Can Arizona Hospitals Be Held Liable for Elder Abuse?
By Zachary Mushkatel on December 30, 2013
In Arizona, it is illegal to abuse, neglect, or exploit a “vulnerable” adult. But under the law, can the perpetrators of “elder abuse” only be confined to nursing home facilities or individuals charged with the care of an elderly person?
Can Arizona hospitals be held liable for elder abuse?
According to an Arizona Court of Appeals decision, that answer is yes.
This decision stemmed from two cases where the survivors of two elderly victims contended that the care their family members received in Arizona hospitals violated the 1989 Adult Protective Services Act (APSA) and was, in fact, elder abuse. In both instances, lower court judges threw out the cases, claiming that hospitals were exempt from the law.
The Court of Appeals saw it differently and rejected arguments by attorneys from two major hospitals that the APSA only pertained to nursing homes and assisted-care facilities.
Judge Patricia Orozco said that the law was written to cover those who “provide care.” Since a hospital provides care, it only seemed logical that hospitals could also be held liable in elder abuse cases. The court rejected the idea that the Legislature had never meant for acute-care hospitals to be covered under the law.
While families of victims always had the option of filing a medical malpractice claims against a hospital, state law limits the kinds of costs a plaintiff can recover for things like depositions and filing fees. For instance, under malpractice laws, a successful plaintiff cannot recover costs for expert witnesses, which in some cases can run higher than the damages awarded.
The ruling is important because under an elder abuse claim, a successful plaintiff can get the losing party to pay for all out-of-pocket expenses, which can cover investigation costs and the cost of expert witnesses.
Do you believe that a loved one has been the victim of elder abuse? The law firm of Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, would like to hear from you. We can answer your questions and discuss your legal options. Our attorneys and staff are dedicated to making your legal needs our top priority. Contact us at (623) 889-0691 or contact us online to set up your free consultation today.
Zachary Mushkatel is an Arizona native who earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona in 2001 and his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2004. After serving as a public defender, he entered into private practice and, ultimately, joined forces with Mathis Becker to form the law firm known today as Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC. In addition to criminal law, Mushkatel practices civil litigation, with a focus on estate litigation and personal injury cases. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce and Sun Valley Lodge, and he is an executive officer and member of the Board of Directors for the West Maricopa County Bar Association.