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Senior living facility in Oregon facing lawsuit following heat wave deaths


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    PORTLAND, Oregon (KPTV) — A northeast Portland senior community is the named defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit after two residents were found dead in their apartments during the June heat wave.

The summer heat wave killed more than 100 people in Oregon- 54 of those people were in Multnomah County. Two of them were living at The Heights at Columbia Knoll off Southeast Sandy Boulevard.

Royce Iverson filed a wrongful death suit Thursday morning, alleging that the facility staff’s negligence led to the death of his 81-year-old mother, Charlotte Iverson.

“[She] had a great sense of humor, laughing all the time,” Iverson told FOX 12, “really a very, very pleasant human being.”

Iverson lives in Texas, but said he spent quite a bit of time in Portland over the last year and half visiting Charlotte.

“We’d get in the car and go on day trips or overnight trips,” Iverson said.

He was planning on many more of those trips with his mother, until the unthinkable happened on June 28.

“It was very sudden and shocking,” Iverson said.

According to court documents, Portland police discovered Charlotte dead “kneeling near her bed as if in prayer.”

Iverson told FOX 12 that his mother lived on the fourth floor and that it had reached temperatures of 100-plus degrees during the forecasted heat wave. According to the complaint, officers went into Charlotte’s apartment after a neighbor discovered another resident- across the hall from Charlotte- had died of hyperthermia.

Hyperthermia happens when the body overheats.

“The policeman turned while the manager was standing there and saw my mom’s dinner sitting at her door, untouched, and he said ‘have you checked on this resident’, and the manager said ‘no, do you think I should,'” Iverson said.

Charlotte’s apartment did not have air conditioning and, according to the lawsuit, the A/C system cooling the building’s hallways and common spaces was not functioning properly.

A medical examiner determined that Charlotte died of hyperthermia. The court documents say her body temperature was “dramatically elevated.”

“To me it’s incomprehensible, you’re in the business of caring for people and you have no regard in a crisis to take action and do something,” Iverson said.

Iverson said his mother had mobility issues and was developing dementia, which is why she was living at The Heights, which provides services such as delivered meals and housekeeping. Charlotte has lived there since 2018, court documents say.

The complaint says “The Heights knew that Mrs. Iverson received in-home care regularly, twice a week. The Heights knew that Mrs. Iverson was not living independently, but rather relied on family and an in-home caregiver to meet her needs related to health and safety.”

The lawsuit is seeking $13 million in damages against The Heights and its parent company, Independent Living Ventures LLC, for wrongful death, negligence, breach of contract and warranty, and abuse of a vulnerable person.

The least the staff members could have done, Iverson said, is check on his mother or call him to notify him of the dangers.

According to court documents, the facility created a “one-page typed memorandum” that included instructions for residents to find other places to stay during the heat wave, but that “many residents on the fourth floor did not get the memorandum,” including Charlotte.

“Their calloused indifference towards care led to two deaths on that floor,” Iverson said.

Messages for The Heights and its parent company were not returned Thursday.

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