Santa Rosa, CA – September 3, 2020 – District Attorney Jill Ravitch, in conjunction with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, announced today that Varenna LLC, Oakmont Senior Living LLC, and Oakmont Management Group LLC, the owners and operators of Varenna and Villa Capri, two Residential Care Facilities For the Elderly located in Fountaingrove, settled a civil law enforcement action related to their conduct on the night of the Tubbs Fire in 2017.
On October 8, 2017, Northern California suffered from devastating wildfires causing loss of life and property. The Tubbs Fire entered the City of Santa Rosa, including the Fountaingrove area where Varenna and Villa Capri are located, on the evening of the 8th and continued through the morning hours of October 9. The Tubbs Fire destroyed Villa Capri and threatened Varenna.
At the time of the Tubbs Fire, many of the residents at Varenna and Villa Capri were senior citizens who were 65 years of age or older, dependent adults, or disabled persons. Villa Capri included a memory care unit that housed residents with dementia and other memory care issues. Many of the residents of Villa Capri required the assistance of wheelchairs or walkers, or were otherwise nonambulatory. Additionally, some residents at Varenna required care or supervision, or were on hospice.
The complaint filed in Sonoma County Superior Court alleged that (1) Defendants failed to adequately plan for and train staff on emergency evacuations and preparedness of the facilities, (2) Defendants failed to timely and adequately notify residents of the need for an emergency evacuation during the Tubbs Fire, and (3) during the Tubbs Fire, many residents at Varenna and Villa Capri were left without care or support from Defendants and with no means to evacuate themselves, and had to be evacuated by family members or first responders.
District Attorney Ravitch stated: “Residents of senior facilities are particularly vulnerable during disasters like we experienced during the 2017 Wildfires and unfortunately continue to experience. Fortunately no residents died or were seriously injured as a result of what occurred. This Judgement will help insure the safety of seniors and send a message to all facilities that undertake the care of vulnerable members of our community that they must be prepared to protect their residents during a disaster.”
The Stipulated Judgment, approved and ordered by Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Gary Nadler, requires Defendants to pay $500,000 in civil penalties and investigation costs. The Judgment also includes stiff injunctive terms requiring enhanced disaster and evacuation plans and training, and the appointment of an Independent Monitor to ensure compliance. The injunction and monitoring will span five years from the entry of Judgement.
The case was jointly investigated and prosecuted by the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office and the California Attorney General’s Office. Deputy District Attorneys Matt Cheever, Caroline Fowler and David Kim, and Investigator Matt Stapleton handled the case for this office.