According to a recent news report, an 84-year-old nursing home resident will not face criminal charges after an 82-year-old woman has died following a violent beating inflicted by the man. The attack occurred on a morning in late August of this year, after the woman mistakenly wandered into the man’s bedroom in the dementia unit of a New York nursing facility. The assailant violently attacked the woman, who died after suffering a broken neck, broken ribs, a broken nose, and several facial fractures. The county attorney’s office declined to press charges against the man, finding that he suffered from dementia and lacked the mental capacity to stand trial for the crime.
Civil Liability for Violence Committed by Nursing Home Residents
Although the resident will not be charged for his role in the violent death of his fellow resident, the deceased woman’s family may be entitled to compensation for the loss of their loved one. The prosecutor’s decision not to press criminal charges against the perpetrator would not prevent a wrongful death claim from being brought against the man in civil court, although his mental state would still be relevant in a potential claim. In addition to the perpetrator, the nursing home facility and staff could face civil liability for the woman’s death through a nursing home abuse or neglect lawsuit.
Nursing homes have a responsibility to maintain a reasonably safe environment for their residents, which may include a duty to protect residents from acts of violence by other residents. Residents with psychological or mental health issues should be diagnosed and adequately supervised to protect the safety of themselves and other residents. Some residents may need assistance returning to their rooms. Although not every random act of violence may be preventable, nursing home attendants should be available to respond quickly in the event of any emergency or injury, whether accidental or intentional.