Muscat v. Creative Innervisions, LLC – 12/26/2017

January 23, 2018

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that a person who has been lawfully incarcerated for a criminal conviction has not suffered a legally cognizable injury for purposes of establishing a negligence claim when the alleged harm flows solely from the incarceration.

A man with a profound impulse-control disability, who was on lifetime probation for a sex offense, was placed into a group home for the disabled, which agreed to supervise him at all times.  A staff member brought the man to a theater production at a local church, but did not supervise him, and the man inappropriately touched a child in a restroom.  The man was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison. 

While the man’s criminal case was pending, he sued the group home for negligence in failing to supervise him and for a violation of the Arizona Adult Protective Services Act (“APSA”).  The superior court granted the group home’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, and the man appealed. 

The Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of the negligence claim.  The Court held that, given the special relationship between the man and the group home, the group home had a duty to properly supervise him, and that he had properly alleged a breach of that duty.  But the injuries alleged derived solely from the fact of his incarceration.  Because the man’s incarceration was lawful, he had not alleged a legally cognizable injury.  The APSA claim, however, could not be resolved on the same analysis, so the Court vacated the dismissal of that claim and remanded for further proceedings. 

Judge Brown delivered the opinion of the court; Judges Campbell and Downie joined.