Prosecutors in Great Falls, Montana have charged former nursing home employee Jennifer Allgrunn with drug possession and elder abuse. The theft of medications allegedly went on for several months, during which time residents might not have had enough medications for their needs. Although the underlying alleged offense is essentially theft and a drug offense, the fact that it directly harmed the nursing home’s elderly residents led to a criminal charge for elder abuse.
Police arrested Allgrunn on Friday, May 4, 2012, after staff at Goldstone Assisted Living Home complained about ongoing and routine drug thefts. Allgrunn had worked at Goldstone since December 2011. Police found nine prescription pills on Allgrunn’s person, including the painkiller hydrocodone, as well as additional medication packaging. Goldstone administered all of the medications in Allgrunn’s possession. She reportedly admitted to police that she had been regularly stealing drugs from the nursing home since December.
Prosecutors charged Allgrunn with elder abuse and criminal possession of dangerous drugs. Court documents filed by prosecutors allege that her thefts harmed the elderly residents of the nursing home by depriving them of medication, and therefore sufficient medical care.
Allgrunn made her first court appearance on Tuesday, May 8, 2012. She was reportedly already on probation for a felony theft case. The court set her bail at $10,000. If she is convicted, the court could order her imprisoned for up to ten years.
The law often imposes serious penalties for acts of elder abuse or neglect. Maryland law specifically prohibits “abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult,” with “neglect” generally defined as failure to provide food, clothing, medical care, and other physical needs. “Abuse” generally consists of maliciously causing pain or injury that compromises a vulnerable adult’s health or well-being. A “vulnerable adult” is an adult who cannot provide for his or her own daily needs because of a physical or mental disability. This definition includes elders who require living assistance and medical care. This law applies to any caregiver, family member, or other person with a legal duty to care for the person, and it prohibits any act of neglect or abuse that might cause “serious physical injury” or death, or that involves sexual abuse. Since Allgrunn’s alleged thefts deprived residents of medications that were possibly necessary for their care, prosecutors have deemed it a form of elder abuse.
Media reports do not indicate whether or not any nursing home residents suffered injury as a result of the thefts. The question of whether or not the nursing home could be liable for injuries in a situation like this is an interesting one. A business is generally liable for the actions of its employees when the employees are acting on behalf of the business. This becomes complicated when an employee is accused of a crime. If an employee commits a crime in the course of, or perhaps in lieu of, performing the employee’s job duties, the employer could still be held liable under certain circumstances.
The Maryland nursing home lawyers at Lebowitz and Mzhen represent people who have been injured due to abuse or neglect by staff members. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Owner of Nursing Home Charged with Neglect for Second Time in Eight Years, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, April 20, 2012
Proposed Maryland Legislation Would Increase Criminal Penalties for Elder Abuse, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, March 16, 2012
Nursing Home Addresses Safety Concerns, Deals with Allegations of Sexual Abuse, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, February 21, 2012
Photo credit: ‘Hydrocodonebtibu75200’ by Rotellam1 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.