Kopacz v. Banner Health – 7/5/2018

July 13, 2018

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One confirms that when a medical malpractice claim accrues for statute-of-limitations purposes does not depend on whether the “unsound mind” tolling exception in A.R.S. § 12-502 applies.

A patient underwent a surgical procedure at Banner Hospital on December 21, 2013.  She suffered complications and was in and out of the hospital for the next several months.  On January 21, 2016, the patient filed a medical malpractice claim against Banner Hospital and her treating physician.  The defendants moved for summary judgment based on A.R.S. § 12-542(1)’s two-year statute of limitations.  The superior court granted the motion, finding that the patient’s claim had accrued by December 2013.

The patient appealed, arguing that her claim did not accrue until March 2014 because “her serious medical condition . . . prevented her from understanding what happened to her and what caused it.”  (Under A.R.S. § 12-502, the statute of limitations is tolled if a plaintiff is of “unsound mind” when the medical malpractice claim accrues.)

The Court of Appeals disagreed.  Citing Doe v. Roe, 191 Ariz. 313 (1998), the Court explained that the question of when a claim accrues for purposes of § 12-542(1) must be answered separately from deciding whether § 12-502’s tolling exception applies.  Because the patient’s claim plainly accrued by December 2013, and because she did not provide “hard evidence” of unsound mind sufficient to toll the limitations period, the Court affirmed.

Judge Johnsen wrote the opinion; Judges McMurdie and Weinzweig joined.