Direct Knowledge of Severity of Senior’s Injuries Not Required to Support Conviction for Elder Abuse (Mass. App.)

91-year-old Olivia Cruz died of sepsis caused by wounds developed sitting stationary in her feces and urine while under the care of her son, Filip. When paramedics were called to her home after she suffered a stroke, they were overwhelmed with the odor of urine and rotting flesh. A jury ultimately convicted Filip of wantonly or recklessly permitting serious bodily injury to an elder under his care and with wantonly or recklessly committing abuse, neglect, or mistreatment of Olivia. On appeal, Filip argued that there was insufficient evidence to show that he acted wantonly or recklessly and that the two convictions were duplicative.

The Massachusetts Appellate Court affirmed the convictions. The court held that wanton or reckless conduct, which involves a high degree of likelihood a substantial harm will occur to another, may be based on the defendant’s actual knowledge or what a reasonable person should have known given the circumstances. Even without direct evidence that Filip knew of the severity of his mother’s condition, the court said, there was plenty of circumstantial evidence to support the jury’s verdict. The extent of the foul smell, coupled with the fact that Olivia’s sores were the size of softballs, would have alerted a reasonable person to the severity of the situation. As to Filip’s second claim, the court held both offenses require “proof of an element that the other does not” such that Filip may be punished for two separate crimes arising from the same course of conduct. One count required a showing of abuse, neglect, or mistreatment of an elder while the other required a broader showing of serious bodily injury. Thus, both convictions were affirmed.

Commonwealth v Cruz, 2015 WL 5164397 (Mass. App. Sept. 4, 2015)

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The litigation attorneys at the Beliveau Law Group provides legal services for elder law. The law firm has offices and attorneys in Naples, Florida; Boca Raton, Florida; Danvers, Massachusetts; Waltham, Massachusetts; and Salem, New Hampshire.


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