The 97-year-old California woman who saw her local community rally around her after she was served an eviction notice died Thursday at home, her lawyer confirmed to ABC News.
Marie Hatch had just been released from the hospital after experiencing heart palpitations and breathing issues, one of her lawyers, Nanci Nishimura, told ABC News.
"My take, having spent time with Marie, is that she died from a broken heart from a broken promise," Nishimura said.
Nishimura and her law colleague, Nancy Fineman, began representing Hatch pro bono last month after the 97-year-old and her 85-year-old roommate were served a 60-day eviction notice from their landlord on Feb. 11. Hatch had lived in the Burlingame, California, home for more than 60 years.
Fineman and Nishimura filed a complaint against the landlord, David Kantz, in San Mateo County court on Feb. 26, alleging breach of contract, elder abuse and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Fineman said they filed a motion for preference in the complaint just yesterday, the day of Hatch’s death, hoping to speed up the legal process.
“I was stunned,” Fineman said of Hatch’s death. “You could just see her stress level increasing and it was totally on her mind all the time."
The dispute over Hatch’s right to stay in the two-bedroom, one-bathroom cottage for which she and her roommate said they paid $900 per month stemmed from a decades-long promise that Hatch claimed the home’s original owner, Vivian Kruse, made to her, saying she could live in the home until her death.
Kantz, a descendant of Kruse by marriage, claimed a trust required that he sell the property this year. Kantz’s attorney, Michael Liberty, has stated previously that Kantz has no “personal knowledge” that a guarantee from Kruse to Hatch ever existed and that Kantz had taken steps to help Hatch, including retaining realtors who offered to assist in her relocation, meeting with city officials and trying to work with potential buyers of the property to allow her to stay.
After Hatch received the eviction notice, her neighbors rallied around her, starting a GoFundMe page that raised more than $47,000.
Fineman said Hatch was frail but “definitely mentally alert” in her final days.
“When we went over one day we had to wait for her because she was cooking her own breakfast,” she said of Hatch, who leaves behind one son.