Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Abuse Definition:

Physical or nonphysical misuse or maltreatment or use or treatment so as to injure, hurt, or damage.

Related Terms: Sexual Abuse, Abuse of Discretion, Abuse of Dominant Position, Abuse of Process

In Estrada-Epinoza, in quoting from several past cases, Justice Thomas reiterated the definition of abuse as:

"... physical or nonphysical misuse or maltreatment or use or treatment so as to injure, hurt, or damage."

Note that this excludes accidental occurrences. Conduct that may or may not constitute abuse is most often dependent on the circumstances and in many cases, a statutory or contractual definition.

In McAuliffe v. Northern Insurance Company of NY, in the context of liability insurance, a priest's cultivation of a sexual relationship with a parishioner he was counseling was considered to be abuse.

In People of the State of Colorado v. In the Interest of D. A. K, Justice Carrigan of the Supreme Court of Colorado wrote:

"(T)he general term abuse (must) include emotional abuse as well as physical abuse, for a narrow restriction of the term to physical abuse would frustrate the legislative purpose to protect and secure the welfare of children."

In Hearns v. District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, the Court took the view that in the context of an adult care facility, aggressive talking to a patient and pulling the senior by the arm constituted abuse.


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