Important Appellate Decision For Mandated Reporters
Caregiver Malicious Prosecution Suit Overturned
No Liability For Reporters
One of the most important protections for older and dependent adults under the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act is that certain individuals, referred to as “mandated reporters,” are required by law to report incidents of suspected elder abuse to the authorities. Mandated reporters under the law include:
(a) Any person who has assumed full or intermittent responsibility for the care or custody of an elder or dependent adult, whether or not he or she receives compensation, including administrators, supervisors, and any licensed staff of a public or private facility that provides care or services for elder or dependent adults, or any elder or dependent adult care custodian, health practitioner, clergy member, or employee of a county adult protective services agency or a local law enforcement agency, is a mandated reporter.
(b) (1) Any mandated reporter who, in his or her professional capacity, or within the scope of his or her employment, has observed or has knowledge of an incident that reasonably appears to be physical abuse, as defined in Section 15610.63, abandonment, abduction, isolation, financial abuse, or neglect, or is told by an elder or dependent adult that he or she has experienced behavior, including an act or omission, constituting physical abuse, as defined in Section 15610.63, abandonment, abduction, isolation, financial abuse, or neglect, or reasonably suspects that abuse, shall report the known or suspected instance of abuse by telephone or through a confidential Internet reporting tool, as authorized by Section 15658, immediately or as soon as practicably possible. If reported by telephone, a written report shall be sent, or an Internet report shall be made through the confidential Internet reporting tool established in Section 15658, within two working days.
Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15630(a) and (b)(1).
Mandated reporters are immune from liability once they report their suspicions and discharge their statutory duty. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15634. A recent appellate decision, discussed below, held that the immunity applies even if the report is knowingly false. The San Francisco elder and dependent adult abuse attorneys at Evans Law Firm, Inc. represent injured seniors and dependent adults in San Francisco and throughout California. Our elder abuse litigators can be reach at (415)441-8669. Our toll-free number is 1-888-50EVANS (888-503-8267).
In the reported case, a caregiver provided in-home care to a dependent adult through an agency. She was arrested and charged with abuse and attempted murder of the dependent adult. She was in custody for almost a month and was unable to post bail. The criminal charges were later dismissed.
The caregiver then filed a lawsuit for malicious prosecution against her employing agency arguing that the report of the abuse made by her employer was knowingly false. The defendants filed a demurrer claiming that they had statutory immunity under the law as mandated reporters. The trial court agreed and dismissed the plaintiff’s lawsuit.
The plaintiff appealed. The California Court of Appeal for the Sixth District affirmed the dismissal. According to the court, absolute immunity for mandated reporters under section 15634(a) clearly aimed to serve and to facilitate the policy goals of the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act. The plaintiff’s argument – that a knowingly false report by a mandated reporter amounted to an exception to immunity – contradicted the law’s policy goals, the appellate court concluded. Instead, the absolute immunity for mandated reporters under section 15634(a) extended to knowingly false reports, according to the court.
Safeguarding Seniors and Dependent Adults
If you have a loved one who is under the care of an in-home caregiver or about to be, one of the most important steps you can take is to check out any caregiver – and the agency you are working with – thoroughly before you hire them. Run a check on the agency itself to see if there have been reported complaints or citations against it. Ask for and really check all references of other patients. Once you have fully vetted and hired a caregiver, keep up your vigilance in monitoring your loved one’s care. Be sure to speak one-on-one with your loved one; don’t let a caregiver speak for them. If you have any suspicions whatsoever that your loved one is suffering any kind of abuse, call us.
Ingrid M. Evans and our other San Francisco elder and dependent adult abuse attorneys can be reached at (415) 441-8669, or by email at email@example.com.
 Evans Law Firm, Inc. was not involved in the case in any way. The case is captioned Valero v. Spread Your Wings, LLC, Case No. H049119, 2023 Cal. App. LEXIS 95 (Ct. App. Jan. 11, 2023).