Brunet v. Murphy – 5/30/2006

June 2, 2006

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One Holds that “Savings Statute” Preserved Claim Under Adult Protective Services Act Despite Legislative Amendment to Eliminate Claims Against Physicians Such as the Defendant.

In 2003, the Legislature amended the Adult Protective Services Act, A.R.S. §§ 46-451 to –457 (APSA) to limit those who could be sued under the act. The estate of a deceased man later filed claims under the APSA for conduct that had occurred before the amendment. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that they could not be held liable because they were added as defendants after the effective date of the amendment and did not fall within the class of health care providers subject to liability under the amended act. The trial court granted the motion, finding “express legislative intent to apply the amended statute to accrued but unfiled causes of action.”

On an appeal by the estate, the Court of Appeals reversed the grant of summary judgment. The court found that applying the amended statute to a claim made after the amendment took effect did not constitute retroactive application of the statute; therefore, A.R.S. § 1-244 (“no statute is retroactive unless expressly declared therein”) did not apply. The court held, however, that the “savings statute,” A.R.S. § 1-249, preserved the claim against abrogation by the 2003 amendment. That statute provides that a “repealing act” will not affect a right already accrued. Although the right to sue defendants was not “vested” prior to the claim being brought, the right to assert the claim had already “accrued” for purposes of A.R.S. § 1-249 before the 2003 amendment. The amendment constituted a “repealing act” because it eliminated the previously existing right to bring APSA claims against health care providers such as the defendants.