Oakmont Senior Living will implement unspecified measures as part of an agreement settling a lawsuit against its Villa Capri community in Santa Rosa, CA, that accused staff members of abandoning residents during an October 2017 wildfire, the Press Democrat reports.
Attorney Kathryn Stebner, representing 17 residents and family members in the lawsuit, announced the settlement Friday in Sonoma County Superior Court but said financial and other terms were confidential and still being finalized, according to the newspaper. Oakmont attorneys also told the judge that the company had agreed to settle, the media outlet said.
Pretrial motions had been scheduled for Friday. The judge told the attorneys to return Sept. 11 with a signed copy of the settlement agreement.
The lawsuit alleged that on Oct. 9, the night of the wildfire, only three caregivers were on duty to care for 70 residents, including some who used walkers or wheelchairs and others with dementia who lived in a secured section of the building. Residents, the lawsuit stated, evacuated with the help of family members, and some were injured or traumatized in the process. The lawsuit further claimed that the deaths of two residents were hastened by the experience. Villa Capri and Oakmont denied the allegations.
The state Department of Social Services continues to investigate actions related to Villa Capri, which was destroyed in the fire, and sister communities Varenna at Fountaingrove and Fountaingrove Lodge, according to the Press Democrat. Stebner also filed a lawsuit related to the Varenna at Fountaingrove evacuation.
“The Department of Social Services (DSS) is required to investigate any complaints it receives regardless of merit. To date, there have been no findings of deficiency or criticism from the state regarding Oakmont’s response to the wildfire and associated evacuation,” Oakmont said in a posting on a website that it set up to “provide an accurate account of actions taken by the company in response to the October 2017 Tubbs Fire.”
The fire, Oakmont said, “is considered the deadliest wildfire in California history” and resulted in the evacuation of four Oakmont communities.
The most severe action Oakmont faces “if found to have committed wrongdoing” is losing its licenses to operate assisted living facilities, according to the newspaper, citing a Department of Social Services spokesman.