Disabled adult dies when left in hot vehicle. $5.5M. Los Angeles County.


Mentally disabled adult is left in vehicle by transportation service; transport settles, but residential care facility is sued as comparatively liable.

The Case

  • Case Name: Irene Melendez v. Emanuel Arellano et al.
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court / 18STCV00081
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Friday, June 10, 2022
  • Date Action was Filed: Friday, October 05, 2018
  • Type of Case: Elder Abuse
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Peter Hernandez
  • Plaintiffs:
    Irene Melendez
  • Defendants:
    Holy Family Children's Care Inc.
    Evelyn Pascual, care home owner
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $5,513,275
  • Award as to each Defendant:

    Evelyn Pascual: $1,668,275

    Holy Family Children's Care Inc.: $3,845,000

  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: Transportation company and employee driver: 55%; Evelyn Pascual and Holy Family Children's Care Inc.: 45%
  • Economic Damages:

    Evelyn Pascual: $187,500

    Holy Family Children's Care Inc.: $375,000

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Evelyn Pascual: $775

    Holy Family Children's Care Inc.: $250,000

  • Punitive Damages:

    Evelyn Pascual: $1,480,000

    Holy Family Children's Care Inc.: $3,220,000

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 21 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 5 days
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: Plaintiff's will file motion for interest and fees. Defendants to file JNOV.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    West Coast Trial Lawyers APLC by H. Dean Aynechi and Gilland Jones, Los Angeles.

    Valiant Law by Kamran Shahabi, Ontario.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Pleiss Sitar McGrath Hunter & Hallack by Laura Sitar and Lora Ajello, Irvine.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Michael Ritter, M.D., emergency room care.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Jason Tovar, pathology.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    John Abraham, thermal sciences.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Denise Kadar, duty of care.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Decedent Timothy Cortinas, a 51-year-old adult with severe intellectual disability disorder, was left in a car on a hot summer afternoon, where he died of hyperthermia.

    Plaintiff's mother sued his transportation company and residential care facility for his wrongful death. The transportation company settled before trial.


  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That defendant Holy Family Children's Care Inc. and its owner were comparatively liable, reckless, and malicious in failing to do anything when their resident did not come home on time. Timothy was due home between 2:30 and 3:00 p.m. on the day of his death.

    That defendant facility did not notify his mother when he died. She was notified by the coroner's office.

    That defendant facility did not call the transportation company until 6:15 p.m. for the first time to locate Timothy. That they did not call law enforcement until sometime between 7:10 and 730 p.m. That they never called San Gabriel Pomona Regional Center which had after-hours contact information to locate Timothy.

    There were many failures regarding lack of policies and procedures, training, and having relevant contact information that resulted in the above.

    Plaintiff asked for punitive dmages.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    Defendant residential care facility denied liability, and contended that the transportation company and the driver were 100% at fault.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Death and derivative claims of the mother. Pain and suffering of the decedent.

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: Policy limit of $1,000,000 in July 2019.
  • Plaintiff Demand during Trial: Defense counsel states that plaintiffs asked at trial for the jury to award $72,000,000.
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $1,000,000 shortly before trial.