Mandatory Reporting of Elder Abuse In California Cases

The Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (hereafter Act) codified at section 15600 et seq. represents the Legislature's response to the problem of unreported elder abuse which came to its attention in the early 1980's. (People v. Heitzman (1994) 9 Cal. 4th 189, 201-203 37 Cal. Rptr. 2d 236, 886 P.2d 1229 construing Pen. Code 368, subd. (a), which imposes criminal sanctions for elder abuse; ARA Living Centers Pacific, Inc. v. Superior Court (1993) 18 Cal. App. 4th 1556, 1559 23 Cal. Rptr. 2d 224.) The statutory scheme set out in the Welfare and Institutions Code follows the statutory model for child abuse by mandating that health care providers report suspected elder abuse and immunizing from civil liability those who are required to make such reports. (People v. Heitzman, supra, at p. 202.) The focus of the Act has always been to encourage reporting of abuse or neglect. (Delaney v. Baker (1999) 20 Cal. 4th 23, 33 82 Cal. Rptr. 2d 610, 971 P.2d 986.) Under former section 15630, subd. (a), "Any elder or dependent adult care custodian, health practitioner . . . is a mandated reporter." (Added by Stats. 1994, ch. 594, 7.) A "mandated reporter, who, in his or her professional capacity, or within the scope of his or her employment, has observed an incident that reasonably appears to be physical abuse, . . . or is told by an elder . . . that he or she has experienced . . . physical abuse shall report the known or suspected instance of abuse by telephone immediately or as soon as possible, and by written report sent within two working days. . . ." (Former 15630, subd. (b), added by Stats. 1994, ch. 594, 7.) "Health practitioner" is defined to include physicians, licensed nurses, and "any emergency medical technician I or II" or paramedic. (Former 15610.37, added by Stats. 1994, ch. 594, 3.)