Family of dementia patient files wrongful death suit against conservator, transit agencies

The family of a San Francisco dementia patient who died last year filed a wrongful death suit against transit agencies responsible for his transportation and his conservator for what they call elder abuse and negligence.

San Francisco attorney Ingrid Evans announced the litigation in a news conference on Feb. 8 with members of Kenneth Chin’s family.

Chin, 73, lived in an assisted living facility in San Francisco’s Richmond District and was transported daily by a shuttle operated by MEDSAM Enterprises and San Francisco Paratransit to Irene Swindells Center for Adult Day Services, his family said.

On Feb. 25, 2011, Chin did not arrive at home, and his caregivers immediately alerted police and his conservator, Jewish Family and Children’s Services.

A search for the man lasted several days, until Chin’s body was discovered on March 6 in Lincoln Park, less than a mile from where Chin was supposed to be dropped off.

The night Chin disappeared was cold and stormy, and autopsy results indicated Chin died from hypothermia, Evans said.

“I remember lying awake at night, it was pouring and freezing, I remember praying that he was indoors somewhere,” Chin’s niece, Jennifer Chin said.

The suit alleges that the driver of the shuttle that day, identified by Evans as Eugene Pearlman, was a substitute driver who did not know the regular route and where the riders would be getting off.

He also did not speak English well, Evans said.

Because of this, Chin was negligently dropped off in the wrong location, Evans said, and became confused, wandering around San Francisco for several days before succumbing to the elements.

In addition, Jewish Family and Children’s Services did not notify his family for three hours after being notified of his disappearance.

“He clearly got lost. It was stormy that night, and it was already dark by the time the family was notified,” Evans said.

Chin’s brother, Ernest Chin, said his brother had been in the program of adult day care for a few years and had ridden the same shuttle daily without incident.

Ernest Chin said his brother was a very private and shy person. “He would never have sought help on his own,” he said.

Despite accusing the transit agency, the shuttle bus driver and the conservator of negligence, Evans said that the assisted living facility, located on 35th Avenue in San Francisco, “did everything they were supposed to do.”

She said they called for police to search for Chin right away, and notified Jewish Family and Children’s Services. “It’s a small home with good people who I think did a good job,” Evans said.

Chin had been retired for about eight years when he died, his brother said, and prior to that had worked for the state of California for 10 or 15 years.

He suffered from mild dementia, Evans said, and wasn’t completely impaired, but if dropped off in the wrong location he could easily become confused.

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