Healthcare: Attending to Basic Needs of Elder May Result in Custodial Relationship and Liability for Elder Abuse

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Healthcare:  Attending to Basic Needs of Elder May Result in Custodial Relationship and Liability for Elder Abuse

Homecare nurses provided an elder client in-home care for her pressure injury, while a family member continued to provide for other basic needs of dressing, eating, taking medications, etc.  However, the elder’s pressure wound worsened and new ones appeared, putting the elder in the hospital, where she eventually succumbed to her wounds.  Her family sued the Homecare nursing company for neglect, recklessness, and Elder Abuse under California Welfare & Institutions (Code §15600 et seq. “WIC”).  The court denied the Homecare nursing company’s motion for summary adjudication of the WIC elder abuse claim, ruling there was a triable issue whether it “had a substantial caretaking or custodial relationship” with the elder; the Homecare nursing company sought appellate review of that ruling.

The Court of Appeal ruled that while the Homecare nursing company need not assume complete responsibility for an elder’s needs for it to be deemed a caretaker or custodian, the issue turns on whether it assumed a significant measure of responsibility for attending to Basic Needs of the elder that a competent, able adult would ordinarily manage without assistance.  Because the Homecare nursing company did not assume Basic Needs (the family continued to do that), it did not enter into a caretaking or custodial relationship with the elder.  Providing wound care did not satisfy a Basic Need required for WIC Elder Abuse.   Oroville Hospital v. Superior Court of Butte County (Ambrose) (Jan. 26, 2022) __ Cal.App.5th __, 2022 WL 224494

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