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Wrongful Conduct Rule Adopted in Arizona

Posted by Ted A. Schmidt | Jan 12, 2018 | 0 Comments

Torts—Wrongful Conduct Rule

Muscat v. Creative Innervisions LLC, 781 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 4 (App. Div. I, December 26, 2017) (J. Brown)


Plaintiff, a convicted child abuser, was placed on lifetime probation. It was determined that the plaintiff was a "profoundly disabled person "whose disabilities make "impulse control considerably more difficult for him than it is for the typical person." Consequently as part of his probation the state contracted with the defendant to, among other things, provide plaintiff with one on one supervision at all times. 

While in defendant's custody plaintiff was dropped off unattended at a church for a theater performance. While there plaintiff molested a child in the bathroom. He subsequently pled guilty to attempted child molestation and kidnapping and was sentenced to 8 years in prison.

Plaintiff sued the defendant for negligence and negligent supervision in failing to protect him from himself. He claimed no physical injury. His alleged harm was solely the consequences of being sentenced to 8 years in prison.  He also pled violation of the Arizona Adult Protective Services Act [AAPSA]. The trial court granted defendants' Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings and the Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of the negligence claims but vacated and remanded on the AAPSA claim since that  issue wasn't properly briefed.

The Court of Appeals, in a case of first impression, adopted the “Wrongful Conduct” rule to support dismissal of the negligence claims. The wrongful conduct rule provides "that a plaintiff cannot maintain a tort action for injuries that are sustained as the direct result of his or her knowing and intentional participation in a criminal act.” Under the Restatement harm is actionable only when it results in the invasion of a legally protected interest.  Properly convicted criminals have no legally protected interest in being free from the inherent consequences of the resulting sentence.

Given that his alleged injuries arise only out of a legally imposed incarceration, [Plaintiff] alleges no injury that is distinct from the consequences of his prison sentence. Criminal defendants have legally protected interests that may be affected during criminal proceedings, but no properly-convicted criminal has a legally protected interest in being free from the inherent consequences of the resulting sentence.

About the Author

Ted A. Schmidt

Ted's early career as a trial attorney began on the other side of the fence, in the offices of a major insurance defense firm. It was there that Ted acquired the experience, the skills and the special insight into defense strategy that have served him so well in the field of personal injury law. Notable among his successful verdicts was the landmark Sparks vs. Republic National Life Insurance Company case, a $4.5 million award to Ted's client. To this day, it is the defining case for insurance bad faith, and yet it is only one of several other multi-million dollar jury judgments won by Ted during his career. He is certified by the State Bar of Arizona as a specialist in "wrongful death and bodily injury litigation".


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