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Injunctions Against Exploitation of Vulnerable Adults

By: Beth T. Vogelsang, Esquire

More than 5.2 million people residing in Florida are age 60 or older, and Florida has more residents over the age of 65 than any other state in the nation. A large percentage of the elderly have disabilities, and many require assistance with activities of daily living. These disabilities and limitations can make the elderly population vulnerable to exploitation.

Protection of Vulnerable Adults

Florida has recently passed a new law aimed at protecting vulnerable adults from financial or material exploitation, including improper use of an elderly person’s funds, property or assets. A vulnerable adult is defined as “a person 18 years of age or older whose ability to perform the normal activities of daily living or to provide for his or her own care or protection is impaired due to a mental, emotional, sensory, long-term physical, or developmental disability or dysfunction, or brain damage, or the infirmities of aging.” Fla. Stat. Sec. 415.02 (18).

Impact of New Law

Florida already had laws in effect that make it a crime to abuse, neglect or exploit a vulnerable adult, as well as providing victims with a civil remedy for damages. The new statute creates a cause of action to obtain an injunction for protection against exploitation of vulnerable adult, which should give teeth to the civil remedies by preserving the victim’s assets before they are depleted by the exploiter. Fla. Stat. Sec. 825.1035 (2018).

Who Can File an Injunction?

The injunction may prohibit the abuser from having any contact with the vulnerable adult, and may also freeze the assets of the vulnerable adult. The injunction may be filed by the vulnerable adult, that person’s guardian, or a person or organization acting on behalf of the vulnerable adult with the consent of that person, or by a person who simultaneously files a petition for determination of incapacity and appointment of an emergency temporary guardian of the vulnerable adult. Violation of the injunction can result in criminal penalties.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact me at 239-344-1302 or by email at beth.vogelsang@henlaw.com.