In a recent decision, the California Supreme Court has limited who can
be named a defendant in claims citing damages for elder neglect. In
Winn v. Pioneer Medical Group, the court further defined the meaning of negligence in the Elder Abuse
Act—a decision that is likely to protect many medical professionals
and managed care organizations from being held liable in future lawsuits.
Winn v. Pioneer Medical Group
Winn v. Pioneer Medical Group, surviving daughters of the deceased filed to hold three doctors responsible
for the death of their mother. In their suit, they claimed that these
doctors, who saw their mother over the course of several years, recognized
that their mother had a vascular issue in her legs, but failed to ever
refer her to a vascular specialist. This vascular issue eventually led
to a decline in the mother's health and her death.
Under California’s Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection
Act (or the "Elder Abuse Act"), plaintiffs are able to seek
compensation from those trusted with the care of the elderly who are found
negligent in their duties. Unlike other kinds of civil suits, the Elder
Abuse Act also allows plaintiffs to collect additional damages, such as
legal costs, pain and suffering, and even punitive damages. The claim in
Winn v. Pioneer Medical Group sought these kinds of damages provided by this law.
The California Supreme Court, however, ruled against the assertion that
there was any negligence demonstrated by the three doctors named in the
suit. Instead, they found that the broad definition of "negligence" in the
Elder Abuse Act—which states that to be found negligent, a defendant must have "the
care or custody" of the elder—implies that the defendant must
have physical custody over the elder and be responsible for multiple,
key decisions related to their well-being.
In the slip opinion, the court writes "the Act does not apply unless
the defendant health care provider had a substantial caretaking or custodial
relationship, involving ongoing responsibility for one or more basic needs,
with the elder patient. It is the nature of the elder or dependent adult’s
relationship with the defendant—not the defendant’s professional
standing—that makes the defendant potentially liable for neglect."
In simpler terms: because the doctors in question only occasionally saw
the elder for medical appointments and were not involved in the day-to-day
care of the elder, they cannot be held liable under the Elder Care Act.
Ultimately, this is unfortunate news for deserving patients and families
who are looking for justice when neglect occurs to their loved one. It's
these types of court decisions that make having a proven and incisive
Los Angeles elder abuse attorney all the more important when looking to
file one of these claims.
If you believe that your elderly loved one has been hurt due to the negligent
or abusive actions of their caretaker, then we invite you to contact us at
Norman Taylor & Associates today. Our experienced legal team knows what it takes to hold the responsible
accountable in these cases and can ensure that any wrongdoing will be
emphatically be put forth before the law on your behalf.
Start exploring your legal options with our team today. Contact our offices
to request a