Far too many nursing home and assisted living facilities put profits before the care of residents, and this results in many of those residents experiencing the horrors of elder abuse, with as many as 1 in 10 seniors nationwide being the victim of elder abuse, often in these institutions. The State of California takes elder abuse quite seriously, but state officials and inspectors cannot be at all places at all times to prevent and punish acts of elder abuse. Thus, the responsibility of holding defendants accountable for elder abuse generally falls on the shoulders of elder abuse victims, their families, and their attorneys. One of the primary methods by which this occurs is through pursuing punitive damages against nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
When Punitive Damages Are Available in a CA Elder Abuse Claim
Many large nursing homes and assisted living facilities are operated by corporations, while the actual abuse and neglect that occurs is the result of actions or omissions by employees of those corporations and other owners. California law will nevertheless hold those corporations liable for punitive damages based on the actions of its employees in many cases.
First, the employee or employees of the organization must have acted with “recklessness, oppression, fraud, or malice” in the commission of elder abuse, whether the actions or omissions constituted physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, or neglect. California courts have clarified this to mean that a plaintiff must present evidence indicating that the offending parties: 1) knew that a potential action or omission was in violation of the plaintiff’s rights and/or a threat to their safety; 2) took that action anyway in conscious disregard of the patient’s rights or safety; and 3) the patient was injured as a result.
The next step is to then show that the employer itself is liable for punitive damages because the person who committed the offending acts was a director, officer, or a managing agent of the organization OR that at least one of those individuals was aware of the violations but did not take proper steps to prevent the elder abuse from occurring.
Certainly, many corporate officers and directors are far removed from the day-to-day care of residents, but courts have said that a managing agent can include those who exercise discretionary authority over how the organization’s corporate policy toward residents is administered, such as Directors of Nursing and Administrators.
Talk to An Experienced Elder Abuse Attorney Today
As a victim of elder abuse, or a family member, you are of course not expected to understand the nuances of elder abuse law in California or how to go about seeking relief in the form of punitive damages, but the above is meant to illustrate that there are indeed a wide range of situations in which significant punitive damage awards are potentially available to elder abuse victims.
At Johnson Moore, our attorneys are compassionate and determined defenders of the elderly, and we will take the time to fully understand your concerns and assess what steps we can take on your behalf. Even if you are unsure of whether you have a valid claim, we look forward to hearing from you to help you explore your options for obtaining the justice you deserve. Contact Johnson Moore today to schedule a free consultation.