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AZ high court: Hospitals can be sued under vulnerable adult law

In terms of protecting the well-being of vulnerable adults, is there a difference between "providing care" and "providing treatment"? No, said the Arizona Supreme Court. The question came up in two cases recently heard by the high court.

The plaintiffs -- two families -- claim their now-deceased loved ones received hospital care that violated the Adult Protective Services Act (APSA). However, the hospitals' attorneys argued that the law only covers nursing homes and other similar facilities, not hospitals, which, according to the attorneys, provide "treatment" and not "care."

The high court unanimously disagreed with that argument. In particular, Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch said that exempting hospitals from claims under the APSA "would thwart the Legislature's goal of protecting vulnerable adults." Bedsores, she pointed out, could result from failing to turn a vulnerable adult, whether that person is in a nursing home or a hospital.

The ruling means that medical malpractice and medical negligence claims can be brought against hospitals that violate the APSA.

If you or a loved one has been injured while in the care of a hospital or other medical facility, then you may be entitled to compensation for damages. Doctors, nurses and hospitals owe a duty of care to protect patients from injury. Misdiagnoses, delayed diagnoses, medication errors and surgical errors can all constitute a breach of that duty of care.

Sometimes a medical negligence claim is the only way for an injured patient to cover the cost of treatment in the wake of an error on the part of a hospital or a doctor.

Source: Arizona Capitol Times, "Supreme Court: Hospitals are subject to laws protecting vulnerable adults," Howard Fischer, July 7, 2014

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