A lawsuit against Sunrise Sterling Canyon Assisted Living of Valencia alleging elder abuse, neglect and wrongful death was filed Wednesday in the Los Angeles County Superior Court by the family of former resident Loretta R. Hooker. The lawsuit relates to the events leading up to her death on August 24, 2011.
The suit was filed in Superior Court on behalf of Ronald Corn seeking medical and related expenses, punitive and exemplary damages and attorneys’ fees from defendants.
An investigation was launched by the California Department of Social Services after a complaint was filed against Sunrise Sterling Canyon and the circumstances surrounding Hooker’s death were investigated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department, which believed there had been neglect, but could not find enough evidence to charge any individual with a crime. The state cited the facility; said citations are under review because Sunrise Sterling Canyon has appealed them.
According to the local Sunrise Sterling Canyon, the Executive Director was not working today; calls were referred to the corporation’s Regional Director Ed Ward, who was unavailable.
Corn’s attorney is R. Rex Parris, who is also the mayor of Lancaster. According to a statement from Parris:
In July 2007, 89-year-old Loretta R. Hooker (Decedent) became a resident at Sunrise because she needed assistance with the activities of daily living due to dementia, generalized weakness and fragility. She could walk short distances with the aid of a walker, but needed frequent reminders to use her walker for support because she was unstable and had a history of falling after forgetting to use the walker. Ms. Hooker required assistance with dressing, toileting and personal hygiene. Sunrise designated her a “non-ambulatory” resident because she was unable to leave (or re-enter) the building without assistance.
Over time, Ms. Hooker’s dementia progressed. She became agitated at times and needed direct attention from the staff to calm her down. She also was becoming less able to indicate her needs and demonstrated a continuing decline in safety awareness. This prompted her son Ronald Corn (Plaintiff) to move his mother to a more secure section of Sunrise designed for Alzheimer’s and dementia residents. This unit was part of the “Reminiscence Program” that was marketed to the public as a safe, secure and nurturing environment focused on preserving dignity, engaging in meaningful activities and providing a higher level of monitoring, support and assistance. She moved into the Reminiscence section of Sunrise on or about April 1, 2010.
On August 17, 2011, Mr. Corn arrived at Sunrise to visit his mother and he found her outside on the concrete patio alone and under the hot summer sun with no shade or supervision. She was in obvious discomfort, appeared weak and was sweating profusely. Mr. Corn immediately brought her inside the facility and urged her to drink plenty of fluids. “Finding her in this environment caused Mr. Corn great anguish and concern for his mother’s safety and well-being, particularly because she was unable to get back inside the facility without help. Sunrise’s Executive Director was not available that day, so Mr. Corn complained to the supervisor on duty and a member of the staff that day about finding his mother outside and alone during the middle of the day with no shade or fluids. Mr. Corn also scheduled a meeting with the Executive Director for one week later on August 24,” stated attorney Robert A Parris.
Mr. Corn went to Sunrise on August 24, 2011 to report his concerns about the patio incident to Mr. McKie, the Executive Director. He planned to visit his mother right after that meeting. The temperature that day was over 100 degrees. While waiting to speak with Mr. McKie, a staff member asked Mr. Corn to follow him to the same outside patio area where they found Ms. Hooker again sitting alone on the concrete patio in the sun. This time however she was unresponsive, drenched with perspiration and in obvious respiratory distress. 911 was called and Ms. Hooker was transported to the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital emergency room in full cardiac arrest. Upon arrival at the hospital, Ms. Hooker received emergency treatment including placement of ice packs under her arms, neck and groin.
Despite the heroic efforts of emergency room staff, Ms. Hooker died of heat stroke shortly after arriving at the hospital. Her body temperature was 103.3 degrees at the time of her death. The autopsy report attributed her death to environmental heat exposure.
The lawsuit also contains allegations of misconduct, negligence, fraud, financial elder abuse, negligent infliction of emotional distress and wrongful death.
Mr. Corn seeks damages for medical and hospital expenses, pain and suffering, loss of love, companionship, comfort, affection society and solace, disgorgement of profits, burial and funeral expenses, attorneys’ fees, costs and such punitive and exemplary damages as the court finds just and proper.