California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

4002. "Gravely Disabled" Explained

The term "gravely disabled" means that a person is presently unable to provide for his or her basic needs for food, clothing, or shelter because of [a mental disorder/impairment by chronic alcoholism]. [The term "gravely disabled" does not include mentally retarded persons by reason of being mentally retarded alone.]

[[Insert one or more of the following:] [Psychosis/bizarre or eccentric behavior/delusions/hallucinations/[insert other]] [is/are] not enough, by [itself/themselves], to find that [name of respondent] is gravely disabled. [He/She] must be unable to provide for the basic needs of food, clothing, or shelter because of [a mental disorder/impairment by chronic alcoholism].]

[If you find [name of respondent] will not take [his/her] prescribed medication without supervision and that a mental disorder makes [him/her] unable to provide for [his/her] basic needs for food, clothing or shelter without such medication, then you may conclude [name of respondent] is presently gravely disabled.

In determining whether [name of respondent] is presently gravely disabled, you may consider evidence that [he/she] did not take prescribed medication in the past. You may also consider evidence of [his/her] lack of insight into [his/her] mental condition.]

In considering whether [name of respondent] is presently gravely disabled, you may not consider the likelihood of future deterioration or relapse of a condition.

Directions for Use

Read the bracketed sentence at the end of the first paragraph if appropriate to the facts of the case.

The principle regarding the likelihood of future deterioration may not apply in cases where the respondent has no insight into his or her mental disorder. (Conservatorship of Walker (1989) 206 Cal.App.3d 1572, 1576- 1577 [254 Cal.Rptr. 552].)

If there is evidence concerning the availability of third parties that are willing to provide assistance to the proposed conservatee, see CACI No. 4007, Third Party Assistance.

Sources and Authority

Welfare & Institutions Code section 5008(h)(1)(A) provides, in part: " '[G]ravely disabled' . . . [means] a condition in which a person, as a result of a mental disorder, is unable to provide for his or her basic personal needs for food, clothing, or shelter."

Welfare & Institutions Code section 5008(h)(2) provides, in part: " '[G]ravely disabled' means a condition in which a person, as a result of impairment by chronic alcoholism, is unable to provide for his or her basic personal needs for food, clothing, or shelter."

Welfare & Institutions Code section 5008(h)(3) provides: "The term 'gravely disabled' does not include mentally retarded persons by reason of being mentally retarded alone."

"The enactment of the LPS and with it the substitution of 'gravely disabled' for 'in need of treatment' as the basis for commitment of individuals not dangerous to themselves or others reflects a legislative determination to meet the constitutional requirements of precision. The term 'gravely disabled' is sufficiently precise to exclude unusual or nonconformist lifestyles. It connotes an inability or refusal on the part of the proposed conservatee to care for basic personal needs of food, clothing and shelter." (Conservatorship of Chambers (1977) 71 Cal.App.3d 277, 284 [139 Cal.Rptr. 357], fns. omitted.)

"The public guardian must prove the proposed conservatee was 'gravely disabled' beyond a reasonable doubt. The stricter criminal standard is used because the threat to the conservatee's individual liberty and personal reputation is no different than the burdens associated with criminal prosecutions." (Conservatorship of Smith (1986) 187 Cal.App.3d 903, 909 [232 Cal.Rptr. 277] internal citations omitted.)

"Bizarre or eccentric behavior, even if it interferes with a person's normal intercourse with society, does not rise to a level warranting conservatorship except where such behavior renders the individual helpless to fend for herself or destroys her ability to meet those basic needs for survival." (Conservatorship of Smith, supra, 187 Cal.App.3d at p. 909.)

"We . . . hold that a person sought to be made an LPS conservatee subject to involuntary confinement in a mental institution, is entitled to ave a unanimous jury determination of all of the questions involved in the imposition of such a conservatorship, and not just on the issue of grave disability in the narrow sense of whether he or she can safely survive in freedom and provide food, clothing or shelter unaided by willing, responsible relatives, friends or appropriate third persons." (Conservatorship of Davis (1981) 124 Cal.App.3d 313, 328 [177 Cal.Rptr. 369].)

"[A]n individual who will not voluntarily accept mental health treatment is not for that reason alone gravely disabled." (Conservatorship of Symington (1989) 209 Cal.App.3d 1464, 1468 [257 Cal.Rptr. 860].)

"[T]he pivotal issue is whether [respondent] was 'presently' gravely disabled and the evidence demonstrates that he was not. Accordingly, the order granting the petition must be overturned." (Conservatorship of Benvenuto (1986) 180 Cal.App.3d. 1030, 1034 [226 Cal.Rptr. 33], fn. omitted, citing to Conservatorship of Murphy (1982) 134 Cal.App.3d 15, 18 [184 Cal.Rptr. 363].)

"[A] conservatorship cannot be established because of a perceived likelihood of future relapse. To do so could deprive the liberty of persons who will not suffer such a relapse solely because of the pessimistic statistical odds. Because of the promptness with which a conservatorship proceeding can be invoked the cost in economic and liberty terms is unwarranted." (Conservatorship of Neal (1987) 190 Cal.App.3d 685, 689 [235 Cal.Rptr. 577].)

"A perceived likelihood of future relapse, without more, is not enough to justify establishing a conservatorship. Neither can such a likelihood justify keeping a conservatorship in place if its subject is not presently gravely disabled, in light of the statutory provisions allowing rehearings to evaluate a conservatee's current status." (Conservatorship of Jones (1989) 208 Cal.App.3d 292, 302 [256 Cal.Rptr. 415], internal citation omitted.)

Secondary Sources

2 California Conservatorship Practice (Cont.Ed.Bar 2005), §§ 23.3, 23.5

26 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 304, Insane and Other Incompetent Persons, Part I, "Lanterman-Petris-Short Act and Related Proceedings" (Matthew Bender)

(New June 2005)