Parents May Assign Right to Recover Child's Medical Expenses to Child and Toll Statute of Limitations

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Torts - Parent's Right to Recover for Child's Medical Expenses Assignable to Child

Estate of Desela v. Prescott Unified School District, 583 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 28 (App., Div. I, May 27, 2010) (J. Kessler)

WHERE PARENT ASSIGNS RIGHT TO RECOVER MEDICAL EXPENSES FOR TREATMENT OF MINOR CHILD TO MINOR CHILD BEFORE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS RUNS AND CHILD MAKES TIMELY NOTICE OF CLAIM FOR THESE AND OTHER DAMAGES, THE STATUTE IS TOLLED UNTIL CHILD REACHES MAJORITY AND IS PROPERLY RECOVERABLE BY CHILD'S ESTATE

Sixteen year old Maddison Deselea sustained a life threatening closed head injury when she fell off the roof of a fellow student's car during an unsupervised break in rehearsal for a school play at Prescott High School. Eighty one days later Maddison's mother assigned to Maddison or her estate the right to recover for Maddison's medical expenses as a result of the injury from the defendants.Defendants moved to dismiss and for summary judgment on the basis that assignee could receive no more than assignor had and what assignor had was a claim for medical expenses that was barred by the statute of limitations one year after the accident. The trial court agreed.On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded finding that because the assignment was properly made before the one year statute of limitations had run, ARS sec. 12-502 worked to toll the statute of limitations until the assignee reached majority.The court found no public policy would be furthered by allowing the defendants to escape responsibility for medical expenses that were in fact assigned before the statute of limitations ran particularly when the defendants received a notice of claim from plaintiff within 180 days of the accident putting it on notice of the claim for injury and medical expenses. In contrast, allowing Maddison and her estate the benefit of the tolling statute allows her to better determine and seek recovery for the full extent of her damages.

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