“Elder abuse” typically consists of: (1) physical abuse, (2) neglect or (3) financial abuse. In California, elder persons and dependent adults are given special protection from abuse under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act. These laws are designed to protect those who cannot protect themselves.
Under California’s Welfare and Institutions Code, the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act protects both “elders” and “dependent adults” from abuse. The state of California distinguishes an “elder” as any person 65 years of age or older and a “dependent adult” as any person between the ages of 18 and 64, who have physical or mental limitations that restrict their ability to carry out normal activities and protect their rights.
Types of Abuse
Prohibited abuse of an elder or dependent adult can take the form of any of the following:
- Physical abuse, including assault, battery, physical or chemical restraint and prolonged or continual deprivation of food or water
- Sexual abuse, including incest, spousal rape, and lewd acts
- Neglect, defined as the failure of any person having the care or custody of an elder or dependent adult to exercise the degree of care that a reasonable person in like position would exercise, including the failure to assist in personal hygiene or to provide food, clothing, shelter or medical care for physical or mental health needs
- Financial abuse, including taking, appropriating, obtaining or retaining real or personal property for a wrongful use, or with intent to defraud or by undue influence
- Abduction, defined as the removal from California and/or restraining from returning an elder or dependent adult from returning to California
- Abandonment and isolation or other treatment with resulting physical harm or mental suffering
- Deprivation of care by a custodian of goods or services that are necessary to avoid physical harm or mental suffering
Where it is proven that a defendant is liable for physical abuse or neglect of an elder or dependent adult, and that the defendant has been guilty of recklessness, oppression, fraud or malice in commission of this abuse, the plaintiff may recover compensatory damages for economic losses and pain and suffering, in addition to punitive damages. Also, the Court must award the plaintiff his or her reasonable attorney fees and costs.
Where it is proven that a defendant is liable for financial abuse of an elder or dependent adult, the plaintiff may recover compensatory damages, and is entitled to an award of his or her reasonable attorney fees and costs. The plaintiff may further seek an award of punitive damages, which are designed to punish those responsible for the wrongful acts.