Dependent adult abuse in California is, unfortunately, an all too common occurrence. When persons over the age of 18 who become dependent upon others for care and treatment for mental and physical health needs, these caretakers can sometimes take advantage of the situation and exploit these individuals for their own personal or financial benefit. This happens to elderly persons, persons with developmental disabilities, people with mental illness and various other scenarios. California law protects these vulnerable individuals and provides remedies in the form of civil claims for damages.
HOW DOES CALIFORNIA LAW DEFINE A “DEPENDENT ADULT”
California Welfare and Institutions Code § 15610.23 defines a “Dependent adult”
(a) “Dependent adult” means any person between the ages of 18 and 64 years who resides [in California] and who has physical or mental limitations that restrict his or her ability to carry out normal activities or to protect his or her rights, including, but not limited to, persons who have physical or developmental disabilities, or whose physical or mental abilities have diminished because of age.
(b) “Dependent adult” includes any person between the ages of 18 and 64 years who is admitted as an inpatient to a 24-hour health facility, as defined in Sections 1250, 1250.2, and 1250.3 of the CA Health and Safety Code. This can include any medical office or hospital setting that provides full time 24 hour a day care.
In my practice as a California lawyer for dependent adults, I can tell you that they include elderly persons in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or other health care institutions, persons with developmental disabilities in care facilities, and persons with mental health disabilities or mental health issues including those who have been taken into custodial holds (commonly known as 5150 holds) where they have demonstrated a threat to themselves or others. These patients fall prey to persons who commit sexual assaults and other heinous acts of physical and emotional torment and they often don’t know where to turn for help. Many times, the criminal justice system does an inadequate job of investigating these claims and prosecuting the perpetrators.
HOW DOES CALIFORNIA CIVIL LAW PROTECT DEPENDENT ADULTS?
Any person harmed by the negligence or intentional wrongdoing of another person or business can be entitled to compensation for medical expenses (including the cost of present and future psychiatric care) and a dollar award for the physical pain and emotional torment caused. With respect to persons who fall within the dependent adult category, CA law also provides for additional civil penalties and remedies as follows:
California Welfare and Institutions Code § 15657 Provides As Follows:
Where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that a defendant is liable for physical abuse as defined in Section 15610.63, or neglect as defined in Section 15610.57, and that the defendant has been guilty of recklessness, oppression, fraud, or malice in the commission of this abuse, the following shall apply, in addition to all other remedies otherwise provided by law:
(a) The court shall award to the plaintiff reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. The term “costs” includes, but is not limited to, reasonable fees for the services of a conservator, if any, devoted to the litigation of a claim brought under this article.
(b) The limitations imposed by Section 377.34 of the Code of Civil Procedure on the damages recoverable shall not apply. However, the damages recovered shall not exceed the damages permitted to be recovered pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 3333.2 of the Civil Code.
(c) The standards set forth in subdivision (b) of Section 3294 of the Civil Code regarding the imposition of punitive damages on an employer based upon the acts of an employee shall be satisfied before any damages or attorney’s fees permitted under this section may be imposed against an employer.
IMPORTANCE OF CONSULTING AND HIRING A CALIFORNIA DEPENDENT ADULT LAWYER
This means that, in California, if a nursing home, assisted care facility, hospital, psychiatric hospital or other same or similar institution is proven to have physically or financially abused any of the patients under their care, they may be liable for not only the damages to compensate the victim of abuse for financial losses, medical expenses and pain and suffering but, may also be liable for damages to punish these institutions and for attorney’s fees for the attorney to prosecute the claims. It is crucial in these cases to conduct a complete and thorough investigation of allegations surrounding the abuser, the facility who employed them and all persons involved in hiring, training and retaining the perpetrator of the abuse.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of financial abuse, physical abuse (including sexual abuse) or any other type of same or similar harm while a patient in a nursing home, assisted care facility, mental health clinic, or other same or similar institution, you should contact the California dependent adult abuse attorneys and lawyers at our California dependent adult abuse hotline: 866-252-0735 (We represent victims throughout California including San Diego, Los Angeles, San Bernardino/Riverside, Ventura/Santa Barbara, San Joaquin Valley, and the San Francisco Bay Area). We have successful obtained million dollar plus results in these cases and want to help families deal with this very difficult situation and find justice!