Assisted living facilities in California, also called board and care or retirement homes, are regulated by the California Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division. A seniors assisted living facility is officially known as a residential care facility for the elderly, or rcfe.
An rcfe can only operate if it has an active license issued by the California Department of Social Services. An rcfe license is conditioned upon compliance with hundreds of state laws and regulations that apply to rcfe’s. An rcfe license is a license to care for and supervise its residents as to activities of daily living.
We place our loved ones, such as our fathers or mothers, in rcfe’s because these seniors can no longer live fully independently. However unfortunately, there are lots of poorly run rcfe’s that do not provide the services they promise such as daily medications assistance, bathing, and meals service. Worse yet, the rcfe staff may outright neglect its residents, or even commit active elder abuse against its residents, such as physical abuse or abandonment.
However, because the State of California, like so many states, is so short on resources, a family who has placed a loved one at an rcfe cannot count on the State to make sure that the rcfe is meeting its obligations toward its residents. In fact, it’s really up to the family members who have placed their loved one at the rcfe to be vigilant that the rcfe is properly caring for their family member, because as human nature has it, there are many rcfe’s that will not do the proper job of caring for and supervising their seniors unless the rcfe knows you are keeping a careful watch over them.
Then even worse, there are some facilities that are so bad that even if you were to keep an eagle’s eye over them, it will not help and your loved ones will be living in conditions that are at best poor, and that quite easily can deteriorate to the level of downright dangerous and life-threatening.
That then brings us to the unfortunate situation where your loved one has been injured or died because of the wrongful acts of the rcfe staff. The rcfe staff owe a high duty of care and supervision toward their residents, but if the rcfe owner and administrator are in the assisted living business only for the money, rather than because they are genuinely concerned for other human beings who are now dependent upon them, trouble can easily brew.
If an rcfe resident is injured or has died because of the wrongful acts of the rcfe staff, an rcfe owner and licensee, and its administrator, can be sued for negligence, breach of contract, elder abuse and wrongful death, depending on the specific facts of each case. They can also be sued for punitive damages, sometimes called penalty damages, if their acts are so neglectful or intentional that penalizing the actors is the best way to send the message that they have to clean up their act or otherwise get out of the business of caring for dependent seniors.
James A. Vickman, Esq. for LawyerandClient.com, the Resource Desk of Vickman & Associates. firstname.lastname@example.org, 310-553-0567
Vickman & Associates is a law firm located in Beverly Hills, California, representing individuals and companies in litigation, trials and transactions.