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Saturday, June 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Kasem Family Lawsuit Turns Toward Nasty

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Radio host Casey Kasem's widow Jean Kasem hastened his death by removing him from medical care and refusing to let his children see him, his family claims in court.

Casey Kasem's children Kerri, Julie, and Michael Kasem and his brother Mouner Kasem sued Jean Kasem on Nov. 25 in Superior Court, alleging wrongful death, elder abuse and infliction of emotional distress.

"The facts demonstrate an extraordinarily egregious case of elder abuse and isolation," their attorney Steven Shuman told Courthouse News in an email Monday.

"Casey was doing as well as could be expected and was free of infection and bedsores at a skilled nursing care facility until Jean took him on a three-week road trip without proper medical and nursing care.

"After Jean's road trip with Casey, he had at least three infections, a large and deep bedsore, and blood in his urine. He was malnourished and his systems were shutting down. And three loving children lost their father prematurely," Shuman wrote.

"They and Casey's brother are now looking to the civil court system to try to get justice for Casey."

Casey Kasem died on June 15 in Gig Harbor, Wash. He had Alzheimer's, dementia and Lewy body disorder, a progressive degenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain that control thinking and memory.

His children and brother claim Jean was directly involved in his death by interfering with his medical treatment and isolating him from his loved ones.

Jean admitted Casey to Providence Tarzana Hospital in early December 2013, but did not tell his family where he was until a week later. "When she did, she placed severe restrictions on their visits. She allowed a total of one hour visiting daily, twenty minutes for each child, and only one visitor at a time. ... Casey would ask them to stay [longer], but they were not allowed to," according to the complaint.

The Kasem children claim that hospital guards refused to let them see their dad outside of Jean's visiting schedule, and that a private guard hired by Jean monitored all their visits.

About two weeks after Casey was hospitalized, Jean insisted on moving him to a nursing home. But she never came to pick him up after the hospital discharged him and "steadfastly refused to allow the hospital to put in a feeding tube or tube for fluid intake," the complaint states.

After "languishing" in the hospital for 11 days, he was admitted to the intensive care unit for sepsis and shock, where he stayed until Jan. 3, 2014, according to the complaint.

Mouner Kasem says he had to get Jean's permission before he could fly out from Michigan to see his brother. After he and his wife, Mary, arrived at the hospital on Jan. 9, Jean forced them to sign a visiting agreement before they could see Casey. Among other things, the agreement banned them from bringing cameras into the room and talking with Casey's doctors and required them to keep their visit secret, even from other family members, Mouner says.


"During this entire time, there were no medical restrictions on Casey receiving visitors. To the contrary, doctors said it would be better for him to be around people he loved and to have stimulation, rather than to be isolated. Casey frequently smiled and showed visible pleasure during the plaintiffs' brief visits and asked them not to leave," the complaint states.

Once Casey was well enough to be discharged, his family says, Jean played musical hospitals with him until she finally put him in the Berkley East Convalescent Hospital in Santa Monica, without telling his family where he was.

Julie Kasem says she learned of her father's whereabouts in early March, from a reporter. Julie says she made a deal with Jean to reveal her source in exchange for a two-hour visit with her dad, but Jean reneged on the deal.

Since Jean would not let Casey's family see him, they say, they had to celebrate his 82nd birthday outside the nursing home and send the balloons to his room afterward.

Kerri and Julie say they finally got to see their dad after their attorney persuaded the nursing home that Jean could not legally bar them from visiting him.

"Casey was delighted, smiling and kissing his daughters. Jean called the police to have them removed. Casey had tears in his eyes as they left and asked them to stay," the complaint states.

After being kicked out of Casey's room, Kerri says, she told Jean she intended to seek temporary conservatorship of her dad. A day later, Jean "stormed" into the nursing home, removed Casey against medical advice, and moved him to a hotel in Las Vegas - again without telling his children, according to the complaint.

Though the court granted Kerri's conservatorship in May, Jean staunchly refused to tell her where her dad was and even falsely claimed he was out of the country. Sam Ingham, the court-appointed probate volunteer, finally found out Casey was in the Vegas hotel, where he was in desperate need of medical attention, the plaintiffs say.

But before the family could get to Casey, "Jean was on the move again with her ailing, medically unattended, and now malnourished husband in tow," the complaint states.

The family claims Jean chartered a plane to Washington state and holed up with a childhood friend in Silverdale, a small town in Kitsap County, to keep Casey beyond their reach.

Though Casey had been relatively healthy when Jean took him from Berkley East, after a week without proper medical care, nutrition or medication, he was suffering from a large, deep bedsore infected with two kinds of bacteria, the complaint states.

Jean finally called a doctor, who ordered a feeding tube formula rather than the Ensure drinks Jean was giving Casey. She also hired an in-home care service, but scheduled just three one-hour sessions a week despite his fragile health, according to the complaint.

Kerri says she learned of her dad's whereabouts after Jean held a press conference. She immediately went to Silverdale to see Casey, but Jean refused her access and held another press conference claiming she and Casey were on vacation.

A judge ruled in Kerri's favor and ordered Casey hospitalized for treatment. But when Kerri and an investigator came to pick him up, "Jean's biker security people physically assaulted the investigator and prevented Kerri from visiting. Nevertheless, Kerri had Casey taken to St. Anthony Hospital by ambulance. ... Jean screamed objections, threw raw ground beef at the people trying to assist her desperately ill husband, called Kerri an intrusive psycho, shouted biblical references about King David and yelled repeatedly 'to the dogs,'" the complaint states.

Casey was admitted with a slew of medical issues, including a urinary tract infection, the stage 3 bedsore, septic shock, and a lung infection, according to the complaint. Jean and her bikers showed up the next day and "engaged in a threatening, table-pounding rant" to make the hospital discharge Casey, but staff called police instead, the complaint states.

Thanks to Jean's neglect and abuse, the plaintiffs say, Casey's condition deteriorated to the point that his body could not absorb fluids or digest feedings. He died on June 15, 2014, Father's Day, due to complications from staph and other infections.

Adding to their pain, the plaintiffs say, Jean "had Casey's body transferred to Norway and buried there in an unmarked grave without a ceremony."

That violated Casey's express wishes to be buried at Forest Lawn in Los Angeles, where his family could visit his grave, according to the complaint.

His children say Jean's repulsive neglect of their ill father and her decision to bury him in an unmarked grave in a foreign country caused them to suffer "grief and sorrow" and emotional distress, and prematurely deprived them of his love and companionship.

Jean Kasem could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

The plaintiffs seek $250,000 for "pain and suffering of Casey during his lifetime," and punitive and damages.

Their attorney Steven Schuman is with Engstrom, Lipscomb & Lack.

Casey Kasem was best known for hosting the "American Top 40" in the 1970s and doing voiceovers for shows such as "Scooby-Do" and "Sesame Street."

Kasem married Jean in 1980. The couple had one child, Liberty, in 1990.

Jean is best known for appearing in "Ghostbusters" (1984), "The Tortellis" (1987) and "The Story Lady" (1991). Now she designs round and heart-shaped cribs through her company, the Little Miss Liberty Round Crib Company.

In March 2014, Jean sued former employee Hilda Loza, claiming Loza was trying to extort hush money by claiming on television that the company owed her wages.

Jean is also embroiled in a probate battle with Casey's children, who say she has no claim to the more than $2 million in benefits from his MetLife life insurance policy, because she was involved in his death.

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