Woodland Hills is back in the news again, at the forefront of a wrongful death lawsuit from 2012. Kendall Oates was a resident of Woodland Hills when he suffered a seizure and died. According to The Tennessean, Kendall may have been lying dead in his room for hours, since the security guards failed to check on him every 15 minutes as they are required to do.

The seizure may have occurred because the Woodland Hills medical staff wasn’t giving Kendall his medication; there was no trace of the anti-seizure meds in his body when the autopsy was done. Kendall also wore a bracelet that activated a seizure-regulating device implanted in his chest. The bracelet was missing the day Kendall died; it was later found in a guard booth.

Kendall’s parents sued the Department of Children’s Services. His mother spent a year trying to regain custody of her son, and the newspaper uncovered two separate instances when the DCS overruled a judge who wanted Kendall transferred to a facility that could take proper care of him.

Now it’s too late, and another family is devastated by the loss of their child.

How a wrongful death lawsuit works

When you file a wrongful death lawsuit in Tennessee, you must prove that the negligence of another person or party led to the death of your loved one, a death that otherwise could have been avoided. In Tennessee, you can sue for emotional or financial support.

In this case, however, the Oates’ may have sued for something more. Almost 200 children in the DCS system died or nearly died in 2012. In fact, Kendall’s story was reported to the newspaper by a handful of Woodland Hills staff members who has serious misgivings about the institution and the DCS in general. Since Kendall’s death didn’t necessarily affect the finances of his upper-class family, the lawsuit was surely about emotional distress, and perhaps about teaching the DCS a lesson.

We grieve for the life of Kendall Oates, and for the future his family will have without him. In cases such as this, a wrongful death lawsuit might be what keeps another family from experiencing the same heartbreak. It’s awful to think that the only way to get a state run facility or program to change their ways is by hitting them where it hurts – their pockets.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Kendall’s family and loved ones. May they finally find the peace they so richly deserve.