Court: Caregivers can't sue Alzheimer's patients

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People with Alzheimer's disease are not liable for injuries they may cause their paid in-home caregivers, California's highest court ruled Monday in a case involving a home health aide who was hurt while trying to restrain a client.

The California Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that people hired to work with Alzheimer's patients should know the disease commonly causes physical aggression and agitation in its later stages. The court majority concluded it would therefore be inappropriate to allow caregivers who get hurt managing a combative client to sue their employers.

"It is a settled principle that those hired to manage a hazardous condition may not sue their clients for injuries caused by the very risks they were retained to confront," Justice Carole Corrigan wrote for the majority.

The law in California and many other states already establishes that caregivers in institutional settings such as hospitals and nursing homes may not seek damages from Alzheimer's patients who injure them. To have a different standard for caregivers working in private homes would give families a financial incentive to put relatives with Alzheimer's into nursing homes, Corrigan said.

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