Community Services and Long-Term Care: Issues of Negligence and Liability. Basic Scenario #1


Case Manager Good assesses the needs of Client Smith using the Baseline Assessment Instrument. Good prepares a care plan in conjunction with Client Smith that incorporates the services of informal and formal providers. The care plan is reviewed by Good’s supervisor. Client Smith agrees to and signs the care plan.

In general, case managers will not be personally liable for their acts carried out within the scope of their employment. This is true whether or not they have been granted broad discretionary powers and latitude in making arrangements for care and assistance to their clients. This is not to say that they will be insulated from liability for wanton or reckless disregard of their clients’ needs or interests. If case managers keep the client’s need and interests uppermost in their decision making and undertake reasonable and prudent care plans, even if imaginative, they will be protected from liability.

What constitutes “within the scope of their employment” is a function of both explicit and implicit guidelines. Implicit guidelines are defined by common standards of professional practice and rules of reasonableness. If, for example, a case manager is concerned about the high rates of youth unemployment without regard for the ability of such youth to carry out the tasks required in the care plan, he or she would probably be held to have acted outside the scope of his/her employment if an injury was visited upon a client as a result of the youth’s inexperience. Similarly, a case manager who, responding to admonitions to conserve scarce dollars, entered into an arrangement with a migrant labor crew chief for workers at a low hourly price, would be held to have acted outside the scope of his employment if a client were harmed by the inability of the worker to read or speak English, the language of the client.

This is not to say that the reasonable and prudent case manager performing in accordance with generally accepted professional standards will not be named as a defendant in a suit. It is only to say that care and prudence will yield an excellent defense.

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