A former aide at a home for the disabled has been arrested and charged with molesting two female residents. Curtis Cortez, age 59, is being held on $100,000 bail after his arrest, and is expected to be charged with seven felony counts of lewd and lascivious actions by a caretaker upon a dependent person.
From news accounts, it appears the man has confessed his crimes to police, at least partially. When police confronted Curtis about the allegations, he offered a “Hawaiian defense.” He told authorities that he gave frequent hugs to people because it was part of his Hawaiian culture. He then volunteered that he was having problems with his girlfriend, and that he did touch one of the disabled woman’s breasts and genitals.
From a civil liability standpoint it is an interesting case. Curtis himself would obviously be liable for sexual assault and battery, but probably unable to pay a civil judgment. The question is, would the home be liable? Generally speaking, an employer is not liable for the intentional criminal acts of its employees, unless the acts were engendered by, or arose out, the employee’s duties. This one would be a close call.
What could hook the employers is a letter found in Curtis’ employment records, which was an admonition to him to stop engaging in hugging or backrubs with clients in the home. The letter was written in November 2009. If the alleged molestations occurred after the letter was sent, the home could be negligent for keeping Curtis in its employ.
The Walton Law Firm represents seniors and dependent adults who have been abused or neglected in the nursing home, assisted living, or home health care setting. Call (866) 607-1325 for a free and confidential consultation.