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Apr 2, 2024 by |

St. Helena Elder Abuse Attorney: Prior Uncharged Bad Acts Are Admissible In Elder Abuse Lawsuit


Caregiver Found Guilty Of Elder Abuse And Murder By Omission

Recent Decision Allows Evidence Of Prior Bad Acts

Abandoned Senior Dies By Overdose

Seniors under in-home care are at risk of physical and emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, and abandonment even though they are paying for their care.  See Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code §§ 15610.05 (definition of abandonment); 15610.63 (definition of physical elder abuse), and 15610.57 (definition of neglect).  Victims and families may sue all those responsible for injuries sustained.  Recourse can include award of attorneys’ fees and costs in certain circumstances. Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15657(a).  Abandonment and neglect can be horrendous as a recent criminal prosecution discussed below illustrates.  “Neglect,” as defined in the Elder Abuse Act, includes:

(1) Failure to assist in personal hygiene, or in the provision of food, clothing, or shelter.

(2) Failure to provide medical care for physical and mental health needs. A person shall not be deemed neglected or abused for the sole reason that the person voluntarily relies on treatment by spiritual means through prayer alone in lieu of medical treatment.

(3) Failure to protect from health and safety hazards.

(4) Failure to prevent malnutrition or dehydration.

Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 15610.57.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of elder abuse in St. Helena or elsewhere in Sonoma County, call us today at (415)441-8669. Our toll-free number is 1-888-50EVANS (888-503-8267).

Prior Bad Acts Of Accused Caregiver

In a recent criminal elder abuse case,[1]a caregiver was found to have committed elder abuse and murder by omission. In the prosecution, the State alleged that the caregiver knew the victim was incapable of taking care of herself, that the victim was taking medication that could be lethal; that the victim had overdosed on 3 prior occasions, the caregiver had the victim see her criminal defense attorney to change her will and make the caregiver the beneficiary, the caregiver knew the victim had hundreds of the deadly pills in her house, and the caregiver left the victim alone, unattended for several days, did not check on the victim, and did not respond to the victim’s telephone calls. The government further alleged that immediately upon the deceased’s death, the caregiver began clearing out her accounts, and used the deceased’s credit cards more than 100 times and pretended to be the deceased in calls with the credit card company seeking an extension of credit.

To further support the case for elder abuse and murder by omission, the prosecution introduced two prior acts of the caregiver. The first involved the caregiver stealing jewelry from a patient’s purse while the caregiver worked in a doctor’s office. The second occurred during a house call to a patient from the surgical office where the caregiver worked. While the patient was asleep after receiving medication administered by the caregiver, the caregiver stole credit cards, cash, checks, and jewelry.

The Court upheld the admissibility of the two prior bad acts offered to prove intent, knowledge, identity, or the existence of a common design or plan. The Court concluded that the evidence was admissible to show fraud, the caregiver’s motive – greed, and a similar scheme.

While this murder by omission case involves highly unusual facts it illustrates that prior similar acts will come into evidence, even in civil matters. The standard for admissibility is not exceedingly high. The prior acts do not need to have resulted in convictions. They must only be sufficiently similar. Then, when admitted, the evidence is admitted only to prove fraud, or “intent, knowledge, identity, or the existence of a common design or plan.” Evid. Code, § 1101, subd. (b).

Contact Us

If you suspect elder abuse of a loved one in St. Helena or elsewhere in Sonoma County, call Ingrid M. Evans at Evans Law Firm, Inc. at (415) 441-8669, or by email at Our toll-free number is 1-888-50EVANS (888-503-8267).  Ingrid will pursue all available remedies against those responsible for elder abuse of the senior, including damages and an award of attorneys’ fees and costs for bringing your action.

[1] The case is People v. Zemek, 93 Cal.App.5th 313 (2023).  Evans Law Firm, Inc. was not involved in the case in any way.

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