Sadly, elder abuse and neglect is not uncommon.  While a majority of elder abusers are relatives of the vulnerable older adult, Skilled Nursing Facilities, Adult Living Facilities and Acute Care Hospitals account for a significant portion abuse and neglect cases.   To address Elder Abuse, Florida has adopted the Adult Protective Services Act which states that “[a] vulnerable adult who has been abused, neglected, or exploited” may bring a cause of action against the perpetrator “and may recover actual and punitive damages for such abuse, neglect, or exploitation.” Fla. Stat. § 415.1111.

Pursuant to Florida Statute 415.102(28), a “vulnerable adult” is a person 18 years of age or older whose ability to perform the normal activities of daily living or to provide for his or her own care or protection is impaired due to a mental, emotional, sensory, long-term physical, or developmental disability or dysfunction, or brain damage, or the infirmities of aging.[1]

Whether a claim for damages can be brought under Chapter 415 of the Florida Statutes depends on the specific facts of each case. To assert a cause of action under Section 415.1111, the plaintiff must establish that the injured individual was a “vulnerable adult,”[2] that the defendant was a “caregiver,”[3] and that the defendant either committed “abuse,”[4] “neglect,”[5] or “exploitation.”[6]

While Chapter 415 of the Florida Statutes does not provide a basis for claims of medical malpractice, there are scenarios where an Acute Care Hospital, Skilled Nursing Facility, or ALF is considered a “caregiver” of a “vulnerable adult” under the chapter 415 definitions[7] and in which a claim for actual and punitive damages under Section 415.1111 can be made.  For example, if a patient arrives at a hospital for surgery, the patient may not initially be considered a “vulnerable adult” and the hospital may not initially be considered a “caregiver” under Section 415.1111.  However, if that same patient falls into a coma while in the hospital, that patient may then be considered a “vulnerable adult” and the hospital considered a “caregiver” under the Act.

Typically, patients suffering from dementia that require assistance doing typical daily activities will be considered to be a “vulnerable adult” under the care of a “caregiver” when they are admitted to an Acute Care Hospital, Skilled Nursing Facility or ALF.  Many times, Elder Abuse occurs in the setting of Nursing Home negligence, especially in the case of Decubitus Ulcers and bedsores or malnutrition.

To report elder abuse by phone, call the Florida Department of Elder Affairs 24/7 at 1.800.962.2873 (800.96.ABUSE). To report elder abuse online, click “Report Abuse Online NOW”  Reporting elder abuse can be done completely confidentially.

To check on reviews and reports of elder abuse for a particular nursing home or assisted living facility, click here: http://www.floridahealthfinder.gov/facilitylocator/facloc.aspx

If you have any questions regarding Florida’s Adult Protective Services Act or a potential claim for abuse or neglect against a Hospital, Nursing Home of ALF, contact Bonner Law at 305-676-8800 for a free consultation.   We have over 30 years of experience representing patients and healthcare providers in medical malpractice litigation.

[1] Bohannon v. Shands Teaching Hosp. & Clinics, Inc., 983 So. 2d 717, 718 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2008) quoting Fla. Stat.§ 415.102 (28).

[2] §415.102(28)

[3] § 415.102(5)

[4] §415.102(1)

[5] §415.102(16)

[6] §415.102(8)

[7] Bohannon, 983 So. 2d. at 721.