(CN) - A federal judge declined to dismiss an elderly couple's claim that the trio of in-home caregivers repeatedly caused them emotional distress as they wantonly stole their belongings and money.
As described in the March 17 ruling by U.S. District Judge John Bates, Drs. David and Vera Mann were both 90 years old and in tenuous health when David underwent emergency surgery.
As Vera Mann was unable to adequately care for her husband as he recovered, the couple agreed the should hire in-home help and reached out to Tri-Cities Nurse Registry and Helpmates, Inc., who do business as Capital City Nurses.
Capital City provided the couple with two primary caregivers, defendants Ottro Bahi and Marie Poteman, and, from time to time, substitute caregivers, including defendant Mariatu Sesay.
The Manns claim it wasn't long after the caregivers arrived that they began to notice several of their belongings began to disappear.
At first, they said, they thought items had simply been misplaced. But then they came to see Bahi Poteman, and Sesay in a different light. Everywhere they looked, the couple claim, was evidence of suspicious behaviors.
On one occasion, the ruling says, Vera noticed that several small kitchen items had gone missing and later saw Poteman carrying some place settings upstairs.
After that, the couple claims, the items were never seen again.
In response David Mann “nailed boards across some of the kitchen cupboards,” angering Poteman, who ceased coming to work a few days later.
Vera says she also saw Bahi wandering through portions of the house that were behind locked doors and that the caregiver was not meant to enter.
The elderly woman reported the thefts and odd behavior to Capital City Nurses Registry, but, she says, the company took no action.
Vera Mann says days later, she awoke in the middle of the night to find Bahi in her bedroom, visible in the low light that Vera always kept on.
She said she recognized Bahi from behind and “stayed in bed silently watching him from under her blanket.”
“She saw his face plainly when he turned," the ruling continued. "Knowing that [David] was sleeping on another floor, she remained quiet and motionless.”
Vera Mann said she observed Bahi “rummaging through the cartons of her belongings” and ultimately removing some boxes and extracting valuables, such as jewelry, from others.
When Vera Mann later confronted Bahi, the ruling says, the caregiver neither admitted nor denied taking the items.
Instead, according to Vera Mann, he began talking “at length about his faith in God” and telling Vera “how she would have a revelation and be rewarded in the Kingdom of Heaven for the good that her property would do in the hands of others.”
Ten days later, the couple found a locked closet forced open and its contents, "ransacked." With that, they called the police. The caregivers never returned.
In April 2016, the couple sued the defendants, who removed the suit from the D.C. Superior Court to federal court on the basis of diversity of jurisdiction.
The Manns' complaint alleges twelve counts, five of which are against Bahi: conversion, trespass to chattels, trespass, intrusion upon seclusion, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Bahi brought a motion to dismiss regarding count five, arguing that even if the facts as alleged are true, his conduct does not amount to intentional infliction of emotional distress.
But Judge Bates disagreed. He believes the Manns "have alleged sufficient facts to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
"Whether the events occurred as plaintiffs allege, and whether Bahi’s conduct is sufficiently outrageous for plaintiffs to prevail on that claim, are questions of fact that must be further developed through discovery, and ultimately decided by a jury," the judge said.
Representatives of Capital City Nurses did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment.