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Kopacz v. Banner Health

Court of Appeals of Arizona, First Division

July 5, 2018

LORENZA KOPACZ, et al., Plaintiffs/Appellants,
v.
BANNER HEALTH, et al., Defendants/Appellees.

          Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. CV2016-050010 The Honorable Susan M. Brnovich, Judge.

          Law Office of Donald Smith, PLLC, Glendale By Donald H. Smith Counsel for Plaintiffs/Appellants

          Campbell, Yost, Clare & Norell, PC, Phoenix By Margaret F. Dean Counsel for Defendant/Appellee Banner Health

          Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, PA, Phoenix By Vincent J. Montell, Rita J. Bustos Counsel for Defendants/Appellees Raj D. and Sevitri Savajiyani

          Presiding Judge Diane M. Johnsen delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Judge Paul J. McMurdie and Judge David D. Weinzweig joined.

          OPINION

          JOHNSEN, JUDGE.

         ¶1 Lorenza Kopacz appeals the superior court's grant of summary judgment, arguing the court erred by rejecting her contention that her temporary inability to consider bringing a medical malpractice claim tolled the statute of limitations. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶2 On December 20, 2013, Kopacz, then 80 years old, went to the emergency room at Banner Health, complaining of chest heaviness and shortness of breath.[1] The next day, Dr. Raj Savajiyani examined her and told her she needed a cardiac catheterization, which he performed on December 23 by accessing her right femoral artery and vein through an incision in her right groin.

         ¶3 The hospital discharged Kopacz on December 25. A day later, a nurse examined Kopacz at her home and discovered that subcutaneous bleeding and swelling had developed around the incision site. The area was soft and not tender to the touch, but the nurse told Kopacz and her daughter to watch the area and call if the symptoms worsened. The next morning, December 27, the same nurse examined Kopacz at her home and found she was in severe pain in her hip and groin; the area around the incision had become hard and painful to the touch, with severe subcutaneous bleeding and swelling.

         ¶4 An ambulance took Kopacz back to Banner, where a scan showed a large hematoma in her groin, thigh and buttock area and indicated a possible pseudoaneurysm in her femoral artery. A surgeon recommended surgery, but before the surgery could commence, Kopacz began suffering additional complications, including cardiogenic shock and atrial fibrillation, and she was admitted to intensive care. She underwent emergency surgery early the next morning to relieve the complications from the hematoma that had developed after the catheterization.

         ¶5 Kopacz remained hospitalized until January 8, 2014, when she was released to a rehabilitation center. She continued to receive extensive wound care there until January 20, when she was readmitted to Banner with severe sepsis and hypotension. She was discharged from the hospital on February 1, but continued to have significant pain, and returned to the hospital once again for five days in late February when she experienced pressure in her chest. Her medical condition finally stabilized between March and July 2014.

         ¶6 On January 21, 2016, Kopacz and her spouse filed suit against Banner and Savajiyani and his spouse, alleging medical malpractice arising out of her medical treatment on December 21 and 23, 2013. The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the two-year statute of limitations applicable to Kopacz's claim under Arizona Revised Statutes ("A.R.S.") section 12-542(1) (2018) had expired.[2] In her response and at oral argument on the motion, Kopacz argued defendants breached the applicable standard of care by failing to obtain her informed consent for the cardiac catheterization. The superior court granted the motion, finding that "the claim accrued no later than December 28, 2013," and therefore was time-barred.

         ¶7 Kopacz timely appealed. We have jurisdiction pursuant to Article 6, Section 9, of the Arizona Constitution, and A.R.S. ...


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