Just after Thanksgiving, Casey Kasem's brother and his three children filed a lawsuit against Casey's widow, Jean Kasem. The lawsuit accuses Jean of elder abuse and attributes Kasem's death specifically to "Jean's neglect and physical abuse." The relatives are also seeking over $250,000 in damages, with their suit referring to the extreme emotional distress caused by Jean limiting their visitations with Casey, and burying his body in an unmarked grave in Norway.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Casey Kasem, he is best known for his "American Top 40," a radio show that Kasem began in 1970, and Ryan Seacrest took over in 2004. He was also the infamous voice of Shaggy in the Scooby-Doo TV cartoons, and could be heard in numerous commercials as well. Kasem died in 2014, under suspicious circumstances, after suffering from Parkinson's, dementia, and numerous physical ailments. He was under the care of his wife of 30 years, Jean Kasem. Jean is the stepmother to his three children, Kerri, Julie, and Mike.
Prior to Kasem's death, his daughter Kerri had been involved in a legal battle with Jean Kasem that included a proposed conservatorship, upwards of $400,000 in legal fees, and 12 different sets of attorneys. Since his death, Kerri has fought to bring attention to her father's case and elder abuse in general. In addition to numerous tv and radio interviews, Kerri helped promote elder abuse legislation (AB 2034) in California that would allow family members more access to loved ones without the necessity of a conservatorship.
According to AP News sources, Kerri and her attorneys stated that one of the primary reasons the lawsuit against Jean was brought was to raise awareness about elder abuse in California and around the country.
The legal fight over Kasem's medical care appears to have begun in December of 2013. At this point, Jean placed Kasem in a Tarzana hospital in Southern California, and hired a security guard to monitor and restrict visits to him by his children. The lawsuit also notes how Casey's brother Mouner (who has also brought the lawsuit) was required to sign agreements each day his visited Casey in the hospital.
Casey was moved to a Santa Monica Convalescent hospital during the next few months, and Kerri filed for a temporary conservatorship, which would allow her medical decision making powers on behalf of her father. Upon hearing of the conservatorship from her attorney, Jean Kasem secretly placed Kasem in an SUV and drove him to Las Vegas. Some reports reference Jean's report that Kerri had wanted to "pull the plug" on her ailing father. It is unclear if this was what led Jean to take such drastic action. When an LA Probate Court Judge questioned Jean about Casey's whereabouts, she reportedly told him he was out of the country. By June 2, 2014, the media caught wind of an all out blowout between Kerri and Jean, when Kerri eventually located her father in Washington state. Multiple ambulances and a fire truck arrived at the scene of a Silverdale residence where Kerri was trying to get her father taken to a hospital. Upon seeing Kerri, Jean pitched nearly a pound of raw hamburger meat at her. Eventually, paramedics were able to locate Casey and take him to a nearby hospital. His ailments included severe bedsores, lung infection, and bladder infection.
At this point, Kerri was able to gain control over her father's medical decisions and oversaw his care at a Washington hospital until he died on June 15, 2014. The details surrounding his death are unclear and unsettling. There are reports Kerri pulled him off life support, after which Jean obtained his body and may have placed it in a freezer. At some point just after his death, Jean transported the body to Norway, where she buried it in an unmarked grave. Concerns about his burial are part of the most recent lawsuit.
Understandably distraught by her father's dramatic death, Kerri and her family pressed Los Angeles courts to pursue a case against Jean Kasem for elder abuse and neglect. LA District Attorney Belle Chen concluded after her investigation that Jean had made "continuous efforts to ensure Mr. Kasem was medically supervised." In addition, she found the evidence to charge Jean Kasem with elder abuse or neglect was insufficient.
"We would rather see her in jail than receive one dime," Kerri Kasem said. "We don't care about the money. We care about justice."
Justice may be hard to come by in prosecuting Elder Abuse cases in California and society at large. While an experienced Elder Abuse attorney may not necessarily be able to deliver complete justice for their client, prosecuting elder abuse through the legal system often leads to safer, improved circumstances for the endangered elder. Read Part 2 for a closer look at the issues and challenges of prosecuting an elder abuse case in California.
If you have questions about an Elder abuse case, or suspect elder abuse may be occurring, call my Walnut Creek Elder Law Firm at 925-322-1763 for a free consultation.