April 12, 2021

Arizona Medical Malpractice Laws

To prove medical negligence, a plaintiff must provide evidence that the defendant failed to meet the applicable professional standard of care and defendant’s failure proximately caused plaintiff’s injuries. A.R.S. § 12-563. To establish proximate cause, the plaintiff must show a natural and continuous sequence of events stemming from the defendant’s act or omission, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, that produces an injury, in whole or in part, and without which the injury would not have occurred. A plaintiff must show that causation is probable, not merely speculative, and the defendant’s negligence must be a substantial factor in bringing about the harm.

In an Arizona medical malpractice case decided by the Arizona Court of Appeals on March 23, 2021 involving alleged medical negligence in post-surgical care, the Court held: “A medical expert’s testimony was required to show causation here because an average juror is unlikely to understand the causal relationship between Donald’s death and Nurse B calling the hospitalist physician instead of the rapid response team.”

The Arizona Court of Appeals explained: “The undisputed record at summary judgment reveals that Nurse B contacted Dr. Reyes—the hospitalist physician—just after 11:00 a.m. and shared Plaintiff’s concern about Donald’s cognitive functioning. Dr. Reyes promptly responded and he examined Donald. To defeat summary judgment, therefore, Plaintiff needed to present expert testimony and evidence that Donald died because Nurse B contacted the hospital physician instead of the rapid response team. And, on that point, Plaintiff’s expert witnesses never explain how or why Nurse B’s call to the hospitalist physician as opposed to the rapid response team was the difference between life and death. Plaintiff provides no evidence on the most basic facts to establish this connection. For instance, she provides no evidence on the Hospital’s rapid response policy and procedure; the names and background of medical professionals and physician specialists who staffed the Hospital’s rapid response team and would have responded on October 1; how the training and experience of those medical professionals differ from a hospitalist physician’s training and experience; whether and how often the Hospital’s rapid response team had been summoned to similar emergencies and diagnosed the patient’s condition; or whether those medical professionals would have ordered a different course of treatment—meaning a nasal gastric tube and more dietary restrictions—than a hospitalist physician.”

The Arizona Court of Appeals concluded: “We affirm the superior court’s entry of summary judgment for the Hospital because Plaintiff failed to offer evidence—with qualified expert testimony or otherwise—sufficient to create a genuine issue of fact that the alleged negligence of Nurse B or other Hospital nurses was a substantial factor in Donald’s death.”

Source Koskovich v. Scottsdale Healthcare Hospitals, No. 1 CA-CV 20-0371.

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of medical malpractice in Arizona or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find an Arizona medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.

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