Elardo, Bragg, Appel & Rossi

Authority of Court to Dismiss Suit

IN RE ESTATE OF FRANCES B. LEWIS, 229 Ariz. 316, 275 P.3d 615 (APP. DIV. 2 03/29/2012). Probate Proceeding. Party failed to appear at mandatory pretrial conference. Trial court dismissed case. HOLDING: Appellate Court reversed, holding that trial court cannot dismiss a party’s claim for failure to make a court-ordered appearance absent willful or deliberate disregard. Rule 16(f) is designed to coerce cooperation rather than be a form of punishment. Court reasoned that a trial court has less discretion when imposing severe sanctions, which are disfavored and must be based on a determination of willfulness or bad faith. Although no Arizona cases have imposed sanctions for a party’s failure to personally appear under Rule 16(a), the Court noted that other jurisdictions have required willful disregard of the court’s authority before allowing dismissal as a sanction.