When California seniors are evicted from their homes, particularly in regions of the state with ever-increasing rent costs, can those evictions rise to the level of elder abuse? That question has been posed recently in a number of cases in which older adults were evicted from their homes and died shortly thereafter, according to a recent article in the San Francisco Examiner. If a senior dies from the stress of an eviction, can his or her survivors file an elder abuse lawsuit?
How Can Evictions and Gentrification Harm Older Adults?
According to the article, costs of living in various California cities have skyrocketed recently, and it is becoming more and more difficult for seniors to be able to live comfortably in their homes. In large part, commentators cite gentrification as the reason for the rise in living costs in the Bay Area and other parts of California. However, gentrification and growing costs of living become much more serious when they result in the eviction of a senior citizen who cannot afford another place to live. As the article points out, the link among gentrification, eviction, and elder abuse became national news when a 97-year-old woman died earlier this month after being evicted from her home.
The 97-year-old had lived in her house for 66 years at the time of her eviction. Just after she was forced to leave her house, her friends explained that “she was done in” by the physical and emotional stress of the eviction, and she died shortly thereafter. She is not the only senior our state to suffer this fate. Other seniors in California are receiving eviction notices in parts of the state where rental prices are on a steep incline.
Because it now costs so much to find a place to live in many California cities, those who receive eviction notices “struggle to pay for rent, food, and medicine” as they seek out other places to live. As these seniors struggle financially, they experience physical consequences, including “panic attack[s] and heart palpitations.” As one advocate explained, “For a senior citizen in this housing market, eviction is a death knell.”
Defining Elder Abuse in California
Do these cases rise to the level of elder abuse? To better understand whether the eviction and subsequent death of a California senior can lead to a successful elder abuse lawsuit, it is important to understand how this crime is defined in our state. According to a pamphlet from the State Bar of California, elder abuse is defined in relatively broad terms as “the neglect, exploitation, or painful or harmful mistreatment of anyone who is 65 or older,” and elder abuse “can involve physical violence, psychological abuse, isolation, abandonment, abduction, false imprisonment or a caregiver’s neglect . . . [and] the unlawful taking of a senior’s money or property.”
As you can see, the broad terms used to define elder abuse—a crime that tends to come with stiffer penalties than if the same act were committed against a younger victim—might indeed mean that an evicted senior who suffers physical harm due to the stress of the situation can file an elder abuse lawsuit.
Contact a San Diego Elder Abuse Attorney
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