Kauai family sues company owned by Mark Zuckerberg over death of security guard
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) — Rodney Medeiros died in August 2019 after suffering a heart attack at Koolau Ranch, the sprawling property owned by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.
His family is now suing Zuckerberg’s company, Pilaa Land, LLC, alleging negligence and wrongful death.
Medeiros, 70, was a retired sugar cane worker. And when the Zuckerbergs visited Kauai, he was a hired part-time seasonal security guard. His post was at Pilaa beach – at the foot of a steep hill.
“They would take him out in a Kawasaki Mule and drive him to his post. And when his shift was over, they would come down and pick him up and bring him back,” said Ziba Medeiros, Rodney’s daughter.
On August 4, 2019, his shift ended at 6 p.m.
“It was the storm. It was raining really hard,” Medeiros said, adding that the Kilauea River swelled – as it often does in heavy rains. Bad weather meant that no one was able to pick up his father at his post.
He was forced to walk up the hill, in the dark, in the mud, all alone.
“It’s a cliff,” Medeiros said. “It’s steep and they told us it drops on both sides.”
Another security guard who got worried when Medeiros didn’t surface went looking for him.
The employee found Medeiros alert, against a tree, clutching his chest.
When the Zuckerbergs are on Garden Isle, medical personnel are also on the ranch.
Ben LaBolt, spokesman for Zuckerberg’s family office, said the on-site doctor provided support and then “transported Mr. Medeiros, who was conscious and communicative, to the ambulance, which transported Mr. Medeiros at Wilcox Hospital”.
Medeiros died a few hours later.
“When he had that heart attack, it tore his whole heart out and he was bleeding,” Ziba Medeiros said.
She only learned of her father’s death the next day.
A report by a cardiologist concluded that “the physical stress of climbing the hill was a significant factor that caused the acute event”.
Lawyers Michael Green and Michael Stern are representing the Medeiros family in the civil lawsuit.
“It didn’t have to happen,” Green said, adding that his research showed the ranch could have upgraded the tires on all four wheels for around $1,000 to allow them to perform even in heavy rain.
“So (Medeiros) wouldn’t have had to walk.”
A week after Medeiros died, a Zuckerberg security official met with his family — a meeting the family recorded. “I spoke to the owner,” we heard on the recording.
“I spoke to Mark and Priscilla after it happened.”
The manager said the Zuckerbergs offered their condolences and said, “We’re sorry.”
In the recording, the manager also repeatedly tells them that the Zuckerbergs are offering money to the family.
“It’s pretty much open,” he said.
He adds: “Do you need help with funeral expenses? Or, I mean, just, do you want to start a memorial fund? »
At least five more times, he asks.
Medeiros’ family never gave a number, thinking they couldn’t put a dollar sign on their grief. “There’s nothing that’s going to fix it, there’s nothing that’s going to bring him back,” Ziba Medeiros said.
But a few days later, someone made that decision for them.
“They ended up giving us a check for $7,500.”
Medeiros said they were shocked and at first grateful.
“We were like, oh wow, that’s so sweet of them,” she said.
But that changed in the following weeks after Medeiros said she was thinking more about how much money billionaires donate.
“It’s $7,500 for our father’s life. Is that supposed to fix things? »
What made Medeiros even more upset was that the security manager had told them that Koolau Ranch often had transportation problems during heavy rains.
“I know, it’s happened on previous visits, the guards have to come up,” he says on the recording.
LaBolt, the Zuckerberg family spokesman, said there is “a training program that all drivers must complete to operate” ranch vehicles.
And about the check for $7,500: LaBolt said it was a contribution “given by Mark and Priscilla” and meant “to help with burial and funeral expenses.”
LaBolt’s statement did not specifically address the wrongful death lawsuit.
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