Wrongful death suit of security guard at Zuckerberg’s Kauaʻi ranch gets trial date
January 31, 2023, 8:35 PM HST
* Updated February 1, 11:05 AM
Hospitalized security guard Rodney Medeiros died before dawn on Aug. 5, 2019 – the victim of a heart attack that began the previous evening, on a rain-drenched trail within Meta billionaire Mark Zuckerberg’s sprawling property on the Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i.
Last month, a Kaua‘i judge set a June 2024 trial date for a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Medeiros’ surviving family.
The complaint filed in 2021 alleges Ko‘olau Ranch, which is owned by several limited liability companies controlled by Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan, and the ranch’s head of security are liable for Medeiros’ death. The heart attack occurred after the 70-year-old finished a 12-hour shift at his post on Pila‘a Beach.
“It’s a steep, steep walk [up from the beach]. It was dark, it was raining, it was muddy,” said Medeiros family attorney Mike I. Stern. “About halfway up … they found him leaning against a tree, holding his chest.”
Medeiros was taken to Wilcox Medical Center in Līhuʻe, a hospital nearly 20 miles south of Ko‘olau Ranch, which is located in Moloa‘a on the North Shore of Kaua‘i. He died without his family’s knowledge, according to Stern.
“If they had been told, they could have spent several hours talking to him,” Stern said. “They were [eventually] informed by a text by somebody not even related to Zuckerberg or his company.”
Medeiros usually received a ride to and from his remote beachside post, where he was tasked with reporting any passersby. In Hawai’i, the public is guaranteed access to walk along the shoreline.
But on Aug. 4, 2019, his coworkers were unable to navigate their Kawasaki utility cart down either one of the two unpaved access trails leading to Medeiros’ position. He was told to make the climb out on foot.
Stern said the trails’ inaccessibility during bad weather was a consistent problem on Ko‘olau Ranch. He also claims that while Medeiros had underlying hypertension, a review conducted by a Queen’s Hospital cardiologist links the hike to Medeiros’ heart attack and subsequent death.
Zuckerberg and Chan expressed their condolences to Medeiros’ family with a typed, unsigned note and a $7,500 check, according to Stern.
Both Zuckerberg and Chan could be named as witnesses if the wrongful death suit makes it to trial.
“I believe it’s clear that nothing is going to go on without them or him knowing, if it’s something as important as somebody who ultimately died after working or being on the property,” Stern said. “They were there at the house when it happened.”
Stern expects the matter to be settled out of court.
“But if they decide not to settle, then we’re going to be happy to allow a jury of 12 Kaua‘i individuals to decide this case,” he said.
A Zuckerberg-Chan family spokesperson said “Ko‘olau Ranch continues to extend our deepest sympathies to the family of Rodney Medeiros for their tragic loss” in a written statement.
“When notified that Mr. Medeiros was in need of assistance, Ko‘olau Ranch personnel acted immediately to provide help and notify emergency personnel,” the spokesperson said. “Additionally, Ko‘olau Ranch requires that all drivers have completed a training program to operate vehicles at the ranch. These vehicles are professionally maintained on an ongoing basis.”
Editor’s note: this story was updated to include a response from the Mark Zuckerberg-Dr. Priscilla Chan family office.