ESCONDIDO — What began as a hospitalization for pneumonia and other ailments has escalated into an elder abuse and negligence civil lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of California’s San Diego County division.
Brought against the ownership group of the Oakmont of Escondido Hills assisted living center on June 22, the lawsuit filed by 87-year-old resident Naomi Davis alleges that Oakmont did not provide an adequate response to Davis’ deteriorating health conditions. Davis’ legal team alleges that the facility “failed to exercise the degree of care that reasonable persons in like positions would have exercised.”
The complaint centers on an alleged violation of Section 15610.57 of California’s Welfare and Institutions Code. That state law deals with the legal issue of neglect in elderly care or dependent adult scenarios.
Legally, it is defined as a “failure of any person having the care or custody of an elder or a dependent adult to exercise that degree of care that a reasonable person in a like position would exercise.” The code provides many examples of neglect, including not helping maintain personal hygiene, not providing proper food or shelter, not maintaining adequate health or safety conditions, among other things.
Oakmont of Escondido Hills markets itself as a luxury, affordable retirement community, according to its website. It is owned by the Windsor, California-based Oakmont Management Group. Oakmont owns 20 communities throughout California and has plans to open another facility — Oakmont of Carlsbad — in 2019, according to its website.
The 22-page legal complaint, featuring three separate exhibits, lays out a timeline beginning with a hospitalization which ensued in 2014. From there, Davis alleges that her health began to crumble rapidly, culminating with her departure from Oakmont this past April. Davis has “dementia, a history of falls, a history of combativeness and agitation, and a history of infections,” according to the complaint and she alleges that Oakmont should have known this medical history and taken it into account in treating her between 2014 and 2018.
During that time period, Davis is alleged to have been hospitalized multiple times, fallen on several instances, gotten into physical altercations with other residents and staff and suffered wounds including ear lacerations and bruising.
“Defendants knowingly disregarded this risk and failed to adequately assess, generate and implement and adequate plan of care,” reads the complaint. “That in so doing, Defendants failed to meet Naomi Davis’ needs and failed to comply with the rules, laws and regulations governing their facility.”
After being moved to a different facility in April, however, Davis alleges that these ailments subsided and she has not fallen since being moved. Davis, details the complaint, also has regained some of her memory capacity, including the ability to recognize her family.
Oakmont Management Group has previously faced civil lawsuits at other facilities, including most recently in Santa Rosa, California, at its Villa Capri facility.
That case, also falling under the banners of elder abuse and neglect, was filed in November in the aftermath of the Tubb Fire in Napa County and Sonoma County. The wildfires burned down the Villa Capri housing complex.
The plaintiffs allege that Oakmont was neglectful in its evacuation planning and execution and have sued for elder abuse, negligence, false imprisonment, wrongful death and a litany of other tort law damages. Two of the plaintiffs in that case died just weeks after the wildfire evacuation, with family members stepping in to sue on behalf of their estates.
The outlet BuzzFeed News further reported that the California Department of Social Services has opened up an investigation in the aftermath of the Santa Rosa wildfire evacuation incident as to whether Oakmont followed its evacuation plan. Just after opening that query, the Department of Social Services opened another one after it was reported that Oakmont’s employees began demolishing materials at its Fountaingrove living center — also located in Santa Rosa — before authorities had a chance to do a comprehensive search for bodies and other hazardous materials.
Oakmont is also subject to an elder financial abuse and fraudulent business practices class action lawsuit which is ongoing in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In that case, Lollock, Et Al v. Oakmont Senior Living Center LLC, the complaint alleges that Oakmont does not maintain proper staffing levels to match with the residents’ needs, despite attesting to that in contracts given to its prospective residents.
“This is false and misleading because the results generated by Oakmont’s resident assessment system are not used to set staffing at each facility, Instead, as a matter of corporate policy, Oakmont allocates expenditures for staffing at each facility based on predetermined and static budgets designed to maximize revenue,” reads the complaint for that lawsuit. “As a result, Oakmont’s facilities do not have sufficient numbers of trained staff to provide promised care services to its residents.”
Officials from Oakmont of Escondido Hills and Oakmont Management Company did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this story. The attorney for Naomi Davis, Stephen Garcia, also did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Steve Horn is a San Diego, CA-based reporter covering Escondido and San Marcos. He works in a full-time capacity for The Real News Network, an online broadcast news ouetlet, covering climate change. He has worked as a staff investigative reporter for the publications Prison Legal News and Criminal Legal News and as an investigative reporter for the climate news website DeSmog.com.
A native of Wisconsin and graduate of University of Wisconsin, Steve is a competitive distance runner, with a personal best time in the marathon of 2:43:04 and nine marathons under his belt. He also has served on the film screening committee for the San Diego International Film Festival.