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Articles Posted in Elder and Nursing Home Abuse

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In California, elder abuse and neglect are unfortunately common. One type of elder abuse involves the financial exploitation of the elderly. When a nursing home or its staff misappropriated funds from elderly residents, they have grounds to file lawsuits against the facility and the employee. In Arace v. Medico Investments, Cal. Ct. App. Case No. E071194, the appeals court reviewed the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees and legal costs in a case in which the plaintiff did not receive economic damages or non-economic damages for one cause of action. It also looked at whether an award of economic damages for neglect was proper when the jury did not award non-economic damages for the same cause of action.[1]

Background of the case

Grace R. Miller, who was born in 1927, lived at a residential care facility named Foremost Senior Campus from March 2010 to April 2014. The care facility was owned by Leonard Crites, and Elizabeth Colon was an employee who worked at the facility. Crites purchased Miller’s home in 2010 for $66,000 and promised her that she could live at Foremost Senior Campus for life without charge. Medico bought Foremost Senior Campus in May 2012 in a short sale and kept Colon as the administrator. Medico was not informed that Crites had promised Miller to live for free at Foremost Senior Campus for life.

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Many nursing homes ask residents or their agents to sign arbitration agreements. These agreements state that any disputes between the resident and the nursing home must be handled through the arbitration process. Nursing homes use these types of agreements because arbitration generally favors the companies instead of the plaintiffs, and the homes can avoid the publicity of a trial when arbitration is compelled. However, as the case of Lopez v. Bartlett Care Center, LLC, Cal. Ct. App. No. G056427 shows, some arbitration agreements are unenforceable and may be thrown out by the court, leaving the parties to litigate through the court process.

Factual and procedural background

Irene Lopez was admitted to the Bartlett Care Center, a skilled nursing facility, on Oct. 5, 2016. She had a history of dementia, diabetes, end-stage renal disease, muscle weakness, and other medical problems. Irene Lopez had a brief stay in the hospital at the end of October and was readmitted to the nursing home on Nov. 4, 2016, where she remained until Jan. 15, 2017.

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elder abuse, California lawAccording to the governmental statistics compiled and studies conducted by the California Department of Aging, the population of the Golden State over the age of 60 (considered “elderly”) and over the age of 85 has steadily increased and is expected to continue increasing over the next several decades.  In fact, Cal. is expected to have a 112% increase in their older citizens between 1990 and 2020, according to statistical data.  While medical advances and other factors have increased both life expectancy and quality of life for older Californians, the fact still remains that, at some point in time, most if not all elderly persons will need the assistance of either a home caregiver or to become a resident in a long term care nursing home or assisted living facility.  While the vast majority of these health care providers provide quality and caring service, acts of negligence and even intentional abuse of the elder population can and still do happen with too much frequency.  This is why the laws of the State of California have long provided for protection of the elderly through regulation and enforcement of strict guidelines for elder care workers and facilities and through civil remedies for monetary damages for the abuse of the elderly.

Definition of Elder Abuse Under CA law:

Elder abuse is defined as physical, emotional and/or financial abuse of any adult over the age of 65 under California Welfare and Institutions Code 15600 and following. Depending upon the type of abuse claimed, the elements include the following:

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