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Torts-State Not Bound By Vulnerable Adult Statute

Braden v. State of Arizona, __Az. Adv. Rep.__ No. Cv-10-0300-PR (November 30, 2011) (J. Brutinel)


Jacob Braden was a developmentally disabled adult in a private residential home under contract with the State of Arizona to provide care for indigent mental health patients. Braden died allegedly due to abuse and neglect at the home and his estate sued the home and the State for violation of the Adult Protective Services Act. The trial court granted the state's motion for summary judgment claiming it was not an "enterprise" intended to be controlled by the APSA. The trial court agreed, the court of appeals disagreed and the Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the trial court.

In analyzing the APSA the supreme court noted that the Act provided a civil remedy for "vulnerable adults" that suffer abuse or neglect from an "individual or enterprise." It was not in dispute that ARS. sec.1-215 (29) defines "person" generally as "a corporation, company, partnership, firm, association, or society, as well as a natural person"); On the other hand, the legislature defined "enterprise" for purposes of APSA as "any corporation, partnership, association, labor union or other legal entity, or any group of persons associated in fact although not a legal entity, that is involved with providing care to a vulnerable adult." ยง 46- 455(Q). From this the Court held: "

The absence of a comma after the phrase "labor union "makes a difference. Syntactically, this suggests "other legal entity" does not function as an independent catch-all category, but instead relates to legal entities like labor unions. Because the state is not a legal entity like a labor union, we conclude it is not the kind of "other legal entity" to which the legislature intended to refer."

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