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Thursday, July 25, 2024 | Back issues
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The Home Health Care Aide From Hell

EUREKA, Calif. (CN) - A home health care aide crashed through a garage door to take her elderly charge's car on a drunken joy ride to another state, the 77-year-old woman claims in court.

Martha Howard sued Visiting Angels, its owner Jeanne O'Neale, Brown O'Neale Inc. dba Visiting Angels, and the aide, Linda Joy Miller, on March 17 in Humboldt County Court.

She seeks damages for negligence, emotional distress and misrepresentation.

Howard was 75 when she went to Visiting Angels seeking a nonmedical aide to be there for her seven nights while she was bedridden after surgery.

Visiting Angels offers home care for "companionship, light housekeeping services, assistance and security," the complaint states.

Shortly after midnight on her fifth night of work, Howard says, "Miller stole plaintiff's car keys from plaintiff's purse, which was hanging on the bedpost at the head of plaintiff's bed. Defendant Miller then drove plaintiff's car into the home's garage door and out of the garage. The sound of Miller crashing plaintiff's car through plaintiff's garage door woke plaintiff, startled her, and caused her to be alarmed and greatly frightened."

Miller drove off "in a drunken state after having become inebriated during her shift following unauthorized consumption of alcohol taken, plaintiff believes, from plaintiff's liquor cabinet."

About 130 miles later, in Brookings, Ore., Miller was arrested for drunk driving. She was convicted of "driving a vehicle under the influence and felony use of a vehicle," the complaint states.

Howard says that had O'Neale and Visiting Angels done a sufficient background check they would have found that Miller was a high risk "caregiver."

She claims that the defendants "knew that their claims of 'extensive background and reference checks' were false, overblown, inaccurate and misleading, and also knew that very vulnerable, elderly clients would be easily misled by said claims."

In addition, she claims that Miller stole medications, a 20-inch gold chain, a gold ring with a garnet stone and three diamonds, a tote bag and a scarf, "in addition to the previously mentioned alcohol."

Finally, despite the "outrageous events" the company refused to refund Howard's $3,080 payment, though it "provided no services for the two remaining evenings left on the contract - because plaintiff failed to give the required 48-hour notice," according to the complaint.

Howard seeks compensation for damage to her garage door, retrieval of her car from Oregon, therapy for severe anxiety, damages for emotional distress damages, punitive damages and court costs.

She is represented by William Bertain in Eureka.

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