Sexual Abuse in Residential Care/ Group Homes
In December 2018, a comatose woman who was a patient at a facility for chronically ill and disabled adults gave birth to a baby. The birth sparked concerns about sexual abuse at the facility and ultimately led to the arrest of a nurse on charges of rape. After the details of the sexual assault and impregnation of the woman became public, the Arizona facility decided to close the unit where the woman had been living.
Although the details of this story are shocking, it is not an isolated incident. The residents at long term care facilities and group homes are usually among the most vulnerable segments of our population: the sick, young, elderly, and disabled. These patients often lack the physical capacity to defend themselves and the mental capacity to report the conduct to authorities. These cases are particularly egregious as the victims of sexual assault can have significant intellectual disabilities because of age, medical conditions or accidents that leave them with little to no awareness of what is happening to them or that the conduct perpetrated against them is criminal and wrong.
Sexual assaults can be perpetrated by health aids working in large facilities or health workers in private homes. The facility itself, its employees, or the home health care agency that is responsible for providing employees to private homes can all be held liable for sexual assault. The facilities and agencies that employ health workers are responsible for protecting their patients from harm and ensuring their safety. When a patient is sexually assaulted, the victim may bring a claim under several legal theories. The facility or company that employs health workers can be held liable for negligent hiring if it fails to conduct adequate background checks or it hires employees with criminal records. Liability can also be imposed for negligent supervision of workers, which occurs when workers are not properly managed or the facility does not implement and follow procedures for removal of a preparator once abusive activity is suspected. Finally, the facility is required to report all cases of possible abuse to law enforcement authorities.
It is important to know that new laws revising the statute of limitations in New York, New Jersey, and other states now allow survivors of sexual assault to bring claims against their abusers for a specified amount of time regardless of when the assault occurred. For patients in long-term care facilities, whose abuse may not be discovered for years or even decades, the new legislation provides an avenue for redressing claims that would have otherwise been barred under previous laws.
Levy Konigsberg LLP is a nationally recognized law firm that has recovered millions of dollars for victims of sexual abuse. If you or a member of your family has been the victim of sexual assault by a health care worker in a long-term or residential care facility, please contact our lawyers for a free and confidential consultation by calling 1-800-988-8005 or submitting an email inquiry on this page.