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Effective Responses and Remedies for Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing home residents are often vulnerable to abuse, neglect and even theft. Caregivers may use threats, intimidation or undue influence to silence victims. When nursing home personnel violate residents’ rights or fail to deliver proper care, the victims and their families can pursue remedies under civil and criminal law to stop the abuse and to hold the offenders responsible.

In California, the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act provides expansive measures for preventing and stopping mistreatment of patients in care facilities — including a system of mandatory reporting of episodes of abuse. The act applies to anyone over the age of 65 and to dependent adults between the ages of 18 and 64.

Among other provisions, the act allows for recovery of compensatory damages and punitive damages for victims of physical abuse, neglect or abandonment in a nursing home or care facility if they prove there was recklessness, oppression, fraud or malice in the commission of the offense. The victim is also entitled to a mandatory award of attorneys’ fees and of the costs of litigation.

Recoverable damages include medical expenses, wage loss, pain and suffering and emotional distress. Notably, the statute allows for pain and suffering and emotional distress damages to be awarded even if the abuse victim should die. This is an exception to the general rule in California that such damages cannot be recovered in a survival action.

The act also creates an exception to California’s general $250,000 cap on damages in suits against health care providers, as long is the claimed misconduct was willful neglect as opposed to medical negligence.

Nursing home abuse can also be a crime. Under the California penal code, charges can be brought against anyone who willfully does any of the following under circumstances or conditions likely to produce “great bodily harm” or death:

  • causes or permits an elder or dependent adult to undergo unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering
  • causes or permits injury to the health of an elder or dependent adult in their care or custody
  • causes or permits an elder or dependent adult to be placed in a health-endangering situation.

The abuse can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony and be subject to various degrees of punishment based on the severity of the injury caused. In addition, penalties are enhanced if a victim is age 70 or older and/or an injury leads to the victim’s death.

At Patterson Law, we are fully familiar with the state laws protecting elders and are skilled at taking effective measures to stop abuse and to win fair compensation. We primarily serve Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties, though we also work with clients from Los Angeles and San Francisco. Initial consultations are free. Call us at 888-479-4589 or contact us online.