Articles Posted in Sexual Abuse/Assault

The Iowa Supreme Court has held that the state owed no legal duty to a nursing home resident who was allegedly sexually assaulted by a convicted sex offender who had been transferred to the nursing home after leaving the state’s civil commitment unit for sex offenders.

Mercedes Gottschalk was a resident of the Pomeroy Care Center, a nursing home.  She was allegedly sexually assaulted by a violent sexual predator who was transferred from a state sex offender unit to this nursing home after receiving an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis.

Gottschalk, and then later her estate, sued the nursing home alleging that it was reckless and negligent in the way the nursing facility cared for her. Pomeroy Care Center filed a cross-claim against the State of Iowa seeking relief. The state moved successfully for summary judgment.  An intermediate appellate court affirmed that decision.

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According to recent reports by the National Center on Elder Abuse — Administration of Aging (Department of Health and Human Services), America’s expanding elderly population has led to an increase in elder abuse.

It is predicted that by 2050, people 65 and older will make up 20% of the total U.S. population. Today, the fastest growing segment of America’s population consists of those 85 years and older. In 2010, there were about 5.8 million people 85 or older. By the year 2050, it is projected that there will be 19 million people over 85.

“Elder abuse” is defined as intentional actions that cause harm or create a serious risk of harm (whether the harm is intended) to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person who is in a trust relationship with the elder. Other abuse includes the failure of caregivers to provide the basic needs of an older adult or to protect the elder from harm from others.

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In a case that was filed in confidential style, Ms. Doe, an 85-year-old woman with dementia and other medical issues, lived in a nursing home that was owned by Kindred Healthcare Inc. A nursing aide penetrated Doe’s vagina with an object while the two were in a bathroom next to her room. Despite Doe’s heavy vaginal bleeding after the incident, Doe was not taken to the hospital for several days.

Doe was diagnosed later as having suffered vaginal trauma and bruising resulting from this sexual assault.

Doe’s family sued Kindred Healthcare claiming liability and injuries to Doe because of the sexual assault. The jury entered a verdict in favor of Doe’s representative in the amount of $2.01 million.

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