Gullixson: Were the bedridden residents of Villa Capri really at fault?
I’m beginning to understand why shows like “Stranger Things” are so popular. Living in “the upside down” feels like home.
We seem to have fallen into an alternative universe where the FBI is considered corrupt while Russia can be trusted, teachers are being encouraged to pack heat along with their pencils and the White House has greater turnover than a Holiday Inn.
I thought I had heard it all — until this story came along.
Remember those residents of Villa Capri, an assisted living facility in Santa Rosa, who allegedly were abandoned by the staff as the Tubbs fire approached on Oct. 9 and were saved because of the efforts of family members who ferried them to safety? As you recall, those who were left behind — representing nearly a third of the 70 residents of this posh assisted living facility in Fountaingrove — were among the most frail. All had mobility problems. Most used walkers. Some were in wheelchairs. About 20 suffered from dementia and were in a locked second-floor unit.
A group of residents and their families have sued the owners and managers of the facility claiming negligence, wrongful death, elder abuse, intentional infliction of emotional abuse among other things.
The facility is operated by Oakmont Senior Living, founded by developer Bill Gallaher, and managed by Oakmont Management Group. The two companies, along with Villa Capri, are listed as defendants.
As my colleagues at The Press Democrat Randi Rossmann and J.D. Morris reported on March 5, the companies’ attorneys have since filed a response to the lawsuit. It turns out, according to this filing, that it was all a big misunderstanding. It wasn’t the owners and managers of the complex who were to blame, the attorneys contend. It was the residents themselves.
The residents “failed to take precautions, which would have avoided and/or diminished the injuries and damages, if any,” the attorneys wrote.
They further argue that the owners and managers are not responsible in any way “for damages sustained … caused and contributed to by other parties in the case.” In other words, if residents were injured in the process of being rescued by good Samaritans, that’s on them. They take no responsibility.
So there you have it. These senior Santa Rosans have only themselves to blame for the injuries and emotional trauma they suffered while fleeing moments before the complex burned to the ground on Oct. 9.
It’s not exactly clear what “precautions” the residents could have taken, but, based on this legal document, we’re clearly left with the impression that they should have been more careful.
Take Elizabeth Budow for example. The 92-year-old woman had lived at Villa Capri for more than four years. She was blind, bedridden and lived in a special locked second-floor unit for residents with dementia.
According to the lawsuit, as the Tubbs fire approached early on Oct. 9, the power went out and the building began filling with smoke, but the staff chose not to wake any residents. When the building’s fire alarms went off, Villa Capri staff members, reportedly at the direction of managers, turned them off, the complaint alleges.
Two hours later, when concerned family members arrived, they and Villa Capri staff began waking people, but the facility had no backup generators and “nobody had access keys to the Oakmont vans parked at the facility which could have been used to evacuate the residents,” the suit claims.