Nevada Woman Died of Heat Stress While Waiting for Air Conditioning to Be Fixed, Family Claims in Lawsuit
Courtesy Christian Morris
An elderly woman died last summer from environmental heat stress while waiting for her air conditioner to be fixed — despite her request for repairs, a new lawsuit claims.
Virginia DeSapio, 82, was found dead inside her Henderson, Nevada, home on Aug. 22, according to a wrongful death lawsuit filed on March 10 in Clark County District Court and obtained by PEOPLE.
Around that time, temperatures in Las Vegas "were often in excess of in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit and reached highs of 110 degrees Fahrenheit," the complaint states, noting that when the coroner arrived, it was approximately 120 degrees Fahrenheit inside the home.
"The last time Virginia spoke to a family member was on August 16th, when she called her nephew to wish him a happy birthday," her family's attorney, Christian Morris, told PEOPLE. "She told him about her air conditioner being out, but said that she was in touch with the warranty company and they were going to fix it; even though they had cancelled the appointment to come out to inspect it."
As detailed in the complaint, DeSapio allegedly requested Fidelity National Home Warranty Company, which had a contract to provide services to her home, to fix her cooling system on Aug. 11. According to court documents, DeSapio paid Fidelity National $635 annually for their services, including heating and air conditioning repairs.
PEOPLE's attempts to reach Fidelity National for comment were not immediately successful.
The complaint claims that per the contract, Fidelity National was required to start emergency service work within 24 hours of receiving the request. An appointment was scheduled for the next day, but then "put on hold," the lawsuit alleges.
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Another appointment scheduled for Aug. 15 was also put on hold, and Fidelity National "specifically noted that the reason for the delay was 'Technician researching pricing,'" the complaint claims.
At the time, the company informed her the new estimated date of completion for the emergency repairs was Aug. 22, per the complaint. That day, DeSapio was found dead, according to the lawsuit, which also states that her dog "succumbed to environmental heat stress sometime later."
Morris told PEOPLE: "This is a case where Fidelity National put the price of a part over the value of human life. Virginia paid her premiums and trusted that Fidelity would hold up their end of the bargain. Their negligence is unacceptable and is also in direct violation of Nevada law, which recognizes the emergent need for air conditioning systems to be repaired."
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The family's claim alleges that Fidelity National continued to call and email DeSapio, unaware of her death, and pushed the estimated repair date to Aug. 31.
That day, the company allegedly emailed DeSapio, stating that it had ordered the necessary tools, which could take up to 15 days to be delivered.
The repairs were eventually completed on Sept. 5, the complaint states, 26 days after DeSapio filed a claim and two weeks after she was found dead.
DeSapio also had lung cancer, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, citing the Clark County coroner's office.
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"She was an incredibly independent and sweet woman," Morris told PEOPLE of DeSapio. "During her life, she had worked as an individual stock market investor and was incredibly close to her siblings and nephews. She was also a life-long animal lover and an active and friendly neighbor."
The complaint reveals DeSapio's nephews are suing for $15,000 to cover her funeral expenses and their emotional suffering. The nephews live in Florida and Washington state.
"This should never have happened to Virginia and her family does not want this to happen to anyone else," Morris told PEOPLE. "Fidelity is in the business of home repairs and know people are relying on them to live up to their promises. August in Nevada is one of our hottest months. Instead, they simply took Virginia's money under the contract, and then chose profits over their customer's health and safety."