A US family has demanded an investigation after its patriarch reportedly died within days of having a stroke in his home and being found but left on the floor by a real estate agent who never called anyone for help.
Loved ones of the dead man – 69-year-old Randy Vaughan of North Carolina – are raising questions about whether the realtor should have been expected to do more. The state agency that oversees realtors in North Carolina has indicated it is opening an inquiry into the case and is scheduling interviews with Vaughan’s family about his death, the Winston-Salem Journal newspaper reported Friday.
“It’s about basic decency, caring for your fellow human beings and being a professional,” Vaughan’s brother, Doug, said to the Journal.
The realtor, for her part, reportedly told the Journal she has “an attorney involved” and has “no liability”.
According to the Journal, the Vaughans became worried when they didn’t see or hear from Randy on his grandson’s birthday. His daughter, Heather, drove to his home on 14 February and didn’t see his truck in the driveway, so she called authorities to check whether he was at a weekend house along High Rock Lake that he was selling.
Local sheriff’s office deputies found his truck outside the home, and after using a lockbox code to go inside, they found Randy Vaughan on the ground unresponsive, the Journal reported. Doctors determined that he’d had a stroke, and they took him by helicopter to a hospital in North Carolina.
Things for his family got even worse when they learned from a realtor who was working with Vaughan to sell the house that another agent had been to his place on 13 February to show it to a client. In an online feedback form, that agent described seeing a disrobed Vaughan on the floor and fearing that he was possibly dead. But, after hearing Vaughan groan, the agent speculated that perhaps he had too much to drink while watching the Super Bowl the previous night, and she simply left – without calling for emergency medical help – after she asked if he was OK and got no answer .
“I didn’t want him waking up to me standing over him!” wrote the agent, identified as Ellen-Nora Deese, according to the Journal.
After doctors informed Vaughan’s relatives that he had suffered multiple strokes and developed pneumonia, they opted to move him into hospice care this past Monday. He died Wednesday afternoon, not long after having retired from a career in the heating and air industry, the Journal reported.
Meanwhile, Vaughan’s brother Doug called Deese’s company. Doug Vaughan told the Journal that he read the feedback form during a brief conversation with the company’s head agent and mentioned the state’s Good Samaritan law, which says that anyone in a position to render first aid can’t be sued for civil damages for any actions or omissions as long as they didn’t intentionally inflict wrongdoing.
Doug Vaughan recalled her saying: “If there’s any litigation, I’m going to have to refer you to my lawyer.” He recalled replying with: “Nobody said anything about litigation. I just need you to be aware.”
The newspaper contacted Deese and reported that she told the outlet that she had an attorney involved.
“I have no liability there,” Deese added, according to the Journal. She said she would defer to her company’s broker-in-charge for further comment.
But neither the attorney nor the broker-in-charge had returned messages from the Journal. Deese didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from the Guardian.
Doug Vaughan told the Journal that he contacted North Carolina’s real estate commission to investigate because “no one in their right mind would leave a 69-year-old individual on the floor who is non-responsive without reporting it”.
“I know she assumed she was drunk,” Doug Vaughan told the Journal. “That was a very wrong assumption – my brother doesn’t drink.
“Simply, as a professional and as a human in this life, assumptions are wrong and can be fatal.”
Vaughan’s son, Jamie, added in separate remarks to the Journal: “The reality is, it could have been a different story. With a stroke, it’s critical to get care in the first few hours. This is the world we live in today?”