Family alleges negligence in death of security guard for Mark Zuckerberg’s Hawaii compound
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Rodney Medeiros died in August 2019 after suffering a heart attack on Koolau Ranch, the sprawling property owned by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.
His family is now suing the Zuckerberg’s company, Pilaa Land, LLC, claiming negligence and wrongful death.
Medeiros, 70, was a retired sugar cane worker.
When the Zuckerbergs were visiting Kauai, he was hired as a part-time, seasonal security guard.
His post was at Pilaa beach — at the bottom of a steep hill.
“They would take him with a Kawasaki Mule and drive him to his post. And when his shift was over they would go down and pick him up and bring him back up,” said Ziba Medeiros, Rodney’s daughter.
On Aug. 4, 2019, his shift ended at 6 p.m.
“It was storming. It was raining really bad,” Medeiros said, adding that the Kilauea river had swelled — as it often does during heavy rains. The severe weather meant no one was able to pick up her father from his post.
He was forced to walk up the hill, in the dark, in the mud, by himself.
“It’s a cliff,” Medeiros said. “It’s steep and they told us it drops on both sides.”
Another security guard, who grew worried when Medeiros didn’t surface, went to look for him.
The employee found Medeiros leaning against a tree. He was alert but holding his chest.
When the Zuckerbergs are on the Garden Isle, medical staff is also on the ranch.
Ben LaBolt, a spokesperson for the Zuckerberg’s family office, said the the on-site medic provided support and then “transported Mr. Medeiros, who was conscious and communicative, to the ambulance, which rushed Mr. Medeiros to Wilcox Hospital.”
Medeiros died hours later.
“When he had that heart attack, it ripped a hole in his heart so he was bleeding out,” said Ziba Medeiros.
She didn’t find out her father died until the next day.
A report from a cardiologist concluded “the physical stress of climbing the hill was a substantial factor that caused the acute event.”
Attorneys Michael Green and Michael Stern are representing the Medeiros family in the civil lawsuit.
“It didn’t need to happen,” Green said, adding his research showed the ranch could have upgraded the tires on the four wheelers for about $1,000 to allow them to be operable even in heavy rain.
“Then (Medeiros) wouldn’t have had to walk.”
A week after Medeiros died, a security manager for the Zuckerbergs met with his family — a meeting that the family recorded. “I talked to the owner,” the manager is heard saying on the recording.
“I talked to both Mark and Priscilla after this happened.”
The manager said the Zuckerbergs offered condolences and said, “We’re sorry.”
In the recording the manager also repeatedly tells the family that the Zuckerbergs are offering them money.
“it’s pretty much open,” he is heard saying.
He adds: “Do you need help with the funeral expenses? Or, I mean, just, do you want to start a memorial fund?”
He asks several times.
Medeiros’ family never gave a number, thinking they couldn’t put a dollar sign on their grief.
“There’s nothing that’s going to make it OK, There’s nothing that’s going to bring him back,” said Ziba Medeiros.
But days later, someone made that decision for them.
“They ended up giving us a check for $7,500.”
Medeiros said they were shocked and at first, grateful.
“We were like, oh wow, this is so nice of them,” she said.
But that changed over the next few weeks after Medeiros said she thought more about the amount of money from the billionaires.
“It’s $7,500 for our father’s life. Is this supposed to make it OK?” she said.
What made Medeiros even more upset was that the security manager had told them Koolau Ranch frequently has transportation issues during heavy rains.
“I know it’s happened on previous visits, the guards have to walk up,” he is heard saying on the recording.
LaBolt, the Zuckerberg family spokesperson, said there is “a training program all drivers must undergo to operate” the vehicles on the ranch.
And about the $7,500 check: LaBolt said that was a contribution “given by Mark and Priscilla” and was meant “to help with burial and funeral expenses.”
LaBolt’s statement did not respond specifically to the wrongful death lawsuit.
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