Residents abandoned during wildfire, claims lawsuit against assisted living community

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Residents abandoned during wildfire, claims lawsuit against assisted living community
Residents abandoned during wildfire, claims lawsuit against assisted living community

Four former residents of a California assisted living community sued the community's developer and management companies on Monday, maintaining that they were abandoned during an October wildfire that destroyed the building.

The complaint alleges elder abuse, false imprisonment, negligence and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and makes other claims, on behalf of plaintiffs Helen Allen, Elizabeth Budow, Alice Eurotas and Virginia Gunn. The four, who were residents at Villa Capri in Santa Rosa, CA, are seeking an unspecified amount of damages.

The lawsuit names Oakmont Senior Living and Oakmont Management Group. Oakmont did not respond to requests for comment from McKnight's Senior Living.

The complaint alleges that three staff members were caring for almost 70 residents at Villa Capri the night of the fire. The community reportedly was without power and backup generators, and nobody had access to the keys to the community van that was parked on the grounds.

“As the fire came closer to Villa Capri, staff told a family member there was no evacuation plan and that the people with dementia should be evacuated last,” said attorney Kathryn Stebner, who filed the lawsuit in Sonoma Superior Court. “I don't know what would have happened if family members had not been there to get people out before the building burned.”

Staff members left approximately 24 residents, including at least 14 with dementia, the lawsuit maintains. Allen's son, Mark, reportedly took his mother and six other residents in his vehicle, and others were said to have been evacuated after Mark Allen and someone else flagged down a police officer who was driving by to evacuate a neighboring facility.

Budow's family reportedly found her at a hospital the day after the fire. She had a broken hip, broken tooth, bruises, contusions and an open wound on her heel, according to the lawsuit, but Oakmont officials have not explained how she was injured.

“The plaintiffs filed this lawsuit to send a strong message to not only Oakmont, but to all California long-term care facilities, that they must immediately develop workable evacuation plans with trained staff to implement them,” Stebner said.

This lawsuit follows another against Oakmont that Stebner & Associates filed in September. The earlier complaint alleges understaffing at all Oakmont assisted living facilities in California.

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