Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession (4)7 Apr 96


   A healthcare facility is liable for negligent hiring or supervision only if the facility did have or should have had prior knowledge of the particular employee’s dangerous tendencies.

   The staff member who sexually molested a developmentally disabled female resident was a single, sexually active male. Standing alone, this was ruled not legally sufficient to put the nursing home on notice of a risk to vulnerable female residents.

   The case, however, was kept open and sent back to the lower court. The victim’s attorneys were to investigate for specific indications from the perpetrator’s background that should have alerted the nursing home of the danger.   COURT OF APPEALS OF WASHINGTON, 1995.


   During a routine medical exam, a twenty-two-year-old profoundly retarded female nursing home resident was found to be six months pregnant. She was able to identify a male staff member as the person who had raped her on several occasions. When confronted with this accusation, the staff member admitted to being "overwhelmed" when he saw her naked alone in her room. He was charged by local authorities with rape and received a ten year prison sentence. The resident’s mother - legal guardian filed suit against the nursing home.

   The Court of Appeals of Washington ruled the evidence in the court record of the staff member being single and sexually active was not sufficient to hold the nursing home liable in a civil suit. Nor would the nursing home be liable merely because its internal policy had not been enforced against a male staff member being alone with a female resident.

   Instead of being thrown out altogether, the case went back to the lower court to see whether it could be proven the nursing home knew or with proper background investigation of this staff member should have known of past sexual improprieties with vulnerable females. If so, the nursing home would be held legally liable to the resident in a civil suit for damages. Niece vs. Elmview Group Home, 904 P. 2d 784 (Wash. App., 1995).