After being treated at a hospital, a patient was discharged to a nursing care facility. While in the care of the nursing facility, she developed sepsis and died. The patient’s estate sued for abuse of a vulnerable adult under Arizona’s Adult Protective Services Act (APSA). The Superior Court granted the nursing facility’s motion for summary judgment because, under the test promulgated by McGill ex rel. McGill v. Albrecht, 203 Ariz. 525 (2002), the alleged negligent act was not related to the condition that created the patient’s incapacity. The patient appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that whether the alleged negligent act related to the condition that caused the patient’s incapacity was a triable issue of fact. The Supreme Court granted review.
The Supreme Court expressly abolished the four-part McGill test, reasoning that it had become unworkable and contrary to the legislative purpose behind the APSA. Relying on the plain language of the statute, and interpreting the language to facilitate the purpose of the statute (i.e., to create a broad remedial action against caregivers who endanger the life of vulnerable adults), the Supreme Court announced a new four-part test. In order to state a claim for neglect of a vulnerable adult under APSA, a plaintiff must: (1) be a vulnerable adult as defined by the statute (2) who has suffered an injury (3) caused by abuse (4) from a caregiver. Holding that the requirement from McGill that the injury arise from care related to the condition that made the patient a vulnerable adult created an unworkable standard, the Supreme Court eliminated that requirement. The Supreme Court vacated the Court of Appeals opinion, reversed the grant of summary judgment, and remanded the case to the superior court to determine whether the patient had stated a claim for abuse of a vulnerable adult under the newly promulgated standard.
Justice Gould delivered the unanimous opinion.
Posted by: Randy McDonald