Facts: Rusk (D) was admitted to the Brethren Healthcare Center (BHC) because he suffered from memory loss and confusion and he was diagnosed with Alzheimers disease. On several occasions, Rusk was belligerent with both staff and other residents. Creasy had been employed by BHC as a certified nursing assistant for twenty months prior to this incident. P knew that D had Alzheimers disease. On the day in question, P knew that D had been very agitated and combative. P alleged that when she was trying to put D to bed he was hitting and kicking wildly. She was kicked in the left knee and hip area and her lower back popped and she yelled out with pain. P sued D seeking monetary damages. The trial court granted D’s motion for summary judgment and P appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that a persons mental capacity, whether that person is a child or an adult, must be factored when considering whether a legal duty exists.
Issue: Must a persons mental capacity be factored into the determination of whether a legal duty exists?
Holding and Rule: No. A persons mental capacity, whether that person is a child or an adult, must not be factored into the determination of whether a legal duty exists.
We reject the former approach and adopt the Restatement rule. We hold that a person with mental disabilities is generally held to the same standard of care as that of a reasonable person under the same circumstances without regard to the alleged tortfeasors capacity to control or understand the consequences of his or her actions. Individuals with Alzheimers who have no capacity to control their conduct do not owe a duty to their caregivers to refrain from violent conduct.
The three factors that are balanced to determine whether an individual owes a duty to another are: (1) the relationship between the parties; (2) the reasonable foreseeability of harm to the person injured; and (3) public policy considerations. P was a caregiver who knew of Ds violent history and could have requested additional assistance.
An analogous situation arises in Indiana law under the firemans rule. The firemans rule provides that firemen or other public safety officials responding in emergencies are owed only the duty of abstaining from positive wrongful acts. P was specifically hired to encounter and combat particular dangers, and by accepting such employment she assumed the risks associated with her occupation.
Disposition: D’s motion for summary judgment granted.