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In one of the first cases brought under a state nursing home residents’ rights law, a New Jersey elder care facility was found liable for an employee’s sexual assault on a 70-year-old woman. Ocean County Superior Court Judge Frank A. Buczynski recently held that Kensington Manor Care Center of Toms River violated the rights of a patient when certified nurse assistant Edward Argueta assaulted her. The patient also contends that a similar incident had happened two weeks earlier, yet she failed to report it because she felt ashamed.
The patient’s attorney, Alan M. Darnell, JD, of the Woodbridge, NJ-based law firm Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, says the case could signal that courts are increasingly intolerant of such abuse. Darnell won a summary judgment under the state’s Nursing Home Responsibilities and Rights of Residents Act. The court held as a matter of law that Argueta’s conduct amounted to a violation of "the right to a safe and decent living environment and considerate and respectful care that recognizes the dignity and individuality of the resident."
Argueta plead guilty to the fourth-degree crime of assault on an institutionalized elderly person. He was sentenced to a noncustodial period of probation, during which he is unable to work as a health care provider in the state of New Jersey. A separate hearing will be conducted to determine damages to be awarded to the victim.
"Nationally, more and more cases have been reported where residents have been subjected to inhumane, humiliating, and painful treatment that deny the basic human rights guaranteed to them by this statute," Darnell says.