Wrongful Death Elder Abuse In California

The purpose of the Elder Abuse Act is set out in Welfare and Institutions Code section 15600. The statute recognizes the special vulnerability of the elderly and those who are either disabled or for some other reason dependent upon others for their personal or financial care. The Elder Abuse Act also recognizes that such persons are in need of special governmental protection and assistance. (See also Delaney v. Baker (1999) 20 Cal. 4th 23, 33 [82 Cal. Rptr. 2d 610, 971 P.2d 986].) Subdivision (j) of section 15600 explains that article 8.5 of the Elder Abuse Act, commencing with section 15657, was enacted to facilitate and encourage the prosecution of civil actions by or on behalf of abused or neglected elderly or dependent persons. Welfare and Institutions Code section 15657, subdivision (a) provides for an additional remedy, not available in other tort actions, in an action brought under the Elder Abuse Act: if the defendant is found to have "been guilty of recklessness, oppression, fraud, or malice," the plaintiff must be awarded not only costs, but attorney fees. Furthermore, subdivision (b) of that section, in essence, provides that in a wrongful death action involving an elderly or dependent adult, the ban on pain and suffering damages contained in Code of Civil Procedure section 377.34 does not apply. There is, therefore, a considerable incentive for bringing a personal injury or wrongful death action in terms which qualify it under the Elder Abuse Act.