April 30, 2014 South Carolina Supreme Court published opinion

In the Interests of Jane Doe v South Carolina Department of Social Services

The family court found Doe to be a vulnerable adult under the omnibus Adult Protection Act, South Carolina Code 45-35-5 et seq. based on her advanced age and order department to render her home habitable. The Court, 3-2, reversed and remanded. The majority held that standard for determining whether a person is a vulnerable adult is does the alleged physical or mental condition cause a diminished ability to adequately self-care or protect oneself. It noted this was similar to the standard used in conservatorships and criminal protections for venerable adults. Because the Act allows involuntary removal from a person’s home and allows the family court to order payment for services, the majority adopted the clear and convincing evidence standard for cases brought under the Act. Applying here, the Court held Department failed to meet its burden as it presented no evidence of diminished ability. The case was remanded for a hearing to see if any changes in Doe’s capacity occurred during the pendency of the appeal. The dissent argued that the Act should be construed broadly to protect vulnerable adults from the possibility of neglect and under a broad interpretation, the order here should be upheld.

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