Case Example: Nursing Home Sexual Abuse by Facility Employees

A medical exam reveals sexual abuse against an Alzheimer’s patient. The patient’s family files a lawsuit against the nursing home.

This summary reviews a case wherein an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s was sexually abused by two nursing home employees.

This case study is for educational purposes only. It is based on actual events, although names have been changed to protect those involved. Any resemblance to real persons or entities is purely coincidental.

We’ll examine the facts of the case, criminal charges against the abusers, and the civil lawsuit filed against the nursing home by the victim’s family.

We’ll conclude with some important points about elder abuse in nursing homes.

Statement of Facts

Mildred Jones was 72 years old. She was a retired schoolteacher whose husband passed away three years before. Mrs. Jones had Alzheimer’s disease. For the last two years, she had been living with her oldest daughter.

As her mental acuity slowly diminished, her children reluctantly decided to place her into a nursing home, which specialized in treating Alzheimer’s patients. After working out the financial and personal arrangements, Mrs. Jones was admitted to the Symphony Nursing Home.

The nursing home had staff included administrators, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, certified nursing assistants, and orderlies. Nursing assistant and orderly duties included assisting with patient’s personal hygiene, eating, and exercise, transferring patients from bed to chair and back again, and other duties as needed.

Although rumors were floating about the nursing home that some employees may have been sexually abusing various female patients, no one had any real evidence.

Discovery of Criminal Abuse

Two months after Mrs. Jones moved into the nursing home, she was scheduled for a routine physical exam. Dr. Andrew Kane was about to begin the exam when suddenly Mrs. Jones violently recoiled. As the nurses began to undress her, she began to cry.

A female physician by the name of Amelia Sofford was called in. When Dr. Sofford approached Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Jones was less fearful.

Dr. Sofford began to examine Mrs. Jones and noticed severe lacerations, contusions, and abrasions to her pelvic area. She immediately notified the nursing home administrator, who in turn called the police.

When the police arrived, they interviewed the two physicians, the administrator, and the charge nurse. A female police officer accompanied Dr. Sofford and the charge nurse into Mrs. Jones’s room.  Dr. Soffard collected rape kit samples and pictures of the injuries.

The police launched an investigation into an “Aggravated Sexual Assault of an Elderly Person,” a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison.

Two weeks into the criminal investigation, the police arrested Arthur Shivers and Larry Taylor. Symphony nursing home had hired the two men to work as orderlies six months before Mrs. Jones become a patient.

Police separated the two suspects and interrogated them individually. Panicked and frightened, each suspect turned against the other. After concluding that Taylor was the actual rapist, the police and the district attorney entered into a plea bargain with Shivers.

With the help of Shiver’s testimony, Taylor was tried and convicted of aggravated sexual assault. Taylor was sentenced to 20 years in state prison without parole. Shivers was sentenced to five years in prison on lesser charges.

Lawsuit Against the Nursing Home

Shortly after the abuse was discovered, Mrs. Jones’s family met with personal injury attorneys specializing in nursing home sexual abuse. The family wanted to know if the nursing home was liable for the injuries inflicted upon their mother.

The attorneys explained to the family members that a civil lawsuit against the nursing home was possible and would probably be successful. They also cautioned the family members that it would be best to wait for the police investigation to conclude.

After the state convicted Shivers and Taylor of sexually assaulting Mrs. Jones, the family’s attorney filed a $2 million lawsuit against the nursing home.

In their nursing home sexual abuse lawsuit against Symphony Nursing Home, the Jones family contended the nursing home’s negligence in not discovering the sexual abuse much sooner than they did was “unconscionable.”

They contended that if the nursing home performed background checks of Arthur Shivers and Lamont Taylor, they would have discovered Arthur Shivers had previously been convicted of aggravated assault against his girlfriend. Larry Taylor’s record, they showed, was a long list of petty crimes.

The nursing home’s attorneys denied the allegations and blamed the failure to perform background checks on an office staff member who had recently been fired. They said Symphony had no reason to suspect Shivers and Taylor were engaged in Mrs. Jones’s sexual abuse.

After both sides presented their cases at trial, the jury took only 45 minutes to come in with their verdict.

The jury found the Symphony Nursing Home negligent and awarded Mrs. Jones and her family the amount of $2 million.

Important Points About Nursing Home Sexual Abuse

  • The elderly, especially those whose mental capacity has been diminished by age or disease, are easy targets for abuse.
  • There are many elder abuse resources available to victims and family members
  • Sexual abuse of the elderly is an unconscionable crime that carries stiff criminal penalties.
  • Family members and caregivers must stay alert to the warning signs of elder abuse.
Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>