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Home healthcare workers hired to assist unruly Alzheimer ‘s patients may not sue their employers for injuries the patient inflicts, the California Supreme Court decided employers have no liability as long as the caregiver was warned of the risks and the injury was caused by symptoms of the disease. The ruling applies to in-home aides hired through an agency. Those hired to manage a hazardous condition may not sue their clients for injuries caused by the very risks they were retained to confront. The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit a healthcare worker filed against Bernard Cott and his wife Lorraine. Cott hired an agency in 2005 to help care for Lorraine who was 85 and suffering from Alzheimer’s, at their home in Los Angeles County. The caregiver assigned to the Cott home knew that the patient was combative and prone to biting flailing and scratching the court said. In 2008 Lorraine bumped into Gregory while the worker was washing a knife. While trying to restrain Lorraine, the caregiver suffered injuries that left her without feeling in some of her fingers and persistent pain. The caregiver obtained worker’s compensation and sued the Cotts.
The number of Californians afflicted with this disease can only be expected to grow in coming years, Justice Carole Corrigan wrote. “Training requirements and enhanced insurance benefits for caregivers exposed to the risk of injury are among the subjects worthy of legislative investigation”. In a 5-2 decision two justices dissented, arguing that in-home caregivers may not always be able to obtain worker’s compensation and should be entitled to sue employers for injuries.
Story by Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times