In Bae v. Lakeside Adult Family Home (S.C. #91536-9) a unanimous Supreme Court held the vulnerable adult statute chapter 74.34 creates an implied cause of action against mandated reporters who fail to report suspected abuse or neglect.
In 2011, GLP Attorneys began representing the Estate of 83 year-old Ho Im Bae. Ms. Bae had lived in an adult family home in Lynnwood. Alpha Nursing Services had two employees working in that home, although they were not caring for Ms. Bae. Between the two employees, Christine Thomas, R.N. and Marian Binondo, L.P.N., they witnessed Ms. Bae falling to the floor, saw bruising on Ms. Bae’s face and head, and saw her being dragged, unconscious, through the home by a nursing assistant. One of the employees also was informed that Ms. Bae was being drugged with morphine by the in-home nursing assistant.
Despite this knowledge, Ms. Binondo did not report this to anyone, including her employer, DSHS, or law enforcement. Ms. Thomas, a few hours after leaving the home, simply left a non-urgent voicemail message for DSHS on their reporting hotline. Shortly thereafter, Bae died from a morphine overdose.
Initially, the Snohomish County trial court held that Thomas and Binondo had fulfilled any duty they had to report suspected abuse or neglect. GLP Attorneys appealed the decision. The Washington Court of Appeals, however, agreed with the trial court. GLP Attorneys then appealed again, this time to the Washington Supreme Court, which reversed the Court of Appeal’s decision, finding that there is a cause of action for the failure to report, and that a jury gets to decide if Thomas and Binondo will be held civilly responsible for their failures.
This decision puts teeth into the long-standing mandatory reporter statute, in that if a health care provider sees abuse or neglect, they not only have to report it immediately, but if they don’t, they will be held responsible in a court of law. Special thanks to GLP Attorneys trial and appellate team of Scott Lundberg, Jim Gooding and Alex French for their tremendous efforts and dedication for our client.
The Court’s full opinion may be found here: http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/index.cfm?fa=opinions.showOpinion&filename=915369MAJ