We have all seen television commercials for products aimed at the elderly population for financial products, questionable charitable organizations, unnecessary appliances, and other goods and services which seem to offer older individuals little more than an opportunity to be separated from their money. And that doesn’t include radio commercials, billboards, and even door-to-door salespeople. On top of this, many invitations made to elderly persons to participate in get-rich-quick schemes or other shady business dealings come not from strangers but rather family members, “friends,” and other individuals who have made personal connections with an elderly person. California state law provides numerous consumer protections to individuals, and elderly persons in particular are protected from financial abuse by California’s Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act. But when is bad business/consumer decision by a parent or other elderly person simply a case of “let the buyer beware” and when does it rise to the level of financial elder abuse?
Defining Elder Financial Abuse in California
To prove a claim of elder abuse against a defendant for the purposes of obtaining a financial recovery under California law, either of the following must be shown:
- A defendant took, appropriated, obtained, or retained real or personal property of an elderly person (65 or older) for a wrongful use or with intent to defraud, or assisted another person in doing so; or
- A defendant took, appropriated, obtained, or retained real or personal property of an elderly person through undue influence
The courts can find that a defendant wrongfully took an elderly person’s property even where the elderly person voluntarily entered into an agreement with or made a donation to the defendant, if the defendant had an intent to defraud to elderly person or used undue influence over the elderly person to secure the agreement or donation. Undue influence is defined in California as using “excessive persuasion that causes another person to act…by overcoming that person’s free will.”
Potential Examples of Elder Financial Abuse
While the above legal standards for elder financial abuse are flexible and require a fact-intensive analysis of both the elderly person and the potential defendant to determine whether a jury might determine financial abuse occurred, potential examples of elder financial abuse include:
- A sales company intentionally selling a product to an elderly person for a use that is either nonexistent or unnecessary to the person’s stated needs
- A door-to-door salesperson using coercive tactics to get an elderly person with limited mental faculties to buy a service, regardless of its merits
- A charitable organization soliciting contributions from an elderly person for charitable services that are not provided as represented
Taking Legal Action Against Financial Elder Abuse
If you suspect a parent or other elderly person in California has fallen victim to financial elder abuse, you can take steps to protect the elderly person and potentially recover monetary damages from the parties that allowed the abuse to occur by working with an experienced California elder abuse attorney.
At McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP, our legal team is on the side of elder abuse victims and their families. Our attorneys have recovered over $500 million for our clients. If you suspect that you or a family member have been a victim of elder abuse, please contact McCune Wright Arevalo today to schedule a free consultation.