Don’t treat her like that

The law has been aware of the problem of elder abuse for several years. A case from Florida suggests that this concern has not yet reached the Bench

Karen Passmore died on the afternoon of 6 August 2015. She was aged 57 years. She had been dependent on others to care for her since suffering a stroke in 1993. Her daughter, Jackie Passmore, had been responsible for her care following the death of Karen’s husband Bill in 2014.

J Passmore
Jackie Passmore (Image from here)

At the time of her death Karen weighed 58 pounds (about 26 kilos). According to the arrest record of Santa Rosa County Sherriff’s Office she was found in a room which –

smelled of trash and rotting flesh. There were gnats swarming through out the room around old food and bags of soiled adult diapers. The decedent, Karen Passmore, was found to be extremely emaciated, filthy, and having numerous pressureulcers (bed sores). The worst of the pressure ulcers were infected and gangrenous. One of the wounds appeared to have been dressed using disposable shop towels and painter’s tape. It was immediately apparent that the decedent had critically needed medical care.

The record notes that some of the pressure ulcers had eaten away to the underlying bone*.

Jackie Passmore was charged with aggravated manslaughter of a disabled adult

A person who causes the death of any elderly person or disabled adult by culpable negligence … commits aggravated manslaughter of an elderly person or disabled adult, a felony of the first degree….

She was convicted by a jury in the Santa Rosa County Circuit Court. Despite a facing possible maximum term of imprisonment of thirty years, it appears she was not given a custodial sentence (although it seems she was detained while the charges were pending).

State v Passmore (2017), Northwest Florida Daily News, 4 August 2017

======================

* Readers in Commonwealth jurisdictions will note the parallels with R v Stone and Dobinson [1977] 1 QB 354.

Abel Limones Sr & Ors v School Board of Lee County (2013) H&FLR 2014-6

Abel Limones Sr & Ors v School Board of Lee County (2013) H&FLR 2014-6

Second District Court of Appeal (Florida)

6 February 2013

Coram: Silberman CJ, Casanueva and Black JJ

Appearing for the Plaintiff: Matthew Moore and David Rash (inst. Alters Law Firm)

Appearing for the Defendant: J. Matthew Belcastro and Traci T. McKee (inst. Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt)

Catchwords: Florida – soccer – high school – collapse of player – automated external defibrillator – brain damage – negligence

Facts: Abel Limones Jr was a member of the East Lee County High School soccer team in a match against the team of Riverdale High School on the evening of 13 November 2008. During the game he collapsed on the field , following which he rapidly lost consciousness, stopped breathing and apparently ceased to have a pulse. Emergency services were called and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation was commenced. There was evidence that the coach of the East Lee County team called for an automated external defibrillator (AED) and that such a device was available at the ground. About 26 minutes after collapsing, Limones Jr was resuscitated by emergency services but suffered catastrophic brain damage.

The plaintiffs (Limones Jr and his parents) sought compensation based on a common law duty by the defendant to provide a reasonably safe environment and based on a failure to comply with §1006.165 of Florida Statutes 2008. The action was dismissed on the basis that there was no common law duty to provide or use an AED and that the claimed section did not establish a cause of action in negligence. The plaintiffs appealed.

Held: Dismissing the appeal –

(1) In relation to athletic activities, a school’s duty includes doing what a reasonably prudent person would do in the circumstances to (a) provide adequate instruction; (b) supply suitable equipment; (c) select and match competitors; (d) supervise; and (e) should injury occur, take appropriate steps to prevent aggravation of the injury.

(2) A school is not obliged at common law to provide medical care or rescue, including by means of an AED.

LA Fitness International LLC v Mayer, 980 So. 2d 550 (Fla. 4th DCA, 2008), followed.

The Court declined to decide whether §1006.165 of Florida Statutes 2008 created a private cause of action in negligence.

Judgment

The Court’s judgment is available here.  Note that an appeal will be considered in the matter by the Supreme Court of Florida.