Appellate Court Reverses Lower Court’s Dismissal of Plaintiff’s Elder Abuse Case, Allowing the Case to Move Forward

Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued an opinion in a case brought by the family of a man who died while in the care of a hospital, holding that the lower court’s dismissal of the complaint was in error. In the case, Fenimore v. Regents of the University of California, the court determined that the plaintiffs made sufficient allegations to survive the pre-trial dismissal stage, and the lower court erred when it dismissed the plaintiffs’ elder abuse claims.

Pre-Trial Dismissal Is Rarely Appropriate

In many personal injury cases, the defendant will file a pre-trial motion for summary judgment, asking the court to dismiss the case because the plaintiff’s case is insufficient as a matter of law. These motions, if granted, will result in the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case, and the plaintiff will be prevented from recovery. However, these motions are rarely successful, given the standard with which the court must consider them.

Summary judgment motions must consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. In the case of a motion filed by the defendant, this means that the court should assume that the plaintiff can prove everything they claim happened in their pleadings. In other words, the quality of the evidence or the credibility of the witnesses is not a factor.

If, after reviewing the evidence in this light, the court determines that the non-moving party still cannot prove their case, summary judgment is appropriate. Otherwise, the motion should be denied.

The Trial Court Improperly Granted the Defendant’s Pre-Trial Motion to Dismiss

In Fenimore, the trial court granted the defendant’s demurrer, which amounts to essentially the same thing as a motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff appealed, arguing that they did allege specific facts that, if proven, would result in their recovery. On appeal, the court agreed with the plaintiff and remanded the case for consideration of the plaintiff’s elder abuse claim.

Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant violated a section of the state’s elder abuse statute that required the defendant to act with recklessness or intent. The plaintiff explained that there was a pattern or practice of consistently understaffing the facility, even when management knew that the staffing shortage would result in potentially inadequate supervision of all patients. This, the court held, was sufficient to survive the defendant’s demurrer.

Has Your Loved One Suffered in a Maryland Nursing Facility?

If you have a loved one in a Maryland nursing home or skilled nursing facility, and you believe that they have suffered due to the abuse or neglect of staff members, you or your loved one may be entitled to monetary compensation. To learn more about this area of the law, consult with a knowledgeable Maryland nursing home negligence and abuse attorney at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

Nursing Home Lawsuits Brought by Surviving Family Members, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published March 28, 2016.

Politicians Speak Out against Nursing Home Abuse Posted on Social Media, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, published April 7, 2016.

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