New Development Regarding Elder Abuse Claims Against Home Health Agencies

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Read on to learn more about this new development in elder abuse lawsuits against home health agencies and reach out to an experienced California home health agency abuse lawyer. Our legal team is on your side.

Oroville Hospital v. Superior Court

This action arises out of the alleged elder abuse and wrongful death of decedent Eyvon Ambrose. Ambrose was receiving in-home nursing services for wound care by Oroville Hospital (defendants). The plaintiffs claimed that the defendants engaged in reckless neglect when providing the wound care were liable for elder abuse, and should have to compensate the plaintiffs for Ambrose’s pre-death pain and suffering, attorney’s fees, and punitive damages.

In addition to the defendants’ violations of the applicable standard of care in providing wound care, the plaintiffs also argued that the defendants failed to advise the decedent to be transferred to Oroville Hospital for evaluation and wound debridement. The defendants moved for summary judgment or summary adjudication, asserting that they did not have a substantial caretaking or custodial relationship with the decedent, which was found to be a prerequisite for recovery for elder abuse and neglect under the Elder Abuse Act as discussed in Winn v. Pioneer Medical Group, Inc. (2016) 63 Cal.4th 148.

What Happened in Winn v. Pioneer Medical Group, Inc.?

In the Winn case, the plaintiffs sued the defendants for elder neglect under California’s Elder Abuse and Dependent Civil Protection Act. The Supreme Court found that the Act does not apply unless the defendant’s health care provider had a substantial caretaking or custodial relationship, concerning continuous responsibility for one or more basic needs, with the elder patient. It is the essence of the elder or dependent adult’s relationship with the defendant, not the defendant‘s professional standing, that causes the defendant to be potentially liable for elder abuse or neglect. Thus, because the defendants were not found to have a caretaking or custodial relationship with the decedent, the court found that the plaintiffs could not recover damages for neglect under the Elder Abuse Act.

Why This is Important

In both cases, the “care and custody” element for an elder abuse cause of action is emphasized. In Oroville, the appellate court analyzes and applies the Supreme Court’s Winn decision. It is only the second appellate case to address Winn and the first appellate case to address the “care and custody” element in an elder abuse case against a home health care provider.  The Oroville case will certainly be used to rebut claims of elder abuse against health care providers’ management companies and parent companies that do not provide direct patient care because they never have “care and custody” of the patients. When analyzing whether a care provider’s conduct can be characterized as elder abuse or neglect, the plaintiff must first establish that the defendant had a substantial and ongoing custodial care relationship with the patient. To learn more about elder abuse claims against home health agencies, reach out to Cowdrey Jenkins, LLP.

Contact our experienced California firm

Here at Cowdrey Jenkins, LLP, we have significant experience representing clients through a wide array of elder abuse matters, and we are prepared to assist you as well. Contact us today to learn more about how we can guide you through each facet of the legal process ahead.