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In re O'Boyle

December 24, 2002

IN RE: APPEAL OF SHARON O'BOYLE.


Washington County District Court File No. C8012461

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. When a vulnerable adult complains to her adult daughter, with whom she resides, of injuries and pain, the daughter's failure to seek medical attention or advice is prima facie an omission within the statutory definition of "neglect," as found by the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services.

2. Because the "neglect" provision of the vulnerable-adult statute applies only to "caregivers," the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services erred by failing to make a factual finding on whether or not the individual charged with neglect was a caregiver.

3. When an individual charged as a caregiver with neglect of a vulnerable adult raised exceptions provided in the neglect statute, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services erred by failing to make findings and conclusions as to the applicability of the exceptions.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gordon W. Shumaker, Judge

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded

Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Hudson, Judge.

OPINION

This is an appeal from a district court order affirming a decision of the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS), which affirmed the Washington County Community Services' finding that appellant neglected her mother, a vulnerable adult. The DHS determined that appellant's mother was a vulnerable adult and that appellant, as her mother's caregiver, committed maltreatment through neglect by failing to obtain medical services for her mother's injuries.

Although substantial evidence supports the DHS's determinations that appellant's mother is a vulnerable adult and that the alleged omission prima facie fits the statutory definition of neglect, the DHS failed to make any factual findings as to whether or not appellant was a "caregiver" and failed to make any factual findings or draw any conclusions as to exceptions in the neglect statute for therapeutic conduct. Because such findings and conclusions are essential, the matter must be remanded. Accordingly, we reverse the ultimate conclusion of maltreatment; affirm the determinations that appellant's mother was a vulnerable adult and that appellant's omission prima facie fits the definition of "neglect"; and remand for further proceedings and determinations.

FACTS

The DHS affirmed the Washington County Community Services' determination that appellant Sharon O'Boyle neglected Elsie O'Boyle, a vulnerable adult. The DHS determined that 78-year-old Elsie is a vulnerable adult who had been neglected on March 27 and 28, 2000, by Sharon, her adult daughter and caregiver. The district court affirmed the DHS's determinations.

The DHS found that Elsie lives with Sharon. In addition to some physical diseases, Elsie has early stage Alzheimer's disease and some mild dementia.

According to the DHS findings, Elsie slipped and fell outside her home on March 27, 2000, and suffered three broken bones in her foot and a head abrasion. Despite Elsie's complaint of pain, neither she nor Sharon contacted a physician. On March 28, 2000, Elsie's sister and another of Elsie's daughters visited Elsie and observed that Elsie had dried blood on her head, complained of foot pain, was in a weak ...


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