California’s Doctrine of Primary Assumption of Risk Barred Home Aid’s Negligence and Intentional Tort Claims Against Violent Alzheimer’s Patient

The husband of a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease contracted with an in-home health care agency to provide an aide to care for his wife. The woman injured the aide. The aide sued the woman for battery and the couple for negligence and premises liability. The couple filed a motion for summary judgment under a theory of primary assumption of risk. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants.


The California Court of Appeal for the Second District, Division 5, held that the primary assumption of risk doctrine can be applied to those whose occupation is caring for Alzheimer's patients, some of which can pose physical risks of injury. Primary assumption of risk bars recovery by a plaintiff when it can be established that, because of the nature of the activity involved and the parties' relationship to the activity, the defendant owed the plaintiff no duty of care. It must then be determined, in light of the activity and these relationships, whether the defendant's conduct at issue is an inherent risk of the activity such that liability does not attach as a matter of law.


The court reasoned that the inherent risk of hazardous conduct by an Alzheimer's patient renders the possibility of injury obvious and negates the duty of care usually owed by the defendant for those particular risks of harm. The court found that there was no meaningful distinction between undertaking to care for an Alzheimer's patient in a convalescent hospital or other care facility and undertaking to care for such a patient in a private residence. The court concluded that the trial court properly determined that each of the plaintiff's causes of actions against the defendants was barred by the doctrine of primary assumption of risk, noting that the doctrine applies to both negligence and intentional torts.


See: Gregory v. Cott, 2013 WL 313960, 13 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 1027 (Cal.App. 2 Dist., January 28, 2013) (not designated for publication).