Carter v. Pain Center of Arizona, P.C. – 5/10/2016

February 12, 2016

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that jury instructions for medical battery must address consent when the plaintiff claims a physician exceeded a patient’s limited consent.

A patient expressly consented to a medical procedure only if the physician used IV sedation.  Despite that limited consent, the physician performed the procedure without sedation.  The patient sued for medical battery for exceeding the scope of consent. 

The trial court used the general jury instruction for battery (submitted by the physician), rather than an instruction that addressed the scope of the patient’s consent (as requested by the patient).  The physician won in the superior court and the patient appealed.

The Court of Appeals reversed.  Under Arizona law, where a patient has given limited or conditional consent to a procedure, a doctor commits medical battery if he acts in willful disregard of the patient’s limited or conditional consent.  The Court further observed that medical battery claims based on lack of consent do not require proof that medical provider intended harm or offensive contact, so the traditional instruction (which requires proof of harm or offensive contact) does not apply.  Consequently, the jury instructions must address whether the physician exceeded the scope of the patient’s consent. 

Presiding Judge Johnsen authored the opinion, which was joined by Judges Cattani and Gemmill.