Adult Protective Services Act

Protecting Vulnerable Adults in Arizona

APSA stands for the Adult Protective Services Act.  It was first enacted in Arizona in 1980.  It has been amended several times, and each amendment has added provisions to protect vulnerable adults from neglect, abuse and exploitation.

Unlike Arizona’s wrongful death act, APSA claims for abuse and neglect, including pain and suffering survive the death of the abused person.

Arizona courts have liberally construed APSA claims to protect the elderly and other vulnerable adults.

A recent Arizona case is considered a landmark ruling.  Delgado v Manor care re-defined the elements needed for an APSA claim as a four-part test as follows:

1. A vulnerable adult, 2.  Suffers an injury, 3. Caused by abuse, neglect, or exploitation, 4. From a caregiver.

The statute allows for double damages and attorney’s fees to the vulnerable adult or his or her estate.   The statute allows for intervention by the Attorney General and for prosecution of the abuser if warranted.   Violation of APSA is a class V felony.

Generally, the case is brought by the vulnerable adult, or his or her guardian, or in the event of death, on behalf of the personal representative of the estate.  However, the Act also allows for “any other interested person” to bring a petition to the court for permission to file an APSA claim.  The “other interested person” language allows for an action if the “bad guys” are the ones in charge of the care and in charge of the money.  Time and again we see “caregivers” who are also relatives, appointed guardians, or putative guardians who mismanage finances, outright steal from the elderly, or persuade the elderly to change an estate plan to include the “caregiver” as a primary beneficiary of the estate.

The ACT has a liberal definition of who is a “caregiver,” who is a “de facto guardian” or who is a “de facto conservator” and imposes penalties upon the wrongdoers that include divestiture (pay back) of the money or property wrongfully acquired from the vulnerable adult.

If you know of an elderly person who is or has been taken advantage of by a caregiver either physically, emotionally or financially, report it to law enforcement and request an investigation.  The office of the Pima County Public Fiduciary’s (520-724-5454) is also a good place to call for investigation.  The Attorney General’s office of Child and Family Protection (520-294-6655) is also a resource to call.

The APSA Act only works if those who “see something say something. “ The wrongdoers never report themselves, and once the vulnerable adult dies, it is usually too late, as evidence is destroyed by the wrongdoers, and usually the wrongdoers never get challenged or questioned by other family members.

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