Irene Melendez described her son Timothy as “my purpose and my life.” When Irene was notified by the coroner on August 4 that her son had died after allegedly being left unattended in a hot car, Irene was heartbroken, and left with many unanswered questions.
Melendez, represented by West Coast Trial Lawyers and Valiant Law, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in the hopes of bringing accountability to the people and organizations she says are responsible for her son’s death. And the lawsuit has already brought new attention and media coverage to this important issue.
What Went Wrong?
Timothy Cortinas, 51, was developmentally disabled. Timmy, as his family called him, only spoke a few words and had the mentality of a young child. According to the lawsuit, filed October 9, Cortinas was supposed to be dropped off at the group home where he lived on August 3, but instead, caretaker Emanuel Arellano allegedly drove to his own residence and went inside, leaving Cortinas in the car alone. Records show the high temperature in the area that day as 97 degrees Fahrenheit.
Attorney Kamran Shahabi of Valiant Law is representing the family. In a recent interview, Shahabi told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, “This is a tragic event. To leave a human being in that temperature is beyond disgusting. It should not happen to any family.”
Shining a Light on Neglect
Shahabi is not alone in feeling disgusted by the circumstances of this tragedy, which he and Valiant Law believe was entirely preventable. Interest in the story resulted in coverage from several news outlets, including Spanish-language station Telemundo 52, and several reporters shared the story on Twitter.
At 11pm — a mother’s anguish over the death of her severely mentally disabled son. Timothy Cortinas, 51, died in a hot car back in August.
His mom says he was “fried alive,” after a driver/caretaker left him in a car instead of taking him home. pic.twitter.com/PcglWrSwBv
— Veronica Miracle (@ABC7Veronica) October 10, 2018
Some interviews are really tough to get through. Talking with grieving mother Irene Melendez was absolutely heartbreaking. Her developmentally disabled son died in a hot car. He was her pride and joy and now she wants change. @CBSLA pic.twitter.com/utv5Nyof8t
— Nicole Comstock (@ComstockNEWS) October 10, 2018
Los Angeles’ KTLA 5 News also covered the story, reporting that a criminal investigation is underway. The suit names Easterseals, San Gabriel/Pomona Valley’s Developmental Services, Holy Family Children’s Care and Emanuel Arellano, an Easterseals employee, as defendants.
According to CBSLA’s report, the group home notified authorities that Cortinas did not return, but they did not have the new driver’s phone number to contact him. Shahabi told CBSLA, “When someone who’s disabled is left entrusted to these individuals you need to have some protocol and procedure,”
Family Turns to Valiant Law to Demand Accountability
The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount in general, punitive and special damages, and alleges negligent hiring, neglect of a dependent adult and false imprisonment, among other charges.
Melendez, who describes herself as her son’s advocate, hopes the suit will bring about justice for those who cannot speak.
Valiant Law is committed to helping families affected by preventable tragedies like this one. Our firm is honored to represent Irene Melendez as she seeks answers and accountability on behalf of her son Timothy. To learn more about how Valiant Law aggressively works to assist families and individuals in the Los Angeles area, contact us today.