Normally, the only people liable for an abused elder’s injuries are those who engaged in the abuse or were responsible for his or her care. However, a recent case found that even those who were not responsible for the patient’s care but failed to report suspected abuse could still be held liable.
In 2009, an elderly woman died in an adult family home from morphine intoxication. Her death was ruled a homicide, and her estate brought a claim against several people who took part in taking care of her. In addition, they sued two nurses who were not involved in her care but failed to report the suspected abuse.
Evidently, two of the home’s nurses were alleged to have observed signs of abuse and physical assault, which should have been reported to the Department of Social and Health Services and to the police. One of the nurses heard a thud in the patient’s room and saw the patient lying on the floor. She was told by the patient’s caregiver that she “falls a lot” and that she would call the home’s owner. The other nurse was told by another person that the patient’s caregiver was giving her morphine, which she had not been prescribed.
That state had a law that mandated reporting of suspected abuse. The court considered whether the mandatory reporting requirement created a separate cause of action. The court considered the purpose of the law and held that the state’s law did create a private cause of action against individuals who must report abuse but fail to do so.
Nursing Home Abuse and Mandatory Reporting in Illinois
Illinois imposed mandatory reporting requirements in amendments to its Adult Protective Services Act. The mandatory reporting requirements apply to certain people and professions. Individuals who provide services to older persons in fields such as adult care, social services, medicine, and social work are required to report abuse. Abuse is not limited to physical abuse but can also be mental abuse, or the exploitation of an adult’s financial resources. Any mandated reporter must report abuse to the Illinois Department on Aging. However, unlike some other states, in Illinois, mandated reporters are only required to report abuse if the reporter believes that the abused person is incapable of reporting the abuse him or herself.
In addition, Illinois’ law now makes a willful failure to report by most mandated reporters a Class A misdemeanor. However, physicians, optometrists, dentists, and dental hygienists who fail to report are referred to their professional disciplinary boards.
Has a Loved One Been Abused or Neglected in an Adult Care Home?
Having to leave a loved one under the care of a nursing home can be a difficult and stressful decision as it is. However, nursing home abuse and neglect occurs regularly, and it is another unfortunate concern. Nursing homes must be held accountable for their actions—or lack of action. If you have a loved one whom you believe has suffered abuse or neglect in a nursing home, you may be able to bring a claim against the home. To learn more, call the skilled Illinois attorneys at Moll Law Group at 312-462-1200 or fill out our online form for a free consultation.
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