The family of a Portland homeless woman who died two years ago following a sweep of her campsite filed a court notice today stating they plan to sue a city contractor for her wrongful death. In the filing, the husband and son of Debby Ann Beaver allege that the contractor removed medication in her tent that could have saved her life.
The July 28 filing in Multnomah County Circuit Court says Beaver, 57, died on the corner of Southeast 35th Avenue and Yamhill Street on July 24, 2019—one week after her camp was swept by Rapid Response Bioclean.
Marie Tyvoll, a volunteer advocate for the homeless, sent a written declaration to the court Wednesday, alleging the loss of medications led to Beaver’s death. “[Debby] was this lovely, lovely person who suffered from horrible chronic diseases and a disability,” Tyvoll says.
Tyvoll tells WW that, in talking to witnesses and those who knew Beaver, she learned Beaver “kept a slew of medications in a little bag, and [Rapid Response] took that bag.”
The attorney preparing the wrongful death lawsuit, Michael Fuller, says Beaver’s medication was to “treat symptoms from seizures due to a head injury, high blood pressure and diabetes.”
The legal filing arrives on the eve of a planned sweep of a large homeless camp at Laurelhurst Park. Fuller says he hopes the filing will cause city officials to reconsider their sweep plans until he can present his case.
“We respectfully ask the city to stop future sweeps until the wrongful death claim against Rapid Response can be fully investigated,” Fuller tells WW.
Rapid Response Bioclean and Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office did not immediately respond to WW’s request for comment.
Last year, the newspaper Street Roots took a close look at the circumstances of Beaver’s death.
The nature of today’s court filing is fairly technical. Before a lawsuit is filed for wrongful death, the court must appoint someone to stand in for the person who died. Fuller says this initial paperwork is “asking the court to appoint a personal representative to file a wrongful death case against Rapid Response.”
Beaver’s widowed husband, Scott Rupp, nominated Portland attorney Kelly Jones to serve as a personal representative for Beaver.
There’s a three-year window for family of the deceased to pursue a wrongful death case.
Along with the paperwork, a declaration must be submitted from someone who can attest to what happened. The person who wrote the declaration is Tyvoll, the volunteer homeless advocate, who says she met Rupp earlier this year and started talking to those who witnessed the sweeps and Beaver’s death.
In Tyvoll’s statement, she alleges that the Rapid Response Bioclean team swept Beaver’s camp at the corner of 35th and Yamhill on July 16, 2019, and took her medication during the sweep.
Tyvoll’s declaration states, in part: “Rapid Response wrongfully took Ms. Beaver’s medication in a sweep that occurred on July 16, 2019. Rapid Response wrongfully failed to return Ms. Beaver’s medication by the time of her death on July 24, 2019 at the corner of SE 35th and Yamhill, where there currently sits a memorial next to where her tent was swept.”
It adds: ”At the wrongful death trial, multiple witnesses and various documents will prove more likely than not that Rapid Response’s wrongful acts and omissions were a substantial factor in causing the death of Ms. Beaver.”
Sandy Lofy works for Beacon PDX, a housing nonprofit that was called the Sunnyside Community House at the time of Beaver’s death. The community center was located next to the camp where Beaver lived, which had five to 10 tents in it, Lofy estimates.
Lofy says Beaver and Rupp were frequent visitors for lunches and dinners.
“Debby had a lot of medical issues, but she was quite the strong and mighty woman. She was petite, but she had a mouth on her that she really spoke up for people and can really put them in their place,” Lofy says.
Lofy was also there in the direct aftermath of Beaver’s death.
“We saw her lying there on the ground, and the police had just pulled up, and Rapid Response was there. And one of the [Rapid Response] workers was yelling and screaming, and our guys were screaming back at them. I went toward Debby and knelt down, and I could tell she had already passed away,” Lofy says. “A policewoman said, ‘You need to get away from her. It’s a crime scene.’ I knelt down and kissed her hand and said, ‘God bless you.’”
Lofy says the police took Beaver’s body away.
“As soon as the police left, Rapid Response came back and swept the rest of them,” Lofy alleges.