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AZ Supreme Court Rules Patients Can Sue For Legal Expenses In Malpractice Cases

The Arizona Supreme Court says hospitals can be sued under a state law that protects vulnerable or incapacitated adults from neglect, abuse and exploitation. Monday’s ruling says patients have the right to sue for some legal expenses not covered under medical malpractice laws.

The justices unanimously rejected hospitals' arguments that the Adult Protective Services Act only applies to long-term care facilities, like nursing homes, that treat so-called “vulnerable adults.”     

The Supreme Court said hospitals may provide long-term care along with treatment. It said Arizona’s adult-protection law doesn't exempt hospitals as it does physicians and other health care providers.

That means a patient who can prove they were mistreated in a hospital can sue for malpractice damages plus for the costs of hiring a legal or medical expert who did research on the case.

The Supreme Court's ruling overturns two trial judges' rulings in favor of Phoenix-area hospitals sued by estates in two wrongful-death cases.


KJZZ Senior Field Correspondent Steve Shadley is no stranger to the issues shaping Arizona.