Estate of Reinen v. N. Ariz. Orthopedics, Ltd

In Estate of Reinen v. N. Ariz. Orthopedics, Ltd., 198 Ariz. 283, 9 P.3d 314 (2000), the plaintiff estate alleged that the nurse responsible for Reinen's care had breached her duty by failing to obtain a doctor for him and by not informing her supervisor of his deteriorating condition during her overnight shift. Id. PP 1-4. The estate also claimed the on-call orthopedist was negligent in failing to seek a consultation from the on-call internist and codefendant, Dr. Thomas Henry. Id. PP 1, 4. Henry was a defendant in the case due to his failure to examine Reinen or to make sufficient inquiries when contacted about his status. Id. PP 2, 4. At trial, Henry testified "he would not have altered the course of treatment if called on to do an internal medicine consultation or take over the patient's care." Id. P 6. The trial court consequently granted Henry's motion for a directed verdict on the ground that evidence of causation was lacking. Id. PP 6-7. The court also concluded there could be no proximate-cause finding against either the orthopedist or the nurse, even assuming they had been negligent in their care, and it thus dismissed the case against both the orthopedist and the hospital. Id. The supreme court of Arizona reversed the trial court's rulings and remanded the case for a new trial. Id. P 28. As the court noted, the plaintiff's expert witness established that, under the circumstances of the case, the standard of care for an internist required that Henry personally examine the patient; had this occurred, the necessary treatments then could have been instituted, giving the patient a seventy percent chance of avoiding permanent injury. Id. P 10. Because this expert testimony "provided evidence of a breach of the standard of care . . . and a causal relationship to Reinen's injuries," the court concluded dismissing Henry from the case was erroneous. Id. The Reinen court similarly concluded the trial court had erred in dismissing the orthopedist and the hospital from the case, as the testimony of the plaintiff's expert was sufficient to show both a breach of duty and the defendants' "causal relation to Reinen's injuries." Id. PP 13-15.