When nursing homes fail to provide proper staffing levels, accidents and injuries occur, in addition to abuse. Physical, emotional and sexual abuse are common. Financial abuse is common as well. Typically, elderly residents who are at risk will become victims of multiple types of abuse. For instance, an elderly resident who suffers from Alzheimer’s may suffer from both physical abuse and financial abuse. Theft of jewelry, money, etc., may occur.
Financial abuse is so common that the Pennsylvania legislature is considering amending the Older Adults Protective Services Act (Act) which seeks to protect elderly residents from abuse, neglect, exploitation, etc. The Act establishes a uniform reporting and investigative system for suspected cases of nursing home abuse and neglect. House Bill 647 would add a section to the law relating to financial abuse.
The bill would expand the definition of elder abuse to include financial abuse. More importantly, the bill would create a special cause of action for elderly victims of financial abuse. The bill would provide for treble damages as well as reasonable attorney fees and costs associated with a lawsuit. Treble damages are referred to as triple damages, i.e., the defendant would be required to pay 3x the amount of the value of the property at issue in the case. One of the key parts of the bill is a seven year statute of limitations for financial abuse lawsuits. Victims would have seven years to file claims. Scroll below to see the relevant portions of HB 647.
HB 647 is currently awaiting action in the Committee on Aging and Older Adult Services as of March 2015.
Residents of Nursing Homes in Pennsylvania – At Risk for Abuse (Physical, Emotional & Financial Abuse)
Nursing home residents are particularly at risk of suffering injuries due to abuse. This is due to two main factors: 1. nursing home staffing deficiencies, and 2. physical and mental infirmities which often make elderly residents dependent on others for care.
Nursing home residents often depend heavily on nursing home employees for all aspects of care including toileting, bathing, dressing, eating, etc. This is especially true for residents with complex medical or physical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, etc.
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Relevant Portions of HB 647 re: Financial Abuse in Pennsylvania Nursing Homes
“Financial abuse.” The intentional taking or retaining of, or assisting in the taking or retaining of, real or personal property of an older adult by undue influence, or any other means, for a wrongful purpose or with intent to defraud the older adult. Financial abuse may result in the inability of the older adult to fund basic necessities, including, but not limited to, food, shelter, utilities, medication, health care and long-term care services and support.
Section 2. The act is amended by adding a section to read:
Section 706.1. Financial abuse.
(a) General rule.–A person who commits financial abuse shall be liable for:
(1) treble the value of the property recovered by an action taken under this section; and
(2) reasonable attorney fees and costs associated with legal action undertaken to recover the property.
(b) Venue.–An action for financial abuse of an older person may be brought in any county in which any part of the financial abuse took place, regardless of whether the defendant was present in that county.
(c) Statute of limitations.–An action for financial abuse shall be commenced within seven years after the commission of the offense.
(d) Defense.–It shall not be a defense to financial abuse that the defendant reasonably believed that the victim was not an older person.