Financial abuse of the elderly in California includes a wide range of behavior, from outright theft of property to “borrowing” property from the elderly with the intention of retaining the property due to the victim’s poor memory or lack of will in retrieving it, as well as using undue influence or coercion to get an elderly person to hand property over or change his or her will. Any number of people can commit financial elder abuse, including family members, “friends,” service providers like accountants and attorneys, caretakers, nursing home employees, or even strangers who befriend the elderly person and proceed to gain access to their property. In California, such people can be liable for damages – including steep punitive damages – under California’s elder abuse law, but it will be necessary to prove that financial elder abuse occurred to recover such damages.
Bringing Your Financial Elder Abuse Claim
First off, a proper plaintiff in a California elder abuse case must have been 65 at the time that the act of financial elder abuse in question occurred. Next, the plaintiff (through his or her attorney) will have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant took some action in violation of the elder abuse statute with respect to the plaintiff’s property, which can include:
- Taking the property without permission or with intent to not properly return it
- Retaining property owned by the plaintiff and held by the defendant when the plaintiff properly asked for its return
- Using fraud, coercion, or undue influence to get the plaintiff to hand property over to the defendant
- Assisting any other person in committing financial elder abuse
Proving any of the above by a preponderance of the evidence means that the evidence should show that it was “more likely than not” that the financial elder abuse occurred. Note that this is a much lower standard than “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” which must be shown in a criminal case. What this means, among other things, is that even if the police or prosecutors have declined to pursue a defendant because of lack of evidence, there still may be enough evidence to win a civil claim for financial elder abuse.
Suing an Abuser’s Employer
In some cases, you can also pursue a claim against the abuser’s employer, such as a nursing home, if the employer knew of the danger posed by an employee or either authorized or approved of the employee’s activities.
Southern California Elder Abuse Attorneys
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.