Rusk was institutionalized and suffering from Alzheimer's
Disease. He was often combative and belligerent.
Creasy was a nurse at the old folks home. Rusk kicked her
in the back resulting in an injury. Creasy sued.
Rusk (technically Rusk's lawyer) moved for summary
judgment, on the basis that Rusk was not mentally capable.
The Trial Court granted summary judgment and
dismissed the case. Creasy appealed.
The Appellate Court reversed and remanded the case for
trial. Rusk appealed.
The Appellate Court found that, "a person's mental
capacity, weather that person is a child or an adult, must be factored
into the determination of whether a legal duty exists."
Basically, Rusk's mental incapacity was a fact that a
jury needed to decide, so no summary judgment was warranted.
Back in the Trial Court, Rusk was found not liable.
The generally accepted rule is that mental disability
does not excuse a person from liability for "conduct which does not
conform to the standard of reasonable man under like circumstances."
Restatement of Torts §283B says that there are
five reasons why people with mental disabilities should not avoid tort
Allocates loss between two innocent parties to the one
who caused or occasioned the loss.
This doesn't comport with other tort standards for
Provides incentive to those responsible for people with
disabilities to restrain those who are potentially dangerous.
Removes inducements for people to fake mental incapacity
to escape liability.
Avoids factual issues of assessing the extent of a
person's mental disability.
Forces people with mental disabilities to "live in
the real world," and encourages them to integrate into society.
However, the Court found that since Creasy was a nurse
employed specifically to handle combative Alzheimer's patients, Creasy
has no complaint for injuries sustained in doing so.
The objective standard of care applies, but a mentally
disabled person, involuntarily hospitalized, does not owe a duty
of care to his professional caregiver.
Btw, this same rule applies to people who are
exceptionally stupid. They are still liable if they do not conform to the
standard of care that a reasonable man would use.
Also true for drunks. Since you chose to get drunk you
are still held to the standard of a sober person.
Should the rule that mentally incompetent people should
use reasonable judgment also work when the person is the plaintiff? Can a
defense of contributory negligence be used when someone injures a
mentally incompetent person who didn't know enough to get out of danger?