(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this elder abuse/personal injury case and its proceedings.)
It is worth noting that situations similar to those described in this case could just as easily occur at any of the healthcare facilities in the area, such as Kaiser, U.C. Davis Medical Center, Mercy, or Sutter.
Law Applicable to Demurrers
It is axiomatic that a demurrer does not test the sufficiency of evidence or other extrinsic matters. Four Star Electric v. F&H Construction (1992) 7 Cal.App. 4th 1375, 1379, The only issue for the Court to resolve on demurrer is whether the complaint, as it stands, unconnected with extraneous matter, states a cause of action. Gervase v. Superior Court (1995) 31 Cal.App. 4th 1218, 1224. The court’s function on demurrer is to treat properly pleaded facts as true without consideration of whether they are provable or not. Ibid.
While these rules of determining a demurrer are well known, it is often valuable to remind the moving party of them. In the case at bar, if each properly pleaded fact of elder abuse in the First Amended Complaint were stipulated to be true, the defendant could not argue that the plaintiff would not be entitled to a verdict under the Elder Abuse Statutes. This is another way of expressing the standard for judging a demurrer. When properly viewed in this way, it is plain that defendant’s demurrer is without merit.
Plaintiff Has Pleaded Facts Sufficient to State a Cause of Action for Reckless Neglect of an Elder
Defendant concedes that a cause of action for elder abuse under California Welfare and Institutions Code §15600 et seq., is a separate and distinct claim from medical negligence.
The elements of proof of a claim for neglect of an elder are now embodied in the books of approved jury instructions, including CACI 3.103. Enhanced remedies are permitted under the elder abuse statutes upon a showing of reckless neglect, malice, oppression, or fraud. Neglect is defined as the failure to use the degree of care a reasonable person in the same situation would have used in, inter alia, failing to provide medical care for physical and mental health needs and failing to protect an elder from health and safety hazards. CACI 3104; Welfare and Institutions Code $ 15610.57. Recklessness is defined as more than just a failure to use reasonable care. A defendant has acted with recklessness if he or she knew it was highly probable that his or her conduct would cause harm and he or she knowingly disregarded the risk. Delaney v. Baker (1999) 20 Cal. 4th 23, 31-32.
The enhanced remedies which are available upon proof of reckless neglect of an elder include survival of general damages for pain, suffering, and emotional distress sustained by an elder who has since died, and attorney’s fees. Welfare and Institutions Code 15657. (See Part 5 of 6.)
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.