Lawsuit alleges fraud, elder financial abuse at Oakmont Senior Living
Four senior citizens, including an 82-year-old Santa Rosa man, are suing a chain of residential care facilities founded by Sonoma County developer Bill Gallaher, accusing his company of fraudulent practices that allegedly deprived them of needed care and exposed them to risk of injury.
The lawsuit, filed this week against Oakmont Senior Living in Alameda County Superior Court, alleged residents were found on the ground, left to sit in their own waste and at least one suffered an unexplained injury at the company’s assisted living facilities.
Fees at the facilities — which ran as high as $10,000 a month per resident — were based on “budgets driven primarily by desired profit margins” rather than assessments of its residents’ individual needs, the suit claimed.
As a result, the suit said, Oakmont Senior Living facilities were understaffed and residents age 65 and older “run the continuing risk of not having their care needs met and of suffering frustration, pain, discomfort, humiliation and/or injury from inadequate care and supervision.”
Gallaher did not return telephone calls and emails over two days requesting comment through his company and his attorneys.
A spokeswoman said in an email sent Thursday night that Oakmont learned Wednesday the suit had been filed and the company had not been served with a copy.
“We understand similar lawsuits have been filed by the same law firm against other large California assisted living providers, including Brookdale Senior Living, Atria Senior Living and Aegis Living,” said Honey Lopez, spokeswoman for Oakmont Senior Living. “Once we have the opportunity to review the allegations, we will respond accordingly.”
The 43-page complaint did not specify the amount of financial damages it was seeking. If a judge certifies it as a class action case, the number of plaintiffs could expand to thousands and the potential penalties against Oakmont could be in millions of dollars, said Kathryn Stebner, a San Francisco attorney who filed the lawsuit with nine other attorneys.
Oakmont Senior Living, a privately held company based in Windsor and founded by Gallaher in 1997, operates 23 senior living facilities in California from Redding to San Diego, including four in Santa Rosa: Fountaingrove Lodge and Oakmont of The Terraces on Thomas Lake Harris Drive and Oakmont of Villa Capri and Oakmont of Varenna on Fountaingrove Parkway.
The lawsuit alleged that Oakmont violated the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, committed elder financial abuse and engaged in “unlawful, unfair and fraudulent” business practices.
Oakmont had a duty to disclose that resident care assessments were not used to set staffing budgets, creating safety risks for current and future residents who were described as “a vulnerable population,” the suit said.
The company “actively conceals from residents, prospective residents, and their family members the true facts about its corporate policy and practice of prioritizing profit over resident care,” it said.
Stebner said the lawsuit seeks to represent current and former residents of Oakmont facilities in California during the last four years, a class that may number as many as 4,000 people.
Gallaher, who started out as a custom home builder in the 1970s and built more than 480 homes in the Oakmont retirement community, has also constructed apartment complexes, office buildings and shopping centers, according to Oakmont Senior Living’s website.