Our Chicago nursing home neglect attorneys were saddened to learn that yet another nursing home professional was arrested and charged with abusing an elderly man in his care. According to the Bristol-Warren Patch, the nurse was arrested last year after local authorities received a complaint from nearby hospital officials. It seems that an eighty year old resident of the facility had entered the hospital with injuries consistent with a physical attack. The resident explained that he was assaulted by a nurse at the facility.
Following the complaint, a formal investigation was conducted and the male nurse was eventually formally accused of abusing the patient. The local prosecutor’s office reviewed the charges and issued a formal indictment-a official criminal charge. Following the progression of the criminal elder abuse case, the nurse eventually entered a plea of nolo contendere (no contest). He was given a two year suspended sentence, two years of probation, and must complete 100 hours of community service.
A “no contest” plea in this criminal matter may have implications on any civil nursing home abuse case down the road. A nolo contendere plea has the same functional effect on the defendant in the criminal case as a guilty plea would. Technically the defendant is not admitting guilt or innocence, but it is treated as a guilty plea for punishment purposes. Usually, these pleas are entered following a plea bargain being reached with the prosecutor’s office. While it is treated as a guilty verdict for the purpose of the criminal case, it is often used defensively such that it cannot be used as a guilty plea could in a subsequent civil case.
Blog readers are well aware that these intentional acts of abuse often lead to both criminal cases and civil cases. Usually, a guilty plea by a defendant in a criminal case can be used as evidence in a later civil case that certain misconduct took place. In other words, it can act as a virtual shortcut whereby certain facts about a situation are essentially proven true from the outset. For example, in the context of nursing home abuse, parties would not have to litigate the issue of whether or not an employee was negligent or reckless if that employee plead guilty in an earlier criminal trial to acting recklessly. However, in most states that is not possible when the criminal defendant pleads nolo contendere. Because it is not a technical admission of guilt, the jury in the subsequent civil trial cannot assume the facts that the misconduct occurred.
Our Chicago injury attorneys know that while the no contest plea cannot be used in a subsequent civil case, the fact that it was made almost always indicates that misconduct did occur and the victims have a strong case. However, alternative evidence must be uncovered and shown to the jury in any case to prove that the misconduct occurred. In many ways it simply means that the civil case will be a bit more costly and time-consuming if actually brought all the way to trial.
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