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In re Estate of Wyatt

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division, Department A

July 30, 2013

In the Matter of the Estate of: HELEN WYATT, Deceased.
v.
VANGUARD HEALTH SYSTEMS, INC., a Delaware corporation, doing business as PHOENIX BAPTIST HOSPITAL, Defendant/Appellee. ROBERT WYATT, Personal Representative of the ESTATE OF HELEN WYATT, on behalf of the ESTATE OF HELEN WYATT, and ROBERT WYATT, individually and on behalf of HELEN WYATT's statutory beneficiaries under A.R.S. § 12-612 (A) Plaintiff/Appellant, PATRICIA KUHFUSS for herself and on behalf of all statutory beneficiaries and as Personal Representative of the ESTATE OF KARL H KUHFUSS, JR., Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
JOHN C. LINCOLN HEALTH NETWORK dba JOHN C. LINCOLN HOSPITAL DEER VALLEY, an Arizona corporation, Defendant/Appellee.

Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County Cause No. CV2008-030580 and Cause No. CV2010-012450 The Honorable Emmet J. Ronan, Judge The Honorable J. Richard Gama, Judge

Wilkes & McHugh, PA, Melanie L. Bossie And Law Office of Scott E. Boehm, PC, Scott E. Boehm Attorneys for Appellant Wyatt

Jardine Baker Hickman & Houston, PLLC, John E. Drazkowski Michael Warzynski Attorneys for Appellee Vanguard Health Systems, Inc. dba Phoenix Baptist Hospital

Gallagher & Kennedy, PA, Robert W. Boatman Shannon L. Clark C. Lincoln Combs Attorneys for Appellant Kuhfuss

Broening Oberg Woods & Wilson, PC, James R. Broening Katherine M. Corcoran Attorneys for Appellee John C. Lincoln Heath Network dba John C. Lincoln Hospital Deer Valley

Arizona Association for Justice, David L. Abney H. Micheal Wright Lincoln M. Wright Attorneys for Amicus Curiae

OPINION

PATRICIA A. OROZCO, Presiding Judge

¶1 Robert Wyatt and the Estate of Helen Wyatt, and Patricia Kuhfuss and the Estate of Karl H. Kuhfuss, Jr. (collectively, Appellants) filed separate lawsuits against two different acute care hospitals, alleging, among other claims, a violation of the Adult Protective Services Act (APSA). In each case, the trial court granted partial summary judgment in favor of the hospital, holding that APSA is not applicable to acute care hospitals. Appellants timely appealed. We have jurisdiction over both appeals under Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) sections 12-120.21.A.1 (2003) and -2101.A.1 (Supp. 2012).

¶2 We have consolidated the two cases on appeal because they involve the same issue: whether APSA applies to acute care hospitals. Finding that APSA does apply, we reverse and remand both cases for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

DISCUSSION

¶3 "APSA provides a statutory cause of action for incapacitated or vulnerable adults who are the victims of neglect, abuse or exploitation." In re Estate of Wyttenbach, 219 Ariz. 120, 123, 12, 193 P.3d 814, 817 (App. 2008); see A.R.S. §§ 46-455 to -456 (Supp. 2012).[1] In 1989, the legislature amended APSA to provide a civil cause of action, in addition to the already existing criminal penalties. 1989 Ariz. Sess. Laws, ch. 118, § 3 (1st Reg. Sess.). Vanguard Health Systems, Inc., dba Phoenix Baptist Hospital, and John C. Lincoln Health Network, dba John C. Lincoln Hospital Deer Valley (collectively, the Hospitals) argue that the legislature did not intend for APSA to apply to acute care hospitals.

¶4 We review questions of statutory construction de novo. In re Estate of Winn, 214 Ariz. 149, 151, 7, 150 P.3d 236, 238 (2007). Our objective when interpreting statutes is to "give effect to the intent of the legislature." Id. at ¶ 8. To do so, we first examine the statute's words. In re Guardianship/Conservatorship of Denton, 190 Ariz. 152, 155, 945 P.2d 1283, 1286 (1997). "When the plain text of a statute is clear and unambiguous there is no need to resort to other methods of statutory interpretation to determine the legislature's intent because its intent is readily discernable from the face of the statute." State v. Christian, 205 Ariz. 64, 66, 6, 66 P.3d 1241, 1243 (2003).

¶5 Arizona Revised Statute § 46-455 was designed to create a cause of action for a vulnerable individual who was injured as a result of abuse, neglect or exploitation. Estate of McGill v. Albrecht, 203 Ariz. 525, 528, ¶ 7, 57 P.3d 384, 387 (2002). "[T]he statute was intended to increase the remedies available to and for elderly people who had been harmed by their caregivers." Id. at ΒΆ 6. The Arizona Supreme Court has directed that APSA, as a remedial statute, should be broadly ...


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