As a retirement destination, it probably isn't a surprise that Florida's elderly population is significantly higher than the rest of the country (19.1% compared to 14.5% national average). In Pinellas County, where our law firm is located, the elderly population is even higher (approximately 23%). So it also shouldn't be a surprise that Florida has powerful laws that protect our elderly from exploitation and abuse. In fact, Florida has two statutes that create a cause of action against those that try to take advantage of our loved ones. The Persante Law Group is a Clearwater law firm that handles many cases involving exploitation of the elderly.
As you would expect, exploiting the most vulnerable people in society, our elderly, is a crime in Florida. Additionally, Florida allows a civil lawsuit to be brought. There are two Florida statutes that govern exploitation cases: Section 415.1111, and Section 825.103.
(1) “Exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult” means:
(a) Knowingly obtaining or using, or endeavoring to obtain or use, an elderly person's or disabled adult's funds, assets, or property with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the elderly person or disabled adult of the use, benefit, or possession of the funds, assets, or property, or to benefit someone other than the elderly person or disabled adult, by a person who:
(b) Obtaining or using, endeavoring to obtain or use, or conspiring with another to obtain or use an elderly person's or disabled adult's funds, assets, or property with the intent to temporarily or permanently deprive the elderly person or disabled adult of the use, benefit, or possession of the funds, assets, or property, or to benefit someone other than the elderly person or disabled adult, by a person who knows or reasonably should know that the elderly person or disabled adult lacks the capacity to consent;
(c) Breach of a fiduciary duty to an elderly person or disabled adult by the person's guardian, trustee who is an individual, or agent under a power of attorney which results in an unauthorized appropriation, sale, or transfer of property. An unauthorized appropriation under this paragraph occurs when the elderly person or disabled adult does not receive the reasonably equivalent financial value in goods or services, or when the fiduciary violates any of these duties:
(d) Misappropriating, misusing, or transferring without authorization money belonging to an elderly person or disabled adult from an account in which the elderly person or disabled adult placed the funds, owned the funds, and was the sole contributor or payee of the funds before the misappropriation, misuse, or unauthorized transfer. This paragraph only applies to the following types of accounts:
(e) Intentionally or negligently failing to effectively use an elderly person's or disabled adult's income and assets for the necessities required for that person's support and maintenance, by a caregiver or a person who stands in a position of trust and confidence with the elderly person or disabled adult.
(2) Any inter vivos transfer of money or property valued in excess of $10,000 at the time of the transfer, whether in a single transaction or multiple transactions, by a person age 65 or older to a nonrelative whom the transferor knew for fewer than 2 years before the first transfer and for which the transferor did not receive the reasonably equivalent financial value in goods or services creates a permissive presumption that the transfer was the result of exploitation.
(a) This subsection applies regardless of whether the transfer or transfers are denoted by the parties as a gift or loan, except that it does not apply to a valid loan evidenced in writing that includes definite repayment dates. However, if repayment of any such loan is in default, in whole or in part, for more than 65 days, the presumption of this subsection applies.
(b) This subsection does not apply to:
(c) In a criminal case to which this subsection applies, if the trial is by jury, jurors shall be instructed that they may, but are not required to, draw an inference of exploitation upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the facts listed in this subsection. The presumption of this subsection imposes no burden of proof on the defendant.
(3)(a) If the funds, assets, or property involved in the exploitation of the elderly person or disabled adult is valued at $50,000 or more, the offender commits a felony of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(b) If the funds, assets, or property involved in the exploitation of the elderly person or disabled adult is valued at $10,000 or more, but less than $50,000, the offender commits a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(c) If the funds, assets, or property involved in the exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult is valued at less than $10,000, the offender commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(4) If a person is charged with financial exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult that involves the taking of or loss of property valued at more than $5,000 and property belonging to a victim is seized from the defendant pursuant to a search warrant, the court shall hold an evidentiary hearing and determine, by a preponderance of the evidence, whether the defendant unlawfully obtained the victim's property. If the court finds that the property was unlawfully obtained, the court may order it returned to the victim for restitution purposes before trial on the charge. This determination is inadmissible in evidence at trial on the charge and does not give rise to any inference that the defendant has committed an offense under this section.
A vulnerable adult who has been abused, neglected, or exploited as specified in this chapter has a cause of action against any perpetrator and may recover actual and punitive damages for such abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
The action may be brought by the vulnerable adult, or that person's guardian, by a person or organization acting on behalf of the vulnerable adult with the consent of that person or that person's guardian, or by the personal representative of the estate of a deceased victim without regard to whether the cause of death resulted from the abuse, neglect, or exploitation.he action may be brought in any court of competent jurisdiction to enforce such action and to recover actual and punitive damages for any deprivation of or infringement on the rights of a vulnerable adult. A party who prevails in any such action may be entitled to recover reasonable attorney's fees, costs of the action, and damages.
The remedies provided in this section are in addition to and cumulative with other legal and administrative remedies available to a vulnerable adult. Notwithstanding the foregoing, any civil action for damages against any licensee or entity who establishes, controls, conducts, manages, or operates a facility licensed under part II of chapter 400 relating to its operation of the licensed facility shall be brought pursuant to s. 400.023, or against any licensee or entity who establishes, controls, conducts, manages, or operates a facility licensed under part I of chapter 429 relating to its operation of the licensed facility shall be brought pursuant to s. 429.29. Such licensee or entity shall not be vicariously liable for the acts or omissions of its employees or agents or any other third party in an action brought under this section
Under Section 415.1111 a Plaintiff is entitled to actual damages and punitive damages as a punishment to the wrongdoers and as a deterrent from other similar conduct. Under Section 772.11, which is what provides the civil remedy for 825.03, the damages are three times the amount
Florida requires that some professions and businesses report abuse, neglect, or exploitation. Below is a list of the following that are called "Mandatory Reporters."
1. Physician, osteopathic physician, medical examiner, chiropractic physician, nurse, paramedic, emergency medical technician, or hospital personnel engaged in the admission, examination, care, or treatment of vulnerable adults;
2. Health professional or mental health professional other than one listed in subparagraph 1.;3. Practitioner who relies solely on spiritual means for healing;4. Nursing home staff; assisted living facility staff; adult day care center staff; adult family-care home staff; social worker; or other professional adult care, residential, or institutional staff;5. State, county, or municipal criminal justice employee or law enforcement officer;6. Employee of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation conducting inspections of public lodging establishments under s. 509.032;
7. Florida advocacy council or Disability Rights Florida member or a representative of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program; or8. Bank, savings and loan, or credit union officer, trustee, or employee, who knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, that a vulnerable adult has been or is being abused, neglected, or exploited shall immediately report such knowledge or suspicion to the central abuse hotline.