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The Arizona Supreme Court considers two factors in evaluating the existence of a duty: (1) the relationship between the parties; and (2) public policy considerations. Duties of care may arise from special relationships based on contract, family relations, or conduct undertaken by the defendant. The common law provides various categorical relationships that can give rise to a duty, such as the landowner-invitee relationship, the tavern owner-patron relationship, and relationships that create a duty to control the actions of another. The court cautions against determinations of duty based on a fact-specific analysis of the relationship between the parties, emphasizing that the issue of duty is a legal matter rather than a factual matter. Public policy, the other factor used to determine the existence of a duty, may be found in state statutory laws and the common law.
Plaintiffs took their car to defendant for an oil change. The oil change service included a check of the car's tire pressure. Several weeks later, plaintiffs' son was involved in a car accident. Plaintiffs asserted that the worn condition of the tread on the inside portion of a tire caused or contributed to the accident, and sued defendant for negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendant. Plaintiff appealed.
During a routine oil change and service job, did the defendant owe plaintiffs a duty to perform a safety inspection of the tires of plaintiffs’ vehicle and to warn of any dangerous tread wear?
The Court of Appeals of Arizona upheld the decision. The relationship between the parties did not create a duty on the part of defendant to inspect the tires. Public policy did not support the imposition of a duty on defendant's part. Defendant did not create the risk resulting from allegedly worn tires, and did not undertake to inspect the tires of plaintiffs' car. The Court of Appeals of Arizona declined to extend defendant's duty to include a safety inspection of the tires.