Star Tribune Investigation Highlights Rampant Failure to Prosecute Elder Abuse in MN

Star Tribune Investigation Highlights Rampant Failure to Prosecute Elder Abuse in MN

elderly person holding their hands

The Star Tribune, Minneapolis’ largest newspaper, released a five-part investigative series in November 2017, entitled “Left to Suffer,” highlighting the difficult plight that senior citizens across Minnesota face, and the widespread prevalence of elder abuse. The well-researched and devastating expose focuses on, among other things, the failure of state and local authorities in Minnesota to respond to elder abuse complaints, all during a time in which the elderly population is exploding in size, and there are fewer and fewer resources to help them.

As elder abuse attorneys in California who have spent decades representing elder abuse victims and their families, the investigation is at once a public confirmation of the challenges and horrors elderly individuals across the country face in assisted living facilities and nursing homes, and a reminder of the importance of the work of private attorneys in pursuing elder abuse actions against nursing homes and facilities that fail to prevent elder abuse from occurring.

Minnesota Fails to Investigate 97% of Elder Abuse Complaints

In the first part of the five-part series, the Star Tribune report investigated the failure of nursing homes and assisted living facilities to present elder abuse as well as the failure of authorities to investigate the tens of thousands of claims of elder abuse it receives each year. Entitled “Abused, Ignored Across Minnesota,” the entry lays out the widespread abuse and dysfunction:

Every year, hundreds of residents at senior care centers around the state are assaulted, raped or robbed in crimes that leave lasting trauma and pain for the victims and their families. Yet the vast majority of these crimes are never resolved, and the perpetrators never punished, because state regulators lack the staff and expertise to investigate them. And thousands of complaints are simply ignored.  

The report goes on to describe a number of individual situations uncovered at various nursing homes and facilities across the state, including sexual assaults of patients by staff members that were never reported to families and “dire tales of residents being choked, punched, smothered with pillows, fondled and forcibly restrained.”

In sum, the Star Tribune found that, in 2016 alone, the Minnesota Department of Health received over 25,000 reports of elder abuse, neglect, unexplained injuries, and thefts in state-licensed facilities. Of those, over 2,000 related to allegations of physical or emotional abuse by staff.

The Minnesota Department of Health failed to investigate 97% of these over 25,000 complaints. And, when the department did investigate, the newspaper reported that it often failed to take basic investigative steps such as interviewing the victim. In many of these cases, the police were never contacted. Independent legal experts who examined a collection of complaints on behalf of the newspaper found that approximately one-third could have served as viable grounds for a criminal investigation.

Furthermore, the report found that facilities themselves are rarely punished, families are often never contacted about the elder abuse issues, and victims can even face retaliation such as eviction for speaking up.

The Importance of Working With a Private Elder Abuse Attorney

As elder abuse attorneys, we understand the challenges that public health regulators face in policing nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and that resources are often limited. We also appreciate the work that is done by state and local authorities to take action against abusers and their employers.

The Star Tribune report, however, does highlight that elder abuse is an epidemic that continues on despite the efforts of regulators, who are not always in the best position to win justice for victims of elder abuse.

By bringing private elder abuse lawsuits against offenders – with the possibility of steep civil damages – we find that we are often in a position to not only win justice for an individual victim but to highlight systemic problems within nursing homes where elder abuse has been allowed to proliferate, thereby improving conditions for other elderly residents and deterring other nursing homes and facilities from allowing elder abuse to occur.

If you believe a family member may be the victim of elder abuse in a California nursing home or assisted living facility, we look forward to speaking with you to determine how we might be of service in winning justice.

Contact the Southern California Elder Abuse Attorneys at Johnson Moore Today

At Johnson Moore, we know full well that elder abuse victims and their families often face stonewalling, denial, and even intimidation when they try to take action against elder abuse. 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.

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