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Senior Centers May Be Liable for Aiding Elder Financial Abuse

Senior centers sometimes host presentations by sales agents offering
free seminars or lunches that purportedly provide attendees with
valuable information relating to estate planning. But these
presentations often turn out to be unscrupulous efforts to persuade the
elderly to purchase financial products they don’t need. For example,
the presenters may be operating an annuity mill that targets
seniors as high pressure sales prospects for annuities that often do not mature until
after their buyer’s death.

These sellers of financial products can be charged with
financial elder abuse. But can a senior center that hosts the event
where the abuse took place be liable as well? Several California cities
have been told this may be the case.

As reported in the
Prevent Elder Abuse blog
, San Francisco attorney Steven Riess,
who specializes in elder financial abuse and abusive annuities sales,
sent a memorandum and supporting legal analysis to city attorneys in
several Santa Clara County cities contending that: "By permitting an
abuser to use its facilities for a presentation, a senior center is
increasingly likely to be named as a co-defendant in an elder financial
abuse lawsuit based upon direct, vicarious, and joint enterprise
theories of liability."

In other words, senior centers could be the target of suits.
Riess said that California’s definition of elder financial abuse
appears to apply to organizations that merely enable the exploitation
to take place.

Shortly after the Riess memorandum was received, the cities
instructed local senior centers to deny access to suspect commercial
enterprises, according to the blog, although none of the Santa Clara
centers say that liability concerns motivated them to take action.

Another factor prompting the centers to act could be a class
action lawsuit filed by California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform
and the Institute on Aging alleging that several companies used "free"
living trust seminars to improperly learn about seniors’ finances and
then sent agents to the seniors’ homes to sell them annuities. (See
"Lawsuit Charges Annuity Sellers With Elder Abuse"

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