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California’s Elder Abuse Act

Elder PersonIn 1991, after a series of disturbing incidents of elder abuse came to the attention of the public, the legislature responded by passing California’s Elder and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, known as the “Elder Abuse Act.” This statute provides for enhanced civil remedies to help redress reckless acts or omissions perpetrated against elderly individuals and dependent adults.

Who is an Elder?

The Elder Abuse Act defines an “elder” as anyone over the age of 65. Dependent adults are also protected by the statute, and are defined as individuals between the ages of 18 and 64 who have physical or mental limitations that make them unable to protect their rights or lead a normal lifestyle.

What Constitutes Abuse?

The Elder Abuse Act defines elder abuse as:

  • Physical abuse;
  • Neglect;
  • Financial abuse;
  • Abandonment;
  • Isolation;
  • Abduction;
  • Other treatment resulting in physical harm, pain, or mental suffering; or
  • Deprivation of necessary goods and services by an individual responsible for the elder person’s care.
What Constitutes Neglect?

Neglect of an elder exists if a person entrusted with the care or custody of the elder (or dependent adult) does not provide the degree of care that a reasonable person in a similar position would exercise. Such acts include the failure to:

  • Assist in personal hygiene;
  • Assist in the provision of clothing, food, or shelter;
  • Provide mental care for physical or mental health;
  • Protect from any health or safety hazards; or
  • Prevent dehydration or malnutrition.
Necessary Evidence

To recover under the Elder Abuse Act, a plaintiff must prove that the abuse or neglect was committed against an elder or dependent adult with recklessness, oppression, fraud, or malice. The burden of proof is quite high, as the plaintiff must show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant:

  • Was entrusted with supplying nutrition, hygiene, hydration, or medical care for an elder;
  • Was aware that the elder was unable to supply himself with those needs; and
  • Denied those goods or services needed to supply the above necessities, either knowing or being substantially certain that injury would occur, or showing conscious disregard that injury would occur as a result.

Finally, the plaintiff must provide evidence that as a result of the defendant’s actions the elder was the victim of physical pain or mental anguish.


Both economic and non-economic remedies are available to the successful plaintiff. Possible damages include reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, as well as non-economic damages, which include compensation for pain and suffering, of up to $250,000 if the victim is still living.

If you believe that you or someone you know is suffering elder abuse, please contact the appropriate authorities immediately as well as the experienced San Jose personal injury attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. for a free initial consultation.

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