As a conservative Republican who has dedicated my life to public service, I have always appreciated the importance of government partnering with business. I was pleased when Gov. Doug Ducey selected U-Haul International’s Tempe manufacturing and technical facility as the back-drop for his 2018 campaign kick-off. Right here in Arizona, U-Haul employs tens of thousands of hard-working Arizonans in its Phoenix corporate headquarters, manufacturing facilities, stores and local dealerships, supporting local businesses and our state’s vibrant economy.
That’s why, as chair of the House Transportation Committee, I was very disappointed when it recently came to my attention that in February 2020, the Arizona Court of Appeals overturned a jury defense verdict in favor of U-Haul, after a four-week jury trial, based solely on one sentence found in 13 pages of jury instructions.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claimed that U-Haul violated Arizona law because it did not put brakes on a tow dolly. As a resident of Yavapai County, avid motorcyclist, and citizen legislator I spend a great deal of time driving. U-Haul’s tow dollies are used to tow vehicles – the front wheels of the vehicle are placed on the tow dolly and the rear wheels of the vehicle ride on the street – and can be towed either using a customer’s vehicle or a U-Haul truck. For 50 years U-Haul had reasonably relied on its testing and science that brakes were not necessary on tow dollies.
In fact, in 2018, the Arizona Legislature, in a bill first heard in the House Transportation Committee, clarified Arizona’s law and expressly stated that tow dollies do not need to have brakes. With Arizona juries, common sense prevailed. The jury in the lawsuit came to the exact same conclusion when it found in favor of U-Haul, even though the jury was never informed that the Legislature had separately clarified the law. According to the Court of Appeals, the re-trial would involve the exact same issue already presented to the first jury – whether the lack of brakes on U-Haul’s tow dolly caused the accident involved in the litigation.
I am pleased that the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Truck Renting & Leasing Association, Arizona Association of Defense Counsel, and PLAC Product Liability Advisory Council all intend to file amicus briefs in support of the jury’s defense verdict and U-Haul. They know jury trials of this magnitude and length are costly for the citizens of the state of Arizona. First, the court’s resources and funds spent by the parties for a trial of this length are significant. Second, a jury of ten individuals already had to forgo nearly a month of their own time and their jobs to hear this case in 2018. Unless the Supreme Court steps in and reverses the Court of Appeals’ decision, this issue will be tried again, in front of another jury, on the same issue that has been decided in favor of U-Haul, at a great cost to the economy and the citizens of this state.
We must focus on growing our economy by developing policies that protect consumers and support business, while defending against those who attempt to damage our way of life, especially given the current economic climate.
Noel Campbell is chair of the Arizona House Transportation Committee, a legislator from Yavapai County, and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.