Earnest Blackburn, personal representative of the estate of his deceased wife, brought suit under the Adult Protective Services Act (“APSA”) against Cornerstone Hospital, a long-term acute care facility, alleging medical negligence which led to dehydration, malnourishment, infections, and pressure sores. Blackburn filed a report from a standard-of-care expert, and Cornerstone moved to preclude the expert’s testimony under A.R.S. § 12-2604 or Rule 702 of the Arizona Rules of Evidence, on the grounds that the expert was not qualified to give opinions on certain topics.
The superior court ruled that A.R.S. § 12-2604 does not apply to APSA claims, but found the expert was qualified under the statute’s requirements. The court also declined to restrict the expert testimony to limited topics under Rule 702. Cornerstone filed a special action petition seeking relief.
The Arizona Court of Appeals granted jurisdiction, agreed with Cornerstone’s argument on the applicability of § 12-2604 to actions involving vulnerable adults, but denied relief. The Court held that the statute applies to any action “alleging medical malpractice,” not just actions brought pursuant to the Medical Malpractice Act. The court rejected Blackburn’s argument that the APSA action did not allege “medical malpractice,” holding that medical negligence is “synonymous” with medical malpractice for purposes of § 12-2604. The court also upheld the superior court’s decision that the expert was qualified to provide standard-of-care testimony for nurses at different qualification levels, as different degrees and licensing requirements for nurses do not mean that nurses have different specialties.
The court denied relief, however, holding that even though the superior court ruled the expert was qualified based only on Rule 702, the expert was also qualified under § 12-2604 and therefore the incorrect ruling about the applicability of the statute to APSA cases did not mean Cornerstone could preclude the expert testimony.
Judge Vasquez authored the opinion; Judges Kelly and Espinosa concurred.
Posted by: Shane Ham