Without dissent, the judges rejected arguments by attorneys for two major hospitals that the laws are designed to give individuals and their families a way to bring suit against nursing homes and assisted-care facilities.
Judge Patricia Orozco said the Legislature wrote the laws to cover those who “provide care.” She said there is no way to logically read the law to conclude that does not apply to hospitals.
Orozco also rebuffed the contention that including hospitals was never the intent of lawmakers.
“Nowhere in the legislative history is there any suggestion that an acute-care hospital is exempt from liability,” she wrote.
Attorney Robert Boatman, who represented one of the families who sued, called the ruling an important financial victory for victims.
They always had the option to file a medical malpractice claim. But he said state law limits the kinds of costs a successful plaintiff can recover to things like filing fees and depositions. By contrast, someone who wins an elder-abuse claim can also get the losing party to pay for all out-of-pocket costs, including expert witnesses and the costs of investigations.
Boatman said that is important in these kinds of cases, where someone who gets a bedsore might be entitled to $50,000 in damages but the costs of the necessary medical experts to pursue the case can run $100,000.
No one from the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association was immediately available to comment on the effect of the decision.
Tuesday’s ruling actually involves two cases.
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Elder-abuse laws mean Arizona hospitals can be sued