Iowa Judges Say Just Being 60+ Is Enough to Warrant Elder Abuse Protection

Despite disagreement, the Iowa Supreme Court has upheld a state law that once a person has reached age 60, they may be considered vulnerable adults in need of special production from elder abuse.

Judith Chapman, a 69 year resident of Grimes, Iowa obtained an elder abuse protection order against her adult son. At issue was whether or not it was a case of elder abuse solely by virtue of her being over 60, according to an article in The Des Moines Register, “Iowa Supreme Court: Age enough to order elder abuse protection.” The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that it was, but the court was split in the decision.

Chapman purchased a mobile home in 2008 and subsequently transferred the title to her son. She told him the trailer would be his inheritance when she passed away. However, after an adult daughter moved into the trailer, Wilkinson demanded $35,000 to transfer title back to his mother, according to court records. When Chapman said no, he posted eviction notices on her door three different times, leading her to petition the court for the protection order.

A trial court granted the order, and the Court of Appeals affirmed it.

Justice David Wiggins wrote in his opinion for the court, that the law defines a vulnerable adult as a person 60 or older who’s unable to protect himself or herself as a result of “age or a mental or physical condition.” Three other Supreme Court Justices agreed.

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Edward Mansfield—joined by Justices Thomas Waterman and Bruce Zager—believed there wasn’t any evidence that the elderly mother was unable to protect herself due to her age. Judge Mansfield thought the dispute should have been worked out in a title proceeding.

Attorney Carmen Eichmann of Des Moines, who is representing Wilkinson, commented that the case is likely to get the attention of the Iowa Legislature. Eichmann says the state legislature should modify the language in the fairly new law, to show that a person must show he or she can’t protect themselves from abuse, rather than just providing that a senior’s being older than 60 entitles him or her to the enhanced protection.

Regardless of whether the state legislature does or doesn’t modify the law, this is a case with no winners, where an elderly woman and her adult children are at odds and even the justices did not agree about the ruling.

Reference: The Des Moines Register (February 25, 2017) “Iowa Supreme Court: Age enough to order elder abuse protection