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Is An Assisted Living Facility Responsible When Employees Coerce Residents Into Making “Gifts”?

Written by Brian Spiro • December 6th, 2016

Probate Litigation,  Guardianship Litigation,  

Elderly individuals move to Florida at a higher rate than anywhere else.  As a result, predatory individuals such as caregivers, aids, and others prey on the elderly or infirmed.  The predatory actions frequently result in changes to the elderly individual’s estate plan including procuring lucrative gifts, obtaining deeds to their benefit, beneficiary designation changes on life insurance policies, transfer or pay on death accounts, among others. 

Scenarios where this type of procurement occurs may be at an assisted living facility, independent living facility, continuing care facility, home health aides, long term health care providers, hospitals, outpatient and other rehab centers.

In the recent decision of ACTS Retirement-Life Communities, Inc. v. Estate of Zimmer, 2016 Fla. App. LEXIS 17715 (Fla. Nov. 30, 2016), an elderly resident (“Decedent”)—during the waning years of his life—resided at a facility at an independent and continuing care facility.  Decedent continued to reside there following the death of his wife when he was “befriended” by multiple employees.

In short order, Decedent gave—among other gifts—at least $30,000 and a $42,000 Mercedes to one such predatory employee.  Based on the Court’s opinion, it appears that this employee was not the only one on the receiving end of Decedent’s gratuitous behavior. 

Decedent’s son got wind of the lavish gifts his father was doling out and the employee was terminated from the facility because accepting gifts from residents was against the facility’s policy.  After termination, other facility employees would drive Decedent to the terminated employee’s home where the terminated employee continued to receive gifts.  The terminated employee would even pick up Decedent from the facility directly.

After Decedent’s death, litigation was commenced against the terminated employee and the facility by Decedent’s estate. The terminated employee settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. A verdict was entered against the independent and continuing care facility at trial for negligent supervision. On appeal the facility ultimately escaped liability for negligent supervision because the actions of the non-terminated employees—such as driving the Decedent to and from the terminated employee’s home—were not underlying torts themselves.

Notwithstanding the reversal on appeal, predatory employees are taking advantage of the elderly and infirmed at an alarming rate.  Day in and day out Clark Skatoff receives calls from individuals whose loved ones are being exploited by their caretakers, like the predatory employees involved in this case.

Recently Clark Skatoff resolved an action filed by a deceased individual’s daughter whose father was exploited by a caretaker who paraded around as the individual’s girlfriend, procuring lavish gifts and hijacking the individual’s estate plan.

These cases are not outliers here in Florida like they may be elsewhere.

If your parent, grandparent, or loved one was exploited by a healthcare provider resulting in the procurement of the gratuities discussed above, or outright theft, please call the attorneys at Clark Skatoff for a consultation. 

Brian M. Spiro and the attorneys at Clark Skatoff practice in contested probate, trust, and inheritance disputes throughout Florida.  Mr. Spiro may be reached for a free consultation at (561) 842-4868.