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New Lawsuit Accuses Oakmont Senior Living of Blaming Staff to Cover-Up Its Failures in the Abandonment of Residents During the Tubbs Fire
On April 2, 2019, several former or current employees of Oakmont Senior Living and others filed suit against it in Sonoma County Superior Court, alleging it conspired to cover up its failures and avoid legal responsibility by intentionally “blaming and shaming” them for abandoning residents of Varrenna at Fountaingrove and Villa Capri during the October 2017 Tubbs Fire.
The lawsuit is the latest in a series of legal and licensing actions that have been brought against Oakmont Senior Living for abandoning residents while Viila Capri burnt to the ground and the neighboring Varenna was evacuated during wildfires on the night of October 8-9, 2017.
A nearly year-long investigation by the Department of Social Services (DSS) found that 20 residents of Villa Capri would have died if family members and emergency responders had not arrived to rescue them. DSS initially sought to delicense both of the facilities due to the findings but later reached a settlement agreement with Oakmont, where the facilities were put on probation for two years in conjunction with an admission that the residents had been abandoned.
The new lawsuit raises serious questions about the DSS settlement order of November 19, 2018. It alleges that the DSS order contains statements by the Oakmont parties falsely blaming the facility staff for the abandonment of the residents, with the intentional purposes of escaping legal liability, and misleading DSS and impeding its investigation. In truth, it states, the facility staff risked their lives trying to evacuate hundreds of elderly residents, a task made impossible because Oakmont had not provided a written evacuation plan, its administrators were not trained on evacuation procedures, it failed to provide a night supervisor who was familiar with planned emergency procedures and it did not provide staff with keys to the buses that were on site, among other serious failures.
As part of the alleged cover-up, the lawsuit states that the Oakmont parties attempted to bribe the staff, threatened them with legal action, withheld employment benefits and retaliated against them.