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Court of Appeals holds Prison Medical Provider is a Statutory Employee of the State

Appeal Report from Daniel J O’Connor, Jr

In Wagner v. State, 393 P.3d 156 (App. 2017), Daniel J. O’Connor, Jr and J. Edward Doman, Jr. successfully defended the State of Arizona in a tort action brought by an employee of a private contractor providing health care at an Arizona prison in the Arizona Court of Appeals Division One. The Court held that employees of a private contractor working in a state-owned prison are statutory employees of the state such that workers’ compensation, rather than a tort action against the state, is the exclusive remedy for injuries they sustain at work pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 23-902(B), 31-201.01(D). This is the case regardless of the fact that the contract between the private contractor and the state specifically provides that the private contractor and its employees are independent contractors. Pursuant to the contract, the Arizona Department of Corrections retained the right to control the contractor’s provision of healthcare to inmates in the state prison system. The Court held that this right to control coupled with the fact that the provision of healthcare to inmates remains a part or process in the Department’s maintenance of the state prison system caused the employees of the private contractor to be statutory employees.

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