Settlement made in suit over death of woman

From The Oregonian, August 10, 1988 – not available elsewhere online

A nearly 3-year-old lawsuit filed after a mentally ill woman died in the King City area in 1984 has been settled out of court.

The case, brought by Dorothy Berglund of Forest Grove for the alleged wrongful death of her daughter, Evelyn J. Berglund, was settled Friday, said Berglund’s lawyer, James D. Huegli. It had been scheduled to go to trial Tuesday.

“It has been settled to our satisfaction,” Huegli said, adding that the settlement included an agreement not to disclose the amount of money involved.

The complaint had charged that the Oregon Mental Health Division, the Washington County Mental Health Department, and Luke-Dorf Inc., a residential care center under contract to the county, were careless, negligent and in breach of their duty of care for Evelyn Berglund. It asked for $300,000 in damages.

According to the lawsuit, the 32-year-old woman, who had been discharged from Dammasch State Hospital on July 12, 1984, was sent five days later by bus from the residential care center to attend training at Open Gate Treatment Center. She was accompanied only by another patient.

The suit contended that Berglund became confused and afraid and got off at the wrong stop — the King City Plaza. Her remains were found Jan. 29, 1985, in a wooded area about a quarter-mile from the shopping center. The cause of death was determined to be exposure, hypothermia and catatonic schizophrenia .

The complaint alleged that the state Mental Health Division released the woman before it was reasonable and safe to do so and placed her in care of Washington County without reasonable guidelines or directions. It also claimed that the county placed her in the care of Luke-Dorf without sufficient direction for her care and safety and neglected to reasonably supervise her care, and the suit claimed that Luke-Dorf was negligent in putting her on a public bus unsupervised.

While the case may have been settled satisfactorily in a legal sense, Dorothy Berglund said the issue was settled “scarcely to my satisfaction.” Some personal factors weighed heavily for accepting the settlement, she said.

Berglund said she felt that legal research for the case had uncovered “appalling” information regarding the care of mental patients in the state — evidence that would have been introduced at a trial.

“I feel that justice has been ill-served,” she said. “I’m deeply disappointed.”

Berglund said that through her contact with the national Alliance for the Mentally Ill, a support group, she had heard of many more deaths and suicides of mental patients.

“All too many people fall through the cracks,” she said.