Son sues over 81-year-old mom’s Portland heat wave death

Multnomah County

Royce Iverson wants $13M for the death of his mother, Charlotte

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Royce Iverson said for the past year-and-a-half, he would come back to Portland to visit his 81-year-old mother, Charlotte, at her apartment.

“I would come back for a week and spend a week with her, which was wonderful,” he said. “We were having a great time together.”

This week his attorney, Kristen McCall, filed a $13 million lawsuit over his mother’s death. Charlotte was found on June 28 by Portland police kneeling near her bed “as if in prayer.” The Multnomah County Medical Examiner said she died of hyperthermia during the heat wave.

Charlotte Iverson in an undated photo. She was 81 when she died in the Portland heat wave in June 2021 (Courtesy: Kristen McCall)

The suit claims Charlotte moved into the building because she needed extra help to be able to continue living independently. It said they provided things like housekeeping, daily meal services, transportation for errands. Management knew she was developing dementia but no one attempted to make contact with them during those dangerously hot days.

“I was in shock. I was in disbelief,” Iverson said. “My mom was in very good health and internal organs, heart and cholesterol, blood pressure, no problems at all.”

Charlotte lived in a 4th-story apartment at the Heights at Columbia Knoll, a senior living apartment community in Northeast Portland. Her son said it was a place that promised to attend to the well being of its residents.

The 11-page lawsuit states police found Charlotte dead while they were responding to a call from a resident who found her neighbor dead, also of hyperthermia.

On Page 7, the suit states officers noticed Charlotte’s dinner tray was still sitting untouched on her doorstep. An officer asked the manager of the Heights, Annie Trullinger, if she had checked on the resident inside. She replied, “No. Why? Should I?” according to the lawsuit.

Charlotte suffered for several days through the period of intolerable heat, the lawsuit states.

More than 115 Oregonians died during the record-setting heat wave.

“To not go to a level during an emergency and start knocking on doors and gathering people or calling out-of-town relatives and saying, ‘We’ve got to, we’ve got a crisis here. Can you help or do something?’ and let you know, to me it’s unconscionable,” Iverson said.

One of the most painful things, he said, is knowing this tragedy was preventable.

“My mom should be alive and I’ve never had to deal with that kind of emotion, a raw emotion that doesn’t seem to get any better,” he told KOIN 6 News. “It’s like, you know, where do you put that? When somebody you love is dead and they shouldn’t be, it’s hard to find a category to put that in.”

McCall calls the tragedy criminal.

“This is a crime,” she said. “This is elder abuse. It’s reckless endangerment and the companies need to be held responsible.”

There are other accusations in the lawsuit — that management knew some of the residents, including Charlotte, didn’t have access to alternative housing during the heatwave.

Iverson said the floor his mother lived on and the direction it faced got the hottest. Some residents saw a memo warning about extreme heat, but Iverson said no one on the 4th floor got that notice.

Charlotte Iverson with family members, undated (Courtesy: Kristen McCall)

KOIN 6 News tried to make contact with the officials with the Heights at Columbia Knoll but were not successful.

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