SF attorney files lawsuit accusing Oakmont Senior Living of elder abuse and negligence

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KGO) -- A San Francisco attorney filed a negligence lawsuit Monday against Oakmont Senior Living following the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa last month. Attorney Kathryn Stebner is accusing Oakmont Senior Living of elder abuse, negligence and inflicting emotional distress on residents whose families paid up to $11,000 a month in fees.

RELATED: The evacuation of Oakmont Senior Living in Santa Rosa

ABC7 News reporter Melanie Woodrow exclusively broke the story in October of families calling into question whether management left elderly residents at the facility during the fire.

The lawsuit focuses on Villa Capri, the Oakmont Senior Living building that burned to the ground.

"We had to do something," said Stebner.

RELATED: Family questions Oakmont Senior Living's statement that all 430 residents are 'settling into new living arrangements'

According to the lawsuit, only three staff members were working during the Oct. 9 overnight shift to care for nearly 70 elderly disabled residents including a few dozen with dementia in a locked unit.

Kathy Allen's mother-in-law Helen was one of those residents and is a named plaintiff in the lawsuit. Allen arrived at Villa Capri around 2 a.m. the morning of the fire.

"We asked them specifically do you have an evacuation plan because we wanted to help out and they said no they were waiting for their director," Allen told ABC7 News on Oct. 16.

VIDEO: Varenna Oakmont Senior Living Community resident describes terrifying 'inferno' and confusing evacuation
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Katheryn Mann says she was told to stay in her room as flames approached the Varenna Oakmont Senior Living Community.

In a previously emailed statement, Oakmont Senior Living has said, "All of our communities have evacuation plans."

The lawsuit claims Oakmont Senior Living "abandoned at least a third of the residents" and that residents survived because of "herculean efforts" by family members like Allen.

"I didn't know how we were going to get everybody out of there," Allen told ABC7 News on Oct. 16.

Oakmont Senior Living previously said in an emailed statement, "While we were in the process of shuttling residents to a designated location, authorities refused to allow staff to reenter the area because of the existing danger ..."

RELATED: Dept. of Social Services opens 3rd investigation into evacuation from Oakmont Senior Living

A point Santa Rosa Police Department has disputed.

"We were not stopping anybody from helping save lives that night," Santa Rosa Police Department Captain Rainer Navarro told ABC7 News on October 13.

Allen helped rescue 92-year-old Bess Budow. Budow is also a named plaintiff. Her family took cell phone video of her in the hospital after the fire with a broken hip, broken tooth and abrasions all over her body.

"I'm feeling awful," says Budow in the video taken October 23.

RELATED: Attorney says understaffing at Oakmont Senior Living may have played a role in evacuation

The lawsuit alleges Budow's injuries are due to Oakmont Senior Living's "reckless and negligent conduct during the fire."

The lawsuit also alleges Oakmont Senior Living inflicted emotional distress by dumping Villa Capri's remains in a landfill without first searching for or giving residents or their families the opportunity to search for personal property.

"We don't know what their rush was," said Stebner.

ABC7 News reached out to Oakmont Senior Living for a response to the lawsuit filed Monday afternoon. We haven't heard back yet.

Oakmont Senior Living previously said all 430 residents were accounted for safe.

ABC7 News also checked in with the Department of Social Services regarding three open investigations into the evacuations from Oakmont Senior Living's facilities including Villa Capri.

A Department of Social Services Spokesperson says there is no update.

The Department of Social Services is investigating the evacuation at two of Oakmont Senior Living's four buildings on the Fountaingrove Avenue Property - "Varenna" (also known as the main building) and "Villa Capri." If you have any information you would like DSS to consider in its investigation, you can file a complaint by calling 1-844-LET US NO (538-8766) or by clicking here.

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