March 17, 2018
In response to a lawsuit alleging that staff at the luxury Oakmont of Villa Capri senior living facility in Fountaingrove abandoned nearly one third of the approximately 70 residents to fend for themselves during the catastrophic October 2017 North Bay Fires, lawyers for the facility argued—in a stunning display of tone-deafness—that the residents and the family members who rescued them are responsible for any trauma incurred during the evacuation.
In a lawsuit filed last November, 13 plaintiffs alleged that facility employees abandoned residents—many suffering from limited mobility—as fires swept the surrounding areas, forcing family members to drive to the facility and face the flames in an effort to evacuate their loved ones.
Two residents who survived the original fire have since died. One suffered a broken hip during the evacuation. Another passed away from cancer but made it clear before she died that she had suffered severe emotional trauma as a result of the evacuation ordeal.
In all, the filing on behalf of defendant Oakmont Senior Living contains over 30 reasons why the company believes it should not be held liable for harms suffered during the evacuation, among them claims that the impromptu, untrained rescuers failed to exercise “adequate precaution” in helping their loved ones escape after the employees paid to the protect the residents allegedly had abandoned them.
Many residents and their family members expressed dismay about the approach taken by the Oakmont lawyers, which some characterized as a blame-the-victim strategy.
“My client who is demented and bed-bound somehow caused her own injury,” said Kathryn Stebner, an attorney representing one of the plaintiff residents, according to The Press Democrat. “It’s preposterous.”
Tim Callen, whose 92-year-old mother was a resident at the Oakmont of Villa Capri on the night of the fire, told the paper that she was forced to navigate a dark stairwell on her own in order to escape—while she typically does not walk without the aid of a walker.
“It was two in the morning,” Callen told The Press Democrat. “It’s her fault she couldn’t go down the stairs and there’s no one there to get her? It doesn’t even make sense.”
In February, Oakmont Senior Living—parent company of Oakmont of Villa Capri—applied to construct its fifth senior living facility in Fountaingrove. The proposed facility would be located less than a mile from the Villa Capri.