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Man says mom, 89, died after being left outside assisted-living home

June 20, 2012 |  9:10 am

The headline on this post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.

The son of an 89-year-old woman is suing a Valencia assisted-living facility, saying caretakers left the woman alone on an unshaded patio in 100-plus-degree weather last August, resulting in her death.

According to the suit, filed Wednesday morning in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Ronald Corn’s mother, Loretta Hooker, moved into Sunrise Sterling Canyon Assisted Living in July 2007 after "mild dementia and generalized weakness and fragility" made everyday tasks difficult.

As Hooker's dementia progressed, the suit said, she needed more help, prompting her son to move his mother to a section of the facility with increased assistance and security designed for residents with Alzheimer's and dementia. Hooker made the move in early April 2010.

On Aug. 17 of the following year, the suit said, Corn arrived at the facility for one of his twice-weekly visits with his mother and found her outside on a 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," the suit said. “Finding her in this unsafe and hazardous 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.”

Hooker's son brought her inside, complained to supervisors and scheduled a meeting with the facility's executive director for the following week.

When waiting for that meeting a week later, the suit said, Corn saw his mother sitting alone on the same patio.

"This time, however, she was unresponsive, drenched with perspiration and in obvious respiratory distress," the suit said.

Paramedics took Hooker to a hospital emergency room, where doctors determined she was in cardiac arrest, the suit said. Doctors tried to cool Hooker's body but she was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Ed Winter, a spokesman with the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, told The Times Hooker died of cardiovascular disease and hyperthermia — essentially, Winter said, Hooker died because she had a bad heart and was left outside in the heat.

The lawsuit said Hooker’s body temperature was 103.3 degrees at the time of her death.

The suit accused the facility of elder abuse and neglect and wrongful death, among other items, and seeks damages including medical and funeral expenses, and "general damages for pain and suffering."

The California Department of Social Services investigated the incident after a “questionable death” complaint was filed against the care facility, records show. The state inquiry noted the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department had also conducted an investigation and believed neglect had occurred but said there was insufficient evidence to “charge anyone with a crime.”

The state cited the facility after determining caretakers did not stay with or check on Hooker within 10 minutes as she sat on the patio. A spokesman with the Department of Social Services said the care facility had appealed the citations, which are under review.

[For the Record, June 19, 2:20 p.m.: The previous headline on this post called the center a nursing home. It is an assisted-living center.]


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