COVID-19 Alert   We have changed our procedures for COVID-19.   Learn More
What to consider when laying off employees due to COVID-19. Learn More

  • Alzheimer’s Patient Not Liable for Injury to Caregiver

    Caregivers typically work with clients who, as a result of age or disability, cannot completely care for themselves.  The work ranges from providing companionship to assisting someone with all their activities of daily living, such as feed, dressing, bathing, etc.  A client with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be particularly difficult depending on how the condition effects the client.  Sometimes, Alzheimer’s clients can put themselves and others in danger.  What happens if the caregiver is injured as a result of the client’s actions?

    California and other jurisdictions previously held that Alzheimer’s patients are not liable for injuries to caregivers in institutional settings. In a recent case, Gregory v. Scott, the court had to determine whether a patient suffering from Alzheimer’s disease are liable for injuries they inflict on health care workers hired to care for them at home.  The court noted that agitation and physical aggression are common late-stage symptoms of the disease,  and injuries to caregivers are not unusual.  Because the caregiver was employed specifically to assist a client who suffered from Alzheimer’s and the caregiver knew of the client’s propensity for aggressive behavior, the court applied the rule 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 court reasoned that if liability were imposed for caregiver injuries in private homes, but not in hospitals or nursing homes, the incentive for families to institutionalize Alzheimer’s sufferers would increase.

    The court was quick to point out that its holding “does not preclude liability in situations where caregivers are not warned of a known risk, where defendants otherwise increase the level of risk beyond that inherent in providing care, or where the cause of injury is unrelated to the symptoms of the disease.”  Additionally, the caregiver was covered under California’s Workers’ Compensation program, but the caregiver could not sue the patient, or his family, in court.

    As an aside, the court pointed out that the number of Californians afflicted with Alzheimer’s can only be expected to grow in coming years, and encouraged the Legislature to focus its attention on the problems associated with Alzheimer’s caregiving.

    If you employ persons to provide care to Alzheimer’s patients, it is important to educate your employees so they understand the risks inherent in the position, and to provide them the tools so they can safely care for the client.  If you are a caregiver, it is equally important to understand how to care for persons with Alzheimer’s and how to protect yourself, your client and others.

    The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
    95 South Market Street, Suite 520
    San Jose, CA 95113
    Tel. 408-293-6341
    Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
    Feel free to suggest topics for the blog. We are happy to consider topics pertaining to general points of Labor and Employment Law, but we cannot answer questions about specific situations or provide legal advice. If you desire legal advice, you should contact an attorney.
    Your use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego. The use of the Internet or this blog for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be posted in this blog and the Law Office of Phillip J. Griego cannot guarantee the confidentiality of anything posted to this blog.Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.