SANTA ROSA — Four elderly residents of a Santa Rosa assisted living facility claim they were abandoned by staff members while the facility burned during the deadly Tubbs Fire in October.
The suit was filed Monday against Oakmont Senior Living, LLC and Oakmont Management Group that own and operate Oakmont at Villa Capri in the Fountaingrove area of Santa Rosa, one of three neighborhoods destroyed during the Oct. 8 Tubbs Fire.
The suit filed by law firms in San Francisco and San Jose claims the defendants, “Oakmont” failed to safely evacuate the four women ages 82 to 92 and “other residents in wheelchairs and residents with dementia who were physically and cognitively incapable of escaping a burning building without assistance” during the wildfires on Oct. 9.
“These residents survived only because the families of Virginia Gunn, 82, and Helen Allen, 89, made Herculean efforts to ensure that all the residents they could find got out of the building,” attorneys Kathryn A. Stebner and Kelly Knapp of Stebner and Associates in San Francisco, and attorney Kristen Fish of Needham Kepner and Fish of San Jose said.
Elizabeth Eurotas, the daughter of 84-year-old Alice Eurotas, Mark Allen, Helen Allen’s son and Villa Capri resident Elizabeth Budow, 92, also are named plaintiffs in the suit.
Elizabeth Eurotas and Mark Allen allege Oakmont promised to search fire debris for surviving property before razing the building. Mark Allen also alleges he suffered emotional stress while evacuating his mother and other Villa Capri residents.
Attorney Kathryn Stebner said the suit is intended to send a strong message to all California long-term care facilities that they must immediately develop workable evacuation plans with trained staff to implement them.
“As 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,” attorney Kathryn Stebner said in a news release about the lawsuit.
“I don’t know what would have happened if family members had not been there to get people out before the building burned. This should never happen again,” Stebner said.
Only three staff members were working at Villa Capri during the night of the fire to care for nearly 70 elderly and disabled residents, including a few dozen elders with dementia in a locked unit, according to the suit.
Villa Capri had no power or backup generators, no one had keys to Oakmont vans that could have been used to evacuate residents and no one could make contact with the executive director of the facility during the fire, according to the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
Mark Allen evacuated his mother and six other residents in his Suburban, and all Oakmont staff left before approximately 24 residents, 14 of them in the dementia care unit, were evacuated, according to the complaint.
The remaining residents were eventually evacuated by a police officer who was driving to evacuate a facility next door, according to the attorneys.
The suit also claims Oakmont told the media and other residents all the residents were safely evacuated, but plaintiff Elizabeth Budow was found by her family in a hospital after the fire with a broken hip and tooth, bruises and contusions on her body and an open wound on her heel. Oakmont never explained to Budow’s family how she was injured.
All the plaintiffs suffered severe emotional distress, the attorneys said.
The claims against Oakmont include elder abuse, false imprisonment, negligence and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional stress. The plaintiffs seek a jury trial and an unspecified amount of damages.
A spokesperson for Oakmont Senior Living did not return a phone call or email for comment on the suit this afternoon.