Family files $13 million lawsuit in Oregon heat death

PORTLAND, Ore. (KATU/CNN) – A man is suing a senior living facility in Portland after his mother died during a heatwave. It’s a $13 million lawsuit alleging wrongful death. KATU’s Kellee Azar spoke with the son and his attorney.

The heat was unbearable that final week of June. Reaching 117°F, it proved too much for dozens who died that day, many living in homes without air conditioning.

Royce Iverson’s mother died in the heatwave. He said, “You’re just numb. It’s nothing you prepare for, you know. She was in fine health. It was a real shock.”

Royce’s 80-year-old mom was one of two people who died at The Heights at the Columbia Knoll in northeast Portland.

KATU was there just over three months ago when a resident told them just how bad conditions were. Those same concerns were echoed in a lawsuit filed this week on behalf of Charlotte Iverson, saying—in part—air conditioning at The Heights failed, making it intolerably hot, sometimes 98° to 100° indoors.

Charlotte was found in her room with no air conditioner. Royce said, “The medical examiner told me that she died an excruciatingly painful death.”

Up until her death, Royce traveled monthly to see his mom for a week at a time. Their relationship was as close as it had ever been, but now those memories are all he has left. “Oh, they’re priceless,” said Royce. “You know, not knowing what was gonna happen, to me they’re invaluable.”

Royce’s lawyer, Kristin McCall, stated, “In a situation that was utterly preventable.”

McCall said this is about more than money, and while it will never bring Charlotte back, she said their hope is to prevent this from happening to any other family.

The Heights said in July it was looking into the air conditioning. It didn’t comment by the deadline for this story.

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