A family member that was suspected of being neglected volunteered the information that it was more than just financial abuse and slight neglect. She requested to revoke her POA and live with a different family member that agreed. After she spoke to a lawyer and the paperwork was created she is no longer accepting any calls or visitors and the lawyer returned his fee to the family member that paid on her behalf. If the lawyer was told of or suspected abuse would the atty. client privilege prevent him from reporting the abuse? Is the atty. required to report the abuse if he is aware of it or suspects it?
In Ohio, Attorneys are mandatory reporters - see Ohio Revised Code Section 5101.60. That means that if an attorney has "reasonable cause to believe that an adult is being abused, neglected, or exploited, or is in a condition which is the result of abuse, neglect, or exploitation," he or she must report the suspected maltreatment to the local Job and Family Services Department, or to the nearest welfare agency. Once the report is made, an investigation will be undertaken and possible protective measures put in place. In sum, the straight forward answer to your question is yes, an attorney is required to report elder abuse if he is aware of it, or has reasonable cause to believe it is occurring. Attorney-client privilege protects the client UNLESS that client is actively breaking the law or using the attorney's services to facilitate a crime, like say, fleecing an elderly relative or committing some other form of abuse or neglect. In that case, privilege does not protect the client, or the attorney. I've attached a link below to a helpful handout from RAINN.org listing further information about elder abuse reporting laws in Ohio. Good Luck!
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Generally, only an open threat of future serious harm is reportable, and then still not a requirement of the ethical or legal rules of an attorney. Your confidence is not breakable generally except if you are threatening to kill someone.
Doctors and therapists may be a different story.
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