , 252 Ariz. 548, 551–52 ¶¶ 12, 15, 506 P.3d 34, 37–8 (App. 2022) (holding that a party could not use a Civil Rule 60(b)(1) motion to circumvent the Civil Rule 59 time limit where he did not have ......

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