Serious Abuse Allegations at Area Care Facility

March 12, 2016

A nursing home employee in Union County faces a variety of charges based on his alleged sexual assault of an elderly dementia patient.

Sheriff’s deputies were summoned to the Lake Park Nursing and Rehabilitation Services center in response to a complaint. Witnesses claim that 60-year-old Douglas Little, who had worked at the center for over a decade, assaulted a patient who had no way to defend herself. The resident, whose name was not released, was transported to a local hospital for evaluation. Mr. Little’s relatives expressed shock over the incident, as did family members of the residents. James Pagoota said the facility was “great” and “I haven’t had any problems at all with this place.”

Mr. Little, who was charged with second degree forcible sexual assault and a crime against nature, is being held in lieu of a $200,000 bond.

Nursing Home Abuse

At least 10 percent of adults over 65 have experienced physical, verbal, or emotional abuse. That number is vastly understated, because so many incidents go unreported. Typically, the victim does not want the assailant to “get in trouble” or fears retaliation from other employees. The problem will probably get worse, as the over-65 population is expected to double by 2050.

Many victims are very frail, especially the ones who suffer from dementia or another disability. That vulnerability is the main reason that abuse victims have a 300 percent higher death rate than non-abuse victims. Elder abuse takes a number of forms, including:

  • Isolation: Residents are often kept away from friends and relatives either as a form of punishment or because of a low staff level.
  • Assault: Many times, the force consists of a push or shove, blocking a pathway, or excessive force when administering medication.
  • Emotional: An employee may say something like “your family doesn’t love you” or “everyone has forgotten you.”

Damages in these cases are often substantial. Even more importantly, however, a lawsuit sheds light on the problem and helps prevent future occurrences.

Third Party Liability

Respondeat superior is the theory of choice, due to the broad definition of key terms. But this theory is not always available. For example, an unscrupulous employee may steal a patient’s personal information to perpetrate a financial fraud. Such behavior is clearly not within the scope of employment.

In these instances, negligent hiring may be more appropriate. It has the same legal effect, in that the employer is held responsible for the plaintiff’s damages, but does not require proof of course and scope of employment.

To establish a claim in South Carolina, the plaintiff must prove:

  • Knowledge: The employer must know that the employee was potentially dangerous, perhaps due to a prior criminal conviction.
  • Foreseeability: It is foreseeable that a person with a prior assault conviction will duplicate that behavior when given an opportunity.

The plaintiff must establish these elements by a preponderance of the evidence, which means more likely than not.

Rely on an Experienced Attorney

David Aylor Law Offices routinely handles nursing home abuse cases throughout South Carolina. Call our Charleston office today for a free consultation.

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