HomeCity NewsProject Roomkey Death Lawsuit Settled

Project Roomkey Death Lawsuit Settled

By City News Service

A judge has approved a $500,000 settlement in a lawsuit filed against the managers and operators of a Glendale motel on behalf of the three children and personal estate representative of a man who died there shortly before Christmas 2020 while housed at the location under the Project Roomkey program.
Project Roomkey was a state and local initiative designed to coordinate outreach, case management and temporary placement for chronically homeless individuals.
Pasadena Superior Court Judge Margaret Oldendorf gave her nod on Oct. 11 to the accord between the plaintiffs, who include the offspring of the late Kevin Powell Sr., First to Serve Inc. and LeKendreck Richards, the project manager at the Vagabond Inn motel. Both defendants agreed to the resolution without admitting any liability.
First to Serve’s services include providing transitional housing and supportive services, according to its website.
“As the motion is uncontested and the evidence before the court suggests that defendants agreed to settle with plaintiffs without any collusion, fraud or other improper conduct, the court grants the motion,” the judge wrote.
According to the negligence suit, other residents of the Colorado Street motel had urged the operators of the Project Roomkey program there to do a wellness check on Powell, who they said was well-known to the defendants for having epileptic seizures and had been crying and making loud noises around 4:30 a.m. on Dec. 22, 2020.
However, nothing was done, and his lifeless body was found in his room about five hours later, the suit filed in July 2021 states.
The plaintiffs are two boys, currently ages 11 and 12; a girl, now 17; and Tewitt Powell, the personal representative of Kevin Powell’s estate. The other defendants include the Vagabond Inn Corp. and a First to Serve nurse who was in charge of providing medical services for Project Roomkey residents.
Kevin Powell applied for housing at the motel and began living there in November 2020, the suit states. Throughout his stay, he was known by the motel staff to suffer from recurrent epileptic seizures, according to the suit.
Residents of the motel along with several staff members, including nurses, had previously seen Kevin Powell have seizures at least twice before the ones that caused his death, the suit states.
When Kevin Powell’s neighbors heard him grunting and crying in the early morning before his death, they went to the nurse’s office and said a wellness check was needed, and Richards also was notified, according to the suit.
“However, the motel personnel refused to perform a wellness check or enter the room to determine … Kevin Powell’s condition,” the suit states. “Nor did they attempt to contact emergency medical services until the discovery of his lifeless body.”
The motel residents were prohibited by its tenant rules from calling 911 to report a crime or medical emergency under the threat that they could be sanctioned up to and including being evicted, according to the suit.
Several of Kevin Powell’s neighbors knocked on his door and yelled his name, but got no response, the suit states.
The defendants breached their duty of care by failing to render Kevin Powell assistance and get him medical attention after being told of his condition by the other residents, the suit alleges. The individual defendants also acted in “reckless or callous disregard” for Kevin Powell’s rights and violated state law, entitling his children to punitive damages against them, the suit states.

First published in the October 21 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

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