IDPH has cited and fined the Good Samaritan Home in Quincy after the chaplain of that nursing home sexually assaulted two residents at that facility. He has since pleaded guilty to criminal charges associated with the assaults and has been sentenced to 26 years in jail.
Nursing home residents are an inherently vulnerable population. They have physical and/or mental limitations which keep them from being able to live independently or with family. They depend on staff to help them with the basic necessities, to give them the medication and care they need, to provide them with food and drink to sustain themselves, and to allow them to live their lives with some degree of dignity. At a very basic level, families look to nursing homes to keep their loved ones safe and comfortable.
One of the basic elements of keeping residents safe is keeping them from people who engage in abuse, physcial, mental, or sexual. And in this case, the nursing home failed seriously at this.
The resident whose complaint sparked the investigation which resulted in the arrest, prosecution, and conviction of the chaplain reported to staff that the chaplain entered her room and grabbed her breast for a period of about two minutes before she pushed his arm away. After reporting it, she was tearful and upset and referred for mental health counseling to address her troubles in coping with what had happened to her.
The truly shocking part of this nursing home abuse is that this was not the first time that there had been complaints about sexual misconduct regarding the chaplain. Prior to this incident, there were three separate allegations of sexual abuse against him, yet the police and Department of Public Health was never notified. The chaplain was never suspended from working at the nursing home while the allegations against him were never investigated – because they were never truly investigated, and in one case were never even noted in the resident’s chart. Incredibly with three allegations of sexual abuse against him, the administrator told the state surveyor that he could not identify a pattern of allegations against this individual.
A nursing home is a “home” for many residents where they can reasonably expect to live for an extended period of time, and they deserve to feel safe in their own homes. When the nursing home employs individuals who abuse residents – mentally, physicall, or sexually – residents can no longer feel safe in their own homes. This is a gross breach of the basic promise that nursing homes make to residents and their families when they agree to have a resident admitted to the nursing home.
At this point, what is known is that there were four separate episodes of sexual abuse by the chaplain against residents at this nursing home. However, it is also clear from the investigation conducted by the state that he was a predator with free reign to go about the nursing home with access to all residents within the facility, so even with four known episodes, there may well be more.
What of the question of liability?
There is a doctrine in the law called respondeat superior which makes employers liable for the negligent acts of their employees. This is why when there is a truck accident, the trucking company is responsible for the injuries for the accident. An exception to this rule generally exists where the employee is guilty of criminal misconduct – after all the company doesn’t hire employees to engage in criminal misconduct.
However, the nursing home is subject to a statute called the Nursing Home Care Act which makes the nursing home liable for the intentional and negligent acts of their employees. This means that the nurisng home will not be able to evade liability for the abuse which was inflicted on the nursing home residents by the chaplain.
However, this does not mean that there will be insurance coverage. Most insurance policies esclude coverage for intentional or criminal acts, and this kind of abuse would likely fall squarely within that exclusion. However, there are other theories which can be pursued, most specifically the negligence on the part of the administration to investigate the early episodes and remove him from the facility. This is something that would trigger insurance coverage and would provide some avenue of securing commpensation for the victims of this abuse.
Generally, there is a 2 year statute of limitations which will apply to this kind of case. However, statutes of limitations will be extended where the resident was under legal disability where they were unable to manage their own affairs, such as when they suffer from advanced dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Prosecuting this kind of case reuires the help of an experienced nursing home lawyer. Contact our firm today for a free, no-obligation consultation if you are concerned that your family member may have been a victim of sexual abuse at this nursing home.