PA 15-236—sSB 1005
AN ACT PROTECTING ELDERLY CONSUMERS FROM EXPLOITATION
SUMMARY: This act makes a number of changes in laws regarding elder abuse. Among other things, it:
1. makes certain emergency medical service providers mandated reporters of elderly abuse and expands training requirements for employees of certain entities who care for people age 60 or older (§§ 1 & 2);
2. gives abused, neglected, exploited, or abandoned elderly people a civil cause of action (§ 3);
3. requires the Commission on Aging to (a) study best practices for reporting and identifying elderly abuse, neglect, exploitation, and abandonment and (b) create a portal of training resources for financial institutions and agents (§ 5);
4. requires certain financial agents to receive training on elderly fraud, exploitation, and financial abuse (§§ 5 & 6); and
5. changes definitions of elderly neglect and necessary services (§ 1).
The act also prohibits certain individuals, including those convicted of 1st or 2nd degree larceny or 1st degree abuse of an elderly, blind, or disabled person or person with intellectual disabilities, from inheriting, receiving insurance benefits, or receiving certain property from a deceased victim. It makes changes to the disposition of certain types of jointly owned personal property when one owner is convicted of one of these or certain other crimes against another owner (§ 4).
Finally, the act makes technical and conforming changes.
EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2015
§§ 1 & 2—REPORTING ELDER ABUSE
The act amends the definition of neglect for purposes of reporting suspected elderly neglect, training mandated reporters, and Department of Social Services (DSS) investigations and services. Under prior law, neglect referred to an elderly person (1) living alone and not able to provide for himself or herself the services necessary to maintain physical and mental health or (2) not receiving such services from a responsible caretaker. The act broadens the first definition by also including elderly people who do not live alone. The act specifies in the second definition that neglect is the failure of a caretaker to provide or arrange to provide such services to an elderly person. Under the act, services necessary to maintain an elderly person's physical and mental health include protection from abuse, neglect, exploitation, or abandonment, rather than protection from maltreatment generally.
The law requires certain professionals (mandated reporters) to notify DSS when they reasonably suspect an elderly person (1) has been abused, neglected, abandoned, or exploited or (2) needs protective services. The act adds as mandated reporters the following licensed or certified emergency medical service providers: paramedics; emergency medical responders, technicians, advanced technicians, and technician-paramedics; service instructors; and any of these professionals who are members of a municipal fire department.
Failure to report is punishable by a fine of up to $500. An intentional failure to report is a class C misdemeanor for a first offense and a class A misdemeanor for a subsequent offense (see Table on Penalties).
The act expands the training that institutions, organizations, agencies, and facilities must provide to employees who care for someone age 60 or older. The act requires this training to cover detecting elderly exploitation and abandonment, in addition to the previously required topics of abuse and neglect and informing employees of their reporting responsibilities.
§ 3—CIVIL ACTION FOR ABUSED, NEGLECTED, OR EXPLOITED ELDERLY PEOPLE
The act gives abused, neglected, exploited, or abandoned elderly people a cause of action against their perpetrators and allows them to recover actual and punitive damages, costs, and reasonable attorney's fees. It allows the following people to sue:
1. the elderly person;
2. his or her guardian or conservator;
3. another person or an organization acting on the elderly person's behalf with consent from the elderly person or his or her guardian or conservator; or
4. the personal representative of a deceased elderly victim's estate.
If the action involves elderly exploitation, the act allows the court to prohibit the defendant from transferring, depleting, or otherwise alienating or diminishing any funds, assets, or property.
The act prohibits bringing an action for neglect or abandonment against someone who does not have a contractual obligation to provide care to an elderly person unless the person's neglect was willful or criminal.
§ 4—INHERITANCE AND ESTATES
The act prohibits someone convicted of 1st or 2nd degree larceny; 1st degree abuse of an elderly, blind, or disabled person or person with intellectual disabilities; or a similar crime in another jurisdiction from inheriting or receiving part of the victim's estate. This applies to anyone found guilty as a principal or accessory of any of these crimes. The act also excludes, from inheriting or receiving, someone who would have been found guilty of one of these crimes, as a principal or accessory, if he or she had survived, as determined by the Superior Court by a preponderance of the evidence in an action brought by an interested person.
The act prohibits a named beneficiary on an insurance policy or annuity from receiving any benefits if he or she is convicted of one of these crimes against the person who is the subject of the policy or annuity. The act also allows an interested party to bring a court action to determine by a preponderance of the evidence that a beneficiary who predeceased the interested person would have been found guilty of one of these crimes. If there is neither a conviction or action by an interested party, the act allows a court to determine, based on common law, including equity, whether the person is entitled to any benefits. A person challenging a beneficiary's eligibility to benefits has the burden of proof in these proceedings.
When a person is prohibited from inheriting or receiving part of an estate under the act, he or she is considered to have predeceased the deceased victim for purposes of determining inheritance and distributing the estate.
Under the act, an insurance company that makes a payment under a policy's or annuity's terms is not liable for additional payments under the act unless, before making the payment, it received a written notice of claim under the act at its home office or principal address.
By law, these provisions already apply to victims of murder with special circumstances, murder, felony murder, arson murder, 1st degree manslaughter with or without a firearm, or a similar crime in another jurisdiction.
Prior law contained a specific provision about joint tenancy with right of survivorship (where two or more people jointly own property and the survivor takes full ownership). The act limits the existing rule to ownership of real property and creates a new rule for personal property.
Previously, if someone was convicted of murder with special circumstances, murder, felony murder, arson murder, 1st degree manslaughter with or without a firearm, or a similar crime in another jurisdiction and owned property with the deceased in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, the person and the deceased became tenants in common (where each owned an interest that could be transferred and the interest did not end when the person died) when the conviction was final. The act limits this rule to joint tenancies with right of survivorship involving real property. It also applies this rule to people convicted of 1st or 2nd degree larceny or 1st degree abuse.
The act adds a new rule for joint tenancies with right of survivorship concerning personal property. For anyone convicted of one of the crimes listed above (those listed in existing law and those added by the act), the act converts the property's ownership to sole ownership by the deceased victim except to the extent a person can prove by a preponderance of the evidence his or her financial contribution to the property.
The act allows someone convicted of 1st or 2nd degree larceny or 1st degree abuse to petition the court to override the act's prohibitions. The court can override if it would (1) fulfill the deceased victim's intent or (2) avoid a grossly inequitable outcome under the circumstances, including circumstances such as providing restitution or substantial benefits to the victim during his or her lifetime or the victim's expressed forgiveness. The petitioner has the burden of proof and persuasion on such a petition.
§ 5—COMMISSION ON AGING STUDY
The act requires the Commission on Aging to study best practices for reporting and identifying abuse, neglect, exploitation, and abandonment of elderly people, including:
1. nationwide reporting models;
2. standardized definitions, measurements, and uniform reporting mechanisms for accurate data collection in Connecticut; and
3. methods to promote and coordinate communication about reporting among state and local government entities, including law enforcement.
The commission must consult with the Connecticut Elder Justice Coalition Coordinating Council, DSS, Department on Aging, Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman, and chief state's attorney. It must report the study's results to the Aging Committee by January 1, 2016.
§§ 5 & 6—FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS AND AGENTS TRAINING
The act requires the Commission on Aging to create a forum and clearing house for best practices and free training resources to help financial institutions and agents detect potential fraud, exploitation, and financial abuse. The commission must establish a single portal for resources and material by January 1, 2016.
The act requires financial agents to participate in mandatory training to detect potential elderly fraud, exploitation, and financial abuse, including using the commission's portal. Agents must complete the training within the later of six months after the commission establishes its portal or beginning employment.
The training requirement applies to officers or employees of banks, savings banks, credit unions, trust companies, savings and loan associations, insurance companies, investment companies, mortgage bankers, trustees, executors, pension or retirement funds, other fiduciaries, and private financial institutions who:
1. have direct contact with an elderly person within the scope of their employment or professional practice or
2. review or approve an elderly person's financial documents, records, or transactions.
PA 15-242 adds the same emergency medical service providers to the mandated reporter list.
PA 15-233 changes definitions related to (1) reporting suspected elderly exploitation and (2) DSS protective services and investigations, effective July 1, 2015.
OLR Tracking: ND: MK: PF: bs