Exploitation of the Elderly
ABUSE OF THE ELDERLY
Florida Statute §415.1111 provides a civil cause of action for abuse of the elderly, to wit: " A vulnerable adult who has been abused, neglected, or exploited as specified in this chapter has a cause of action against any perpetrator and may recover actual and punitive damages for such abuse, neglect, or exploitation. The action may be brought by the vulnerable adult, or that person's guardian, by a person or organization acting on behalf of the vulnerable adult with the consent of that person or that person's guardian, or by the personal representative of the estate of a deceased victim without regard to whether the cause of death resulted from the abuse, neglect, or exploitation. The action may be brought in any court of competent jurisdiction to enforce such action and to recover actual and punitive damages for any deprivation of or infringement on the rights of a vulnerable adult. A party who prevails in any such action may be entitled to recover reasonable attorney's fees, costs of the action, and damages. The remedies provided in this section are in addition to and cumulative with other legal and administrative remedies available to a vulnerable adult."
The statute goes on to define terms, for example:
(1) "Abuse" means any willful act or threatened act by a relative, caregiver, or household member which causes or is likely to cause significant impairment to a vulnerable adult's physical, mental, or emotional health. Abuse includes acts and omissions.
(7)(a) "Exploitation" means a person who:
- Stands in a position of trust and confidence with a vulnerable adult and knowingly, by deception or intimidation, obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or use, a vulnerable adult's funds, assets, or property with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive a vulnerable adult of the use, benefit, or possession of the funds, assets, or property for the benefit of someone other than the vulnerable adult; or
- Knows or should know that the vulnerable adult lacks the capacity to consent, and obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or use, the vulnerable adult's funds, assets, or property with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the vulnerable adult of the use, benefit, or possession of the funds, assets, or property for the benefit of someone other than the vulnerable adult.
(7)(b) "Exploitation" may include, but is not limited to:
- Breaches of fiduciary relationships, such as the misuse of a power of attorney or the abuse of guardianship duties, resulting in the unauthorized appropriation, sale, or transfer of property;
- Unauthorized taking of personal assets;
- Misappropriation, misuse, or transfer of moneys belonging to a vulnerable adult from a personal or joint account; or
- Intentional or negligent failure to effectively use a vulnerable adult's income and assets for the necessities required for that person's support and maintenance.
ELDER FINANCIAL ABUSE is highly correlated with isolation and the abuser is often someone in a position of trust, like a neighbor, a health care worker or a distant relative. Some of the warning signs of abuse are:
- A neighbor, caregiver, friend or relative is trying to isolate the elder from other people and family members.
- Large cash withdrawals or transfers between bank accounts - beware of the shell game!
- Checks made payable to "cash" or cash withdrawals on deposit slips
- Signatures on checks and documents that do not look like the elderly person's handwriting
- Giving neighbor, caregiver, friend or relative signatory power on bank accounts "for convenience purposes"
- Elder added to bank account with another or vice versa
- Excessive "reimbursements" to caregivers
- Extravagant purchases (e.g. cars) for caregivers - sometimes the exploiter will facilitate the purchase for a caregiver in order to curry favor or buy silence
- Changes in spending patterns
- Increased credit card charges
- Giving abuser charging privileges on credit card
- Unexplained change of estate planning attorney
- Big improvements to home - watch out for deeds and changes to title of real proper
The attorneys at Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A. handle Florida Exploitation of the Elderly and Florida Abuse of the Elderly cases. Do not wait until it is too late! If you are concerned that an elderly family member is being exploited, contact an attorney at Adrian Philip Thomas, P.A. for a free consultation.