The Supreme Court of California recently ruled that advanced Alzheimer’s patients are not liable for assaulting their in-home caregivers.
This ruling extends the established rule that barred nursing home caregivers from suing Alzheimer’s patients for assaults.
The court reasoned that California has a public policy against institutionalizing disabled individuals, and that allowing in-home caregivers to sue Alzheimer’s sufferers would result in more of these patients being placed in institutions.
Agitation and physical aggression are common symptoms of Alzheimer’s, which is a form of dementia. Generally, assaults by Alzheimer’s patients are viewed as an occupational hazard for caregivers, and not a criminal or civil issue.
“We conclude that the same rule applies to in-home caregivers who, like their institutional counterparts, are employed specifically to assist these disabled persons,” the court wrote. “It is a settled principle that those hired to manage a hazardous condition may not sue their clients for injuries caused by the very risks they were retained to confront.”
The underlying case involved an in-home caregiver who got into a scuffle with an 85-year-old patient. The caregiver’s wrist was cut during altercation, causing her to lose feeling in some of her fingers and experience recurring pain.
The caregiver collected workers’ compensation, but then sued the patient and her husband for premises liability and the assault.