Man files civil suit over wife's freezing death at Longview facility

2014-01-16T23:45:00Z 2015-01-14T15:31:04Z Man files civil suit over wife's freezing death at Longview facility Longview Daily News

The widower of the elderly woman who froze to death outside a Longview dementia care center last month has filed a civil suit, claiming the facility showed reckless and “outrageous conduct.”

Donald Sheldon, who turns 90 next month, also has asked the court to expedite his videotaped testimony because he said he’s afraid he may not live to see the trial.

The lawsuit asks for unspecified damages on behalf of Donald Sheldon and his daughter Dawn Johnson for the loss of 88-year-old Norma Sheldon. It also seeks unspecified emotional distress damages on behalf of Norma Sheldon for he “pain, confusion and panic” she experienced as she slowly froze to death after falling outside.

Norma Sheldon’s body was found in an enclosed, open-air courtyard at the Canterbury Gardens Alzheimer Care Center on Dec. 8, when the temperature was 28 degrees. According to the facility’s records, the required midnight bed check was not done and she wasn’t noticed missing until after 1 a.m. The Cowlitz County Coroner’s Office listed her cause of death as hypothermia.

The state found the facility at fault in the death, listing doors without alarms and other violations. State officials have begun the process to revoke the facility’s license, though Canterbury officials say they’re confident they can work through the appeal process and fix all of the state’s concerns.

In seeking speedy videotaping of his testimony, Sheldon states in court records that many of his friends died shortly after losing spouses. He and Norma were married 69 years and had known each other 71 years, so Donald Sheldon is uniquely qualified to testify about the effect of her loss, according to Sheldon’s court filing. A hearing about the expedited request is scheduled for Feb. 5.

In December, Sheldon said he would be filing a lawsuit to ensure this kind of death never happened again. Noting his age, he said he doesn’t need money, but he said that sometimes lawsuits are the only way to bring about change.

Barbara LaBoe covers courts and law enforcement for The Daily News. Reach her at 360-577-2539 or blaboe@tdn.com.

Copyright 2015 Longview Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(7) Comments

  1. WhatHappened
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    WhatHappened - January 16, 2014 9:39 pm
    There's legal proof of neglect and the staff responsible that night STILL haven't faced punishment. It sure doesn't sound like the facility wants to fix things to me!
  2. Skoobie
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    Skoobie - January 17, 2014 8:59 am
    More power to him. Normally I'm staunchly against 'frivolous' lawsuits or money grabs but I feel this is 100% justified. What a horrible way to go, no matter what your age. :(
  3. Macho123
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    Macho123 - January 17, 2014 10:35 am
    the paper reported Mr did not want to sue. Now he does? i am sorry for the loss and yes they should pay for there neglect. I just wish the paper would get the facts and print only the facts. The prior article could hurt his case since he said he did not want to sue them.
  4. peacelove
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    peacelove - January 17, 2014 5:10 pm
    Hmm interesting. Maybe now, the owners will have more nurses and cna's on staff to make sure this kind of thing never happens again….you know, cause people don't pay them $5k+ per month to have their family members taken care of or anything. *and remember, this is a privately owned assisted living community*
  5. Blogger Jogger
    Report Abuse
    Blogger Jogger - January 17, 2014 5:41 pm
    Macho123: The Daily News has never reported that Mr. Sheldon did not want to sue. In fact, he has been very vocal about the fact that he WOULD sue in order to increase the chances that something like this can never happen again.
  6. fanfave
    Report Abuse
    fanfave - January 18, 2014 2:45 am
    I had the pleasure of knowing Mrs. Sheldon and what a wonderful woman she was. I'm so proud of Mr. Sheldon for taking the necessary steps so hopefully this will never happen again. Our prayers are with you.
  7. feistyone
    Report Abuse
    feistyone - January 22, 2014 5:30 am
    It just adds to the problem's many nursing homes, assisted living, etc. are known for & people believe about them They have a reputatation as not being kind, courteous & responsible for our loved ones.I hope I never see the day that any of my family have to be in one of these facilities as long as I live.I had to watch my mother-in-law stay in one & we had to constantly babysit because of poor care.The state needs to check these facilities on a regular basis & make the fines huge to stop this.
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