The Heights at Columbia Knoll was recently sued over allegations of elder abuse and negligence.
The Heights at Columbia Knoll in Northeast Portland recently came under fire in a lawsuit alleging its staff was negligent in the death of Charlotte Iverson. The suit was filed by Iverson’s son, Royce Iverson. According to the lawsuit, Charlotte “died of hyperthermia in her apartment during the June extreme heatwave.”
The suit states that Iverson was living at The Heights at Columbia Knoll in an apartment on the fourth floor. Prior to the tragic incident, Iverson had been “developing dementia and suffered from memory impairment, poor awareness, and confusion, and often had staff assist her with care tasks.” Additionally, she “had an in-home caregiver who visited twice a week.”
Before the heatwave hit, the suit claims The Heights knew of Iverson’s “declining cognitive abilities.” In fact, about two weeks before her death, her son noticed she was “forgetting to eat dinner in the cafeteria, so staff began delivering meals to her doorstep.” Around the same time, “there was a lapse in her in-home care after her caregiver quit,” something the apartment complex was also aware of, according to the suit.
A few weeks before the heatwave, The Heights printed memos for residents to warn them of the oncoming heatwave. The memo included information on how residents could “find alternative housing and encouraged residents to keep windows closed during the day and crack open apartment doors to allow cool air from the air-conditioned hallways to enter apartments.”
However, the suit alleges that Iverson and a handful of other residents on the fourth-floor never received the memo. Additionally, the suit claims that, during the heatwave, the central air “conditioning at The Heights failed to cool hallways and common areas, which ended up rising to 98 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit indoors.” On top of that, many of the apartments “did not have individual air conditioning units.”
Temperatures reached 116 degrees on June 28. Around 8:30 p.m., Portland police responded to the apartment complex “after a neighbor found another resident dead from hyperthermia in his apartment.” While at the complex, police noted that the “temperature in the fourth-floor hallway was extremely hot.” Officers also noted that “Iverson’s dinner tray was still sitting untouched on her doorstep, and asked a manager whether she had checked on the resident in that apartment.” According to the suit, the manager replied, “No. Why? Should I?”
In response, the officers entered Iverson’s unit and found her dead near her bed. The suit alleges the “temperature in her apartment was 90 degrees at the time she was found, with the windows open and a fan running; by the time they found Iverson, the temperature had cooled off outside to around 90 degrees.”
The family’s lawsuit is seeking $13 million in damages and argues the apartment complex was “negligent in its failure to ensure Iverson was safe and understood the dangers of the heat, failure to contact her son, and failure to keep working HVAC systems that would properly cool the building’s common areas.” Additionally, it claims The Heights committed elder abuse.