STOCKTON, Calif. (CN) – The widow of a deceased dementia patient claims a car dealer took her confused, wheelchair-bound husband away from an assisted living facility, drove him to its lot to sell him a $38,000 Dodge Ram pickup though he was physically unable to sign his name, then watched him drive off, to die of a heart attack after being stopped by the Highway Patrol.
Janet Davis sued Cabral-Western Motors, William Cabral and Jeannette Mendoza, in San Joaquin County Court.
Davis says she and her late husband Donald had a longtime relationship with Cabral-Western Motors, of Manteca, and its owner, William D. Cabral, buying a dozen cars and trucks from the dealership over a 20-year period.
In 2009, Janet Davis took away her husband’s driver’s license, believing that her husband’s failing health and increasing confusion and forgetfulness made it dangerous for him to drive. She also returned a minivan and pickup truck to Cabral for resale or consignment.
“At the time, Janet Davis informed William Cabral that she and Donald could not keep the vehicles because of their financial programs and because of Donald’s health problems,” the complaint states. “William Cabral accepted the return of Davis’ vehicles under the circumstances.”
By October 2010, Donald Davis’s condition had deteriorated to the point that his wife admitted him to the Palm Haven Convalescent Hospital in Manteca. He was subsequently transferred to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with shortness of breath, hypothyroidism, dementia, renal insufficiency, coronary artery disease and benign prostate hyperplasia, with a recent diagnosis of prostate carcinoma, according to the complaint. Tests also revealed the Donald Davis had elevated cardiac enzymes, suggesting that he had undergone a “cardiac event” before his admission.
In late 2010, he was transferred to a center for rehabilitation. By that time, “Donald was unable to stand or walk without assistance, and required a wheelchair to travel more than a few steps,” his wife says.
She says physicians and nurses at his new home noted that “Donald required extensive assistance with mobility, and with transfers from his wheelchair to bed and toilet, and that he exhibited extensive periods of forgetfulness and confusion.”
Davis says that on the morning of Oct. 28, 2010, her husband called Cabral Motors and asked to be picked up from the rehabilitation center so he could buy a new pickup truck. She claims William Cabral sent Mendoza, who found Donald Davis waiting in his wheelchair dressed in sweatpants, slippers and a shirt.
Mendoza wheeled Davis to the truck, but “because of his weakness, Donald was unable to climb into the driver’s seat and fell backwards” into her arms, the widow says.
“Despite this clear indication of Donald’s weakness and instability, Jeannette Mendoza helped Donald climb into the passenger’s seat, and … put his wheelchair in the back of the pickup truck and drove him to the Cabral Motors dealership,” the complaint states.
At the dealership, Cabral and Mendoza, “approved, authorized, caused and facilitated” the “purported sale,” though Donald was in such poor shape he “was not even capable of affixing his signature to the documents,” and despite the fact that he “had no funds, checkbook or wallet with him, nor was he carrying his driver’s license, or any proof of insurance,” his wife says.
That very day, Donald’s sister arrived to visit her brother, only to find him missing. She called Janet Davis and they went to Donald’s room, where they found the Cabral Motors phone number on a notepad. After a salesman told the woman that Donald Davis had been there in the time he’d been at work, they called police and reported Donald Davis missing.
At about 6 p.m., hours after he left the dealership, Donald Davis was seen driving erratically on an interstate near Pleasanton. “They pursued him for approximately three (3) miles, at speeds sometimes exceeding 100 miles per hour, before Donald pulled over his vehicle,” the widow says.
The officer found that Davis was “frail, ill, very confused and did not seem to know where he was,” the complaint states. Davis was taken by ambulance to Valley Care Hospital in Pleasanton, but suffered a heart attack and did shortly after arrival.
The next day, while investigating, Manteca police visited Cabral Motors and found that the dealership had retrieved the pickup truck from where it had been impounded, had rescinded the sales contract, and “was already in the process of cleaning the vehicle, thereby destroying any evidence of Donald’s condition that might have been contained in the truck,” the complaint states.
But police were able to retrieve paperwork from the truck, as well as Donald Davis’s slippers, eyeglasses and shirt. The police also found that, between the time the truck was delivered to Davis and the time the truck was examined, it had been driven more than 300 miles, though Pleasanton is only 42 miles from Manteca.
Davis believes her husband drove more that 300 miles, “by reason of his physical condition and his extreme mental confusion, fear and distress, Donald had been lost, panicked and unable to find his way home or to the care facility; that Donald was unable to get out of the truck to relieve himself and that Donald had been deprived of rest, food, water and medication and that all of these factors had contributed to the extreme stress that resulted in his heart attack and death.”
She seeks punitive damages for negligence, willful misconduct, elder abuse and wrongful death.
She is represented by A. Peter Rausch Jr., of Lodi.