A couple who, along with an 80-year-old woman, all previously tested positive for the coronavirus and recovered can resume living with and caring for the octogenarian at her Wilshire Boulevard condominium, despite concerns by the homeowner association that the pair endangered others with their conduct earlier this summer, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant issued a temporary restraining order allowing Kim Leong and her husband, Chandar Pandey, to enter the Diplomat Condominiums building and look after plaintiff Lynn Thompson, who has dementia.
The order is good through Sept. 29, but the judge said he may rule differently next time if lawyers for the Diplomat Condominium Association Inc. convince him that Thompson lacked the mental capacity to bring a lawsuit and that the caregivers were reckless in their prior conduct.
Chalfant said Thompson, who has been living with her caregivers at their Studio City home, has always had the right to return to her condominium and that the only issue is the prior behavior of the caregivers.
Corey J. Spivey, one of Thompson’s attorneys, praised the ruling, saying the judge recognized the importance of Thompson being in the company of her caregivers. He said the high-rise Diplomat building is closer to Thompson’s doctors than is the Studio City home of Leong and Pandey.
The suit was filed Friday and also names as a defendant Diplomat homeowner association President Berna Lynn Warner, an attorney who is representing herself in the suit. She said in a sworn statement that she is a senior citizen with pre-existing conditions and that many residents and employees are, as well.
Warner also said Thompson has lived at the Diplomat building for only 2 1/2 days during the last five months.
According to the suit, Thompson suffers from dementia and from dystonia, a neurological movement disorder that confines her to a wheelchair and requires around-the-clock assistance from Leong and Pandey. Thompson needs the pair’s assistance to bathe, eat and go to the restroom, the suit says.
At least one of the caregivers has been with Thompson nearly every day for the last nine years, so both have a deep understanding of her needs, according to the complaint.
Thompson and the caregivers were diagnosed with COVID-19 in late July, and she was briefly hospitalized and released on July 30, he suit states. Since the caregivers were mainly symptom-free and wanted to care for Thompson, doctors recommended that the trio quarantine together at her condo so that the plaintiff could continue to receive the care she needed, the suit states.
Thompson became sick with an unrelated illness on Aug. 1 and was taken to a hospital by paramedics, who were told by the caregivers that they and the plaintiff had the coronavirus, according to the suit, which says one of the paramedics gave that information to a Diplomat valet.
“The manager of the Diplomat … then called the caregivers and told them they needed to leave the building immediately,” the suit says.
The HOA president subsequently said Thompson and her caregivers could come back to the Diplomat, but only if they agree to provide COVID-free test results taken within 48 hours of entering the building and that they be quarantined in Thompson’s unit for 14 days, the suit states.
While quarantining, the caregivers made few trips out of the unit, wore masks in common spaces, washed their hands before and after coming into any common spaces and never came into close contact with anyone other than each other, according to the suit, which says Leong’s only trip out of the unit was to get Thompson’s oxygen in the middle of one night.
But according to homeowner association attorney Glen L. Kulik’s court papers, Leong and Pandey used the Diplomat’s two elevators and walked down hallways and in the lobby and garage without telling the building manager that they were infected.
“They exhibited callous, reckless behavior that put at risk the health and safety of all the residents and staff who must share elevators, narrow hallways, and other common areas with one another,” Kulik stated. “A large percentage of the residents are senior citizens. Many have underlying health conditions and are thus at high risk.”
Contrary to what the caregivers now say, Pandey was in and out of the building about 20 times and both he and Leong brought a child into the high-rise who was seen playing in the hallway, according to Kulik’s court papers.
Kulik told the judge he can provide video evidence as well as statements by employees and residents about the alleged reckless behavior by the caregivers for the next hearing. He said there was insufficient time to compile the information by Wednesday.
Kulik also told the judge that given Thompson’s mental state, the lack of a declaration from her showing she is in charge of her lawsuit makes him wonder if she even knows the case was filed.
In his court papers, Kulik said the homeowner association “suspects that Ms. Thompson’s life is under the control of” Leong and Pandey, who have latched onto her and are calling the shots for their own reasons and for their own benefit.