by: David Ham Updated:TACOMA, Wash. —
Earl Vernon has been fighting for years over a lawsuit for damages to seek justice for his brother David Vernon, who he said died in the care of an Aacres Landing assisted living house.
"I was given assurances, guarantees and promises that they would provide for his health and safety," said Vernon.
David Vernon, 56, died of a heat stroke in 2009.
Earl Vernon said David Vernon's caretakers neglected him during a heat wave that July.
On the day David Vernon died, his brother said, it was 103 degrees outside.
When David Vernon arrived at the hospital the next day, Earl Vernon said his brother's body temperature was 107 degrees.
"It's absolutely ridiculous. They locked my brother in a room and allowed him to cook to death," said Vernon.
Earl Vernon filed a lawsuit in 2012 over his brother's death, knowing that the wrongful-death law doesn't apply to his case.
"There's no accountability in the system at all," said Vernon.
Attorney Darrell Cochran says state law prevents many families of disabled people from filing wrongful-death suits, unless they were married, make money or have children.
"If they live, they can recover damages. In David’s case, he died. And there's a gap in the law that allows corporations like Aacres Landing to escape liability if a person dies," said Cochran.
Cochran hopes to convince a judge to close the gap at a hearing in appeals court in the coming months.
"After our hearing, the court of appeals will have the ability to create a law that protects developmentally disabled people who die," said Cochran.
A DSHS spokesperson said the Aacres Landing program, which operates houses in many areas of the state, was cited for neglect in October.
DSHS said Aacres Landing failed to get prompt medical attention for a client, who died.
Aacres Landing is now required to follow a corrective-action plan to prevent a similar situation.
Aacres Landing did not return phone calls when we asked about the lawsuit.