Minnesota Nursing Home may Escape Liability for Alleged Nursing Home Abuse

March 22, 2012

It is always unfortunate when reports arise of abuse occurring in our nations nursing homes and other assisted living facilities meant to make the lives of our elders more peaceful. Many are disturbed by elder abuse or nursing home abuse because it involves elderly individuals, who are particularly vulnerable, being taken advantage of, either medically, physically, financially, or emotionally. When individuals and facilities that are responsible for this type of abuse are held responsible, it is refreshing. However, unfortunately, one Minnesota nursing may escape liability for the abusive actions of employee against an elderly female patient.

As reported by the Star Tribune, a female resident of a St. Paul, Minnesota nursing home was sexually assaulted repeatedly over a period of months by a staff member, according to a state investigative report released Tuesday March 20, 2012. The abuse, which not only included physical abuse, but included sexual abuse, such as forced sexual acts and fondling, as well, occurred at Highland Chateau Health Care Center in St. Paul. The Health Department report did not give the age of the resident or the employee. Fortunately for the resident involved, as well as all of the other residents of Highland Chateau, the employee was fired. The administrator of the nursing home has yet to comment on the incident to the press.

According to the Star Tribune, St. Paul police tried to question him, but the phone numbers he provided weren't working. Officials with St. Paul police were checking Tuesday afternoon to see where the investigation stands. A spokesman for the Ramsey County attorney's office said the Health Department forwarded a case for consideration of charges but prosecutors have yet to make a determination.

According to the Health Department's report, which did not reveal the identities of the staff member or the resident, the abused resident had limited mobility and needed help dressing, bathing and with her bathroom needs. The report also revealed that when confronted by a state investigator, the staff member responsible for the abuse denied the allegations, saying that the woman would at times not make sense and was under the impression he would marry her. However, other staff members described the woman as "alert and oriented." One said the woman told her "she just wanted it over," the report said.

When interviewed regarding the Highland Chateau incident, the accused staffer also was confronted about allegations of neglect and physical abuse at other care facilities where he had worked. In one previous case, the staffer failed to cooperate with an investigation of "sexually inappropriate" behavior. Despite the allegations of earlier misconduct, the Health Department initiated no other investigations against the caregiver because the "information collected during the intake process did not meet the criteria for further investigation," said Stella French, who heads the department's Office of Health Facility Complaints.

Despite the actions of it employee, the nursing home involved was not held responsible for the abuse by the Health Department, because the accused staff member had been properly trained regarding abuse and maltreatment and the facility responded properly when it first learned of the allegations. Even though the Health Department is not holding the nursing home responsible, the victim or her family may seek compensation from her attacker or the nursing home through the civil justice system, by filing a lawsuit. However, if it is found that the nursing home was indeed not liable by virtue of their prompt reporting of the incident and proper training of their employees, this elderly victim may not receive the compensation she deserves. It is my sincere desire that this victim seeks the help of an experienced nursing home abuse attorney, who can obtain the results for her that she deserves.

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