Oakmont Senior Living responds to wrongful death lawsuit

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- The Santa Rosa assisted living facility at the center of a wrongful death lawsuit now claims in their legal response the elderly residents and their families who have sued were at fault for those residents' injuries during the Tubbs Fire as well as their subsequent deaths after the fire.

According to Attorney Kathryn Stebner, the October 2017 fire at Villa Capri, an assisted living facility that's part of Oakmont Senior Living on Fountaingrove Parkway in Santa Rosa resulted in the subsequent deaths of two residents. Stebner claims Oakmont Senior Living also committed elder abuse and negligence. She filed a lawsuit on behalf of residents and their family members in January.

EXCLUSIVE: Lawsuit against Oakmont Management Group amended to include 'wrongful death'

Now Oakmont Senior Living is responding.

"They're blaming the victims," said Stebner.

That's what Stebner says about the 34 reasons the assisted living facility says it isn't responsible.

RELATED: The evacuation of Oakmont Senior Living in Santa Rosa

"Plaintiffs failed to take precautions that would have avoided and diminished their injuries," said Stebner reading from Oakmont Senior Living's response.

Residents like Bess Budow, one of the named plaintiffs in Stebner's lawsuit.

"That's all we have is each other," said Budow from her hospital bed after the fire in a cell phone video her family took.

Budow had open wounds, a broken tooth and a broken hip. She passed away two months later in December.

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

"They are blaming demented, elderly people for what happened to those demented elderly people," said Stebner.

According to Stebner's lawsuit, approximately 70 other Villa Capri residents survived only because of the herculean efforts made by family members like Kathy Allen.

"All I could think about was getting all those people to safety," said Kathy Allen in October of 2017.

Allen and her husband have described having to carry residents in wheelchairs down stairs in the dark.

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.

"When I looked at those people, visions of the titanic going down and people saying goodbye for the last time got in my head," said Mark Allen in October of 2017.

In their response, Oakmont Senior Living writes the plaintiffs didn't act in a reasonable manner or as a reasonable person would have in similar circumstances.

Stebner says she plans to ask Oakmont Senior Living's officers, owners and executive director what they mean by that?

"I'm going to read them these defenses and I'm going to ask them what it is that our client should have done differently so they wouldn't have been injured and gone through this harrowing experience," said Stebner.

Stebner says depositions could begin within the next couple of months.

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

The Department of Social Services has open investigations into the evacuations from three of Oakmont Senior Living's facilities. DSS tells ABC7 News those investigations are ongoing and there are no findings to report.

ABC7 News reached out to the attorneys for Oakmont Senior Living about the response they filed. They did not return our message.

Click here to read Oakmont Senior Living's full response document.

Click here for full coverage of the North Bay fires.
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