legal resources necessary to hold negligent facilities accountable.
Nursing Home Sexual Assault Attorneys
As repulsive as it is to imagine, there are instances where nursing home residents are sexually abused while in the care of skilled nursing facilities. Beyond the reprehensible nature of this transgression, it is also legally actionable.
If a family can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that their loved one was sexually abused while at a long-term care facility, they may find a sympathetic jury that will award financial compensation for the act. Sexual abuse in nursing facilities is not limited only to home staff as there are others can perpetuate this act such as visitors and other residents.
Nevertheless, it is the nursing facility that can be held legally responsible no matter who the abuser is. Nursing facilities are legally obligated to provide a safe environment for their residents in which they are to be free from sexual abuse.
If you suspect that your loved one has been sexually assaulted, your second call after you have contacted the police should be to a nursing home abuse attorney.
The lawyer can work with you to establish the relevant facts that would be necessary to hold the facility accountable for what happened to your loved one. The nursing home abuse lawyers at the NHLC have experience in litigating cases of this kind and can help your family stand up for the rights of your loved one.Sexual Abuse of Elderly Patients is Pervasive and Under-Reported
The media reports of assaults involving elderly residents are horrifying. Oftentimes, the victim of sexual abuse is incapacitated and physically frail residents are taken advantage of when they are at their most vulnerable. Many times, a resident will have unknown injuries that are revealed to the result of an assault. One of the more publicized recent incidents involved a disabled woman in a skilled nursing facility in a vegetative state who was impregnated and gave birth.
Many of the sex assaults in nursing facilities have been perpetrated by staff. However, an equally large number of these assaults have been committed by fellow residents. A skilled nursing facility has a legal obligation to protect its residents. Many times, the assault will come after a home has missed numerous warning signs that could indicate that one resident is a risk for committing these acts. Nursing home abuse attorneys can hold a facility accountable, especially when the facility was negligent in keeping the resident safe.
In many instances, the residents who are the victim of the assault suffer from dementia or some other cognitive deficit that makes it difficult to tell what happened. Families should be vigilant to be on the lookout for any signs that their loved one has been assaulted. Many times, sexual abuse cases can only be detected because families or other staff have spotted other indications that an assault may have taken place.Obligations to Protect Patients from Abuse & Neglect
Skilled nursing facilities have legal obligations that go to protecting their residents. For example, skilled nursing facilities must exercise care when they hire staff members. They are required to check the criminal record of applicants and check registries to see if prospective staff members are disqualified from employment based on prior actions. In addition, all allegations and suspicions of sex assault or physical abuse must be thoroughly investigated and reported to state authorities within hours after the facility first learns of the alleged incident.
While most allegations of assault do not end up being substantiated, nursing facilities still has the obligation to investigate and report every single claim that is made regardless of whether it appears to be credible once it has been lodged.
If a nursing facility is found to have failed to protect its residents, there are a variety of different consequences. State and federal regulators will likely take regulatory action against the long-term care facility. This will likely involve a fine and repeated instances of noncompliance with laws that can lead to the facility getting suspended from the Medicare and Medicaid programs. There will likely be some sort of civil liability as well. According to a CNN report, 226 nursing facilities were cited between 2010 and 2015 for failure to protect residents in instances where there was a substantiated incident of sexual abuse.Implications of Sexual Abuse on an Elderly Person
All told, there have been over 16,000 complaints of sexual abuse at long-term care facilities since 2000. However, even if a facility is cited and fined for its failure to protect the resident, the fine is a figurative slap on the wrist so long as the facility continues to receive millions of dollars in reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid. In a handful of instances, the nursing facility will lose Medicare funding.
This is akin to a death sentence for the home, which draws a majority of its funding from government programs. For example, there was a rape of a resident at the Christian Care Home in Ferguson, Missouri. This was the latest in a long series of violations, and Medicare announced its intent to bar the home from receiving further reimbursements. Unable to survive, the home announced that it would close.
In some cases, the negative publicity that a nursing facility receives from instances of assault will be a more appropriate punishment for the facility. This will cause the facility to lose both potential and actual residents. Ultimately, this can cut into the facility’s profits. Sexual abuse cases involving elderly patients are routinely publicized by the media and the headlines resonate with families who are faced with a choice of a facility for their loved one.Sample Lawsuits & Settlements Against Skilled Nursing Facilities for Sex Assault of Patients
Below are some examples of lawsuits against nursing facilities for the sexual assault of residents. Some cases involved assaults by the staff, while other cases centered around assaults committed by other residents.
Recovery for $6.75 million in Pennsylvania (2018) – The resident was sexually assaulted by another resident. The perpetrator had a history of criminal conduct and was sentenced to 20 years in prison for this particular act. In addition to having a known history of molestation, the assailant also allegedly threatened a staff member with assault. The assailant had previously engaged in sexually aggressive behavior to the victim. Nevertheless, according to the lawsuit, the staff allowed a situation in which the assailant and the victim were together unsupervised. The Pennsylvania facility had claimed that the assailant was incapable of the action and was monitored, notwithstanding the criminal sentence received by the perpetrator.
Settlement for $500,000 in California (2008) – The resident had schizophrenia. She claimed that a janitor at the facility sexually assaulted her. There were no witnesses and it was not established the assault actually occurred. However, the janitor was a registered sex offender. Facilities cannot hire those with felony convictions, but the home maintained that it was not obligated to perform a background check on this employee since he was just a janitor. However, the employee’s picture and status were posted online. The California nursing facility settled the claim after a mediation session.
Settlement in Florida (2007) – The resident had claimed that a male nurse’ aide sexually assaulted her when he allegedly rubbed her vagina. After some time, the resident contacted a lawyer that was recommended by a police officer. The plaintiff claimed that the Florida nursing facility had notice of the aide’s behavior through the form of a complaint by another nurse against the aide. The jury found for the defendant, but while the jury was out, the two parties settled the case.
Jury Verdict for $2.014 million in Massachusetts (2013) – The staff noticed blood in the toilet when the resident was using the bathroom. This was evidence of injuries suffered in a sexual assault. However, the facility did not send the resident to the hospital or notify the family. Nursing facilities have certain obligations under federal and state law when assaults have occurred. The plaintiff claimed that the Mass nursing facility failed to properly screen and supervise the alleged assailant. The facility claimed that there was no sexual assault and that a rape kit was administered.
Mediated Settlement for $504,152 in Illinois (2007) – A 93-year old resident alleged that she was raped by a 22-year old staff member at the facility. The lawsuit alleged that there were multiple complaints that were lodged with the home that this particular staff member was sexually molesting residents. The Illinois skilled nursing facility was alleged to have not fired this staff member in the wake of the complaints, nor did they conduct the proper background check on the employee. The resident suffered physical injuries in the assault.Is Your Family Member The Victim of Sexually Assault? Get Legal Help Now From Trusted Nursing Home Abuse Attorneys
Sexual assault is a grave offense that causes harm to that resident on multiple different levels. While the pain and damage from an assault will never go away for both the resident and the family, the nursing home sexual assault attorneys at the NHLC can at least help your family get the justice that they deserve. We can help you file and litigate a claim for financial compensation against the nursing home where your loved one was assaulted. Call us today at (800) 726-9565 to find out how we can help your family. Your free consultation is no-risk and you will pay us nothing unless we help your family obtain financial recovery from the nursing home.