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Nursing Home Peer Abuse

Elderly PersonNursing home abuse is a tragic occurrence. Often, it is committed by the very people who are charged with caring for our elderly and vulnerable loved ones. But sometimes, care center residents themselves commit abuse against each other. In the case of peer abuse in nursing homes, the nursing home may be held liable for a resident’s harm if their negligence allowed the abuse to occur.

Peer Abuse

According to a study by Weill Cornell Medical College, approximately 20 percent of nursing home residents were involved in some sort of aggressive encounter with another resident in the past month. Most incidents that occurred during the study were verbal. Some involved hitting or kicking, and a few incidents involved inappropriate touching.

Nursing home abuse can be verbal, physical, sexual, or can involve invasions of privacy. The study found that, despite the seriousness of the issue, incidents of peer abuse were under-reported. It also found that most residents involved in resident-to-resident mistreatment were younger and physically able to move about the care center, but had cognitive problems, like dementia, and had a tendency to disruptive behavior. Dementia makes sufferers confused, which can make them more likely to become aggressive.

California Law

Families entrust their elderly or disabled loved ones to nursing homes because the nursing homes have the resources and ability to take better care of them. Nursing homes and care centers thus they have a responsibility not just to refrain from negligently or recklessly harming residents, but also to protect these vulnerable adults from injury caused by others.

California’s Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act safeguards those who have become incapable of caring for themselves. It provides penalties for both acts of abuse and for neglect of the elderly, allowing physical harm or mental suffering to occur. The failure to report incidents of abuse is also penalized.


Civil suits in California based on negligence require an injured party to show that the negligent person or entity failure to exercise the degree of care that a reasonable person in a similar situation would exercise. Thus, if a nursing home has the responsibility to care for a dependent adult, it must act responsibly or face liability.

The failure to prevent peer mistreatment in nursing homes will generally constitute negligence, since resident-to-resident abuse is fairly prevalent, and some care center residents are prone to act out in harmful manner. Sometimes, the failure to prevent abuse may be caused by inadequate staffing. If a nursing home does not employ enough workers to adequately monitor the residents and ensure their safety, that creates opportunities for peer abuse. Inadequate training of workers can also be an issue. Employees must be aware of the occurrence of abuse and also learn how to deescalate incidents and prevent further occurrences. If staff members do not know how to deal with these situations appropriately, this allows abuse to continue.

If you or your parent or loved one has become the victim of resident-to-resident nursing home abuse, an attorney can discuss your options with you. Please contact the skilled San Jose personal injury attorneys at Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard, L.L.P. to schedule a free consultation.

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