The family of a woman who intentionally killed herself by jumping off of a 27-story building in downtown Portland filed a $505,000 lawsuit last week against a building security guard for allegedly enabling the woman to access the roof.
According to police reports released a few days after 46-year-old Juana Elena Valdez died, 20-year-old security guard Tyler Davis Benson told police that he had desperately tried to stop her. He said when he saw Valdez sitting on the edge of the Standard Insurance Center’s roof, he grabbed her by the tops of her shoulders, dug his fingers in and tried to talk her out of jumping.
But he said she leaned forward and when he could no longer hold onto her, she plummeted to the pavement below at 5:14 p.m. on Aug. 3, 2015, according to police reports.
But the lawsuit faults Benson and his employer — AlliedBarton Security Services — for allegedly setting up the circumstances that allowed Valdez to kill herself, by unlocking the door to the roof.
Neither Benson or AlliedBarton Security Services could be reached Sunday for comment about the lawsuit.
According to police reports, Benson said he was in the building’s stairwell on the 25th floor when he realized a woman was walking up the stairs above him. He said two floors later, when he neared the locked door to the roof, he saw that the woman had turned around and was walking down. Benson told police that he tried to talk to the woman as she passed him, but she didn’t respond.
Benson said he then unlocked the door to the roof and held the door open as he looked around to make sure everything was in order. It was then that the woman darted past him and onto the roof, he said.
According to police reports, the guard said he tried to talk to the woman “but she kept walking over to the roof edge and then crawled up onto the ledge and that is when he tried to verbally and physically … stop her.”
Benson told police that “he felt like if he had closed the door behind him this would not have happened,” police reports said. Police said they offered Benson information on how to receive counseling.
The lawsuit claims that Benson “encouraged” Valdez to access the roof and faults him for allegedly “failing to prevent” Valdez from accessing the roof.
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A deputy medical examiner determined that Valdez died by suicide.
Police said that Valdez’s body narrowly missed two pedestrians as it hit the ground along Southwest Salmon Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues. Police said the pedestrians were deeply traumatized by what they saw.
The lawsuit seeks $5,000 for funeral and burial expenses. It also seeks $500,000 in noneconomic damages — typically known as pain and suffering — for Valdez’s estate.
Valdez’s mother — Juana Cervantes Galindo, of Portland — filed the lawsuit as administrator of her daughter’s estate. Valdez was a Hillsboro resident, and had four heirs: Her children, who live in the Republic of Yemen, according to court documents.
Aloha attorney Michael Sahagian is representing Valdez’s estate. The lawsuit was filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Thursday.
Read the lawsuit here.
— Aimee Green