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.

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


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