Elder Abuse Claim Awarded £10,000 Compensation Case Study

Author:
Peter Garsden
Solicitor, Head of Abuse Claims
Date:
25/04/2019

Client Situation

Our Abuse Solicitors acted on behalf of Mr Bennett, a distinguished veteran of World War II, who was targeted by three separate thieves employed by a company called Q Care Limited. They were meant to provide care for Mr Bennett in his home over a 2-year period when Mr Bennett was aged 92 to 93, but all three stole money off him.

The carers were caught on CCTV by our client’s son and successfully prosecuted by the police. It was difficult to calculate how much cash and belongings went missing exactly, but using our best calculations, the total was likely to add up to at least £6,500.

By the time the case came to be settled, just before Mr Bennett’s death at the age of 96, the effect of the thefts had become quite severe in that it ruined our client’s confidence and affected his health.

How We Helped

We worked through Mr Bennett’s son to take instructions on what happened, and pieced together information from various sources, such as police statements, to put together a coherent account of events.

We obtained various records from Mr Bennett’s GP, who had visited him regularly. The biggest difficulty was trying to calculate how much had gone missing, but this was pieced together from Building Society records and average outgoings for his welfare.

Owing to his frailty, we decided not to put Mr Bennett through a psychiatric examination, which would be the normal way of assessing the harm caused to his mental health by the 3 thefts. Instead, we asked the GP to provide a summary of his records, and an opinion on how the theft had affected his mental health.

Unsurprisingly, the fear, anxiety and depression caused by 3 separate thefts had been considerable to such an elderly gentleman. Being involved in a police investigation, and the effect this had on him, added to the suffering.

The Outcome

Our Abuse Solicitors agreed to work with Mr Bennett on a No Win, No Fee basis because we assessed the merits of the case, and found it to be worth pursuing. The carers involved had been prosecuted and sacked by the company concerned, so the prospects of claiming against the thieves personally wouldn’t have been worthwhile.

Fortunately, the law imposes liability upon employers of a thief, particularly where they’ve put a member of staff in a position of trust. Here, the carers were entrusted to look after Mr Bennett in his own sheltered accommodation and care for his needs. That involved trusting them to be honest, and look after him properly.

Accordingly, when they breached that trust, and stole money from him, the employers are deemed to be automatically liable under a law called vicarious liability. We relied upon the convictions for dishonesty in the Magistrate’s Court, which made establishing liability for the thefts much easier.

There is a long line of decided cases on the point, including a situation where a bank employee stole money from a customer’s account. In that case, the bank was held liable, even though it was argued that they didn’t employ a clerk to steal money and commit a crime, but rather to look after the customer’s funds honestly. It was held to be an illegal way of carrying out a legal activity.

In Mr Bennett’s case, the company who employed the thieves were insured, and we dealt with their insurers. After some evasion, the insurers agreed to settle the case without the need to issue legal proceedings, which was particularly important given our client’s age.

After much negotiation, we were able to arrive at a settlement of £10,000 compensation, some of which was put towards one final holiday for the elderly war veteran on the south coast before he died.

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