The question reporters have not asked seems simple. Do retirement communities boasting "continued care" and "assisted living" owe a duty of care to the public when their residents become violent?
Harry Edward Smith, the 81 year old Oakmont Village resident who on Friday was charged with attempted murder, was driving on a suspended driver's license when he reportedly chased down bicyclist Toraj Soltani.
Previously reported was Smith allegedly tried to hit Soltani as Soltani rode along Pythian Road. Soltani changed course and pedaled for safety at one of the golf courses within Oakmont Village.
It didn't work.
Smith is reported to have driven right on the course and crashed into Soltani. Interestingly, the home page for Oakmont Village features seven smiling bicyclists. Possibly because Smith was nowhere in sight.
But Oakmont Village also boasts assisted living and continuing care in it's leafy, for-profit community: and this begs the question why Smith was living independently and not moved to one of Oakmont's continuing care, assisted living facilities on the grounds.
Soltani wasn't the first bicyclist Smith reportedly attacked. A year earlier, environmental land attorney Rose Zoia tried to report Smith after she came upon him while also pedaling along Pythian Road.
Perhaps because Zoia's background includes clients such as "The Good Neighbor Association of Montgomery, Piner and Santa Rosa High School" she attempted to talk to Smith, who yelled she was too young to be there.
However when Smith's behavior escalated Zoia backed off. Zoia attempted to report Smith's attack to Santa Rosa Police, but received the standard response.
The police would act after Smith harmed Zoia. Not before. Zoia was reminded crime prevention police policy centers around post-crime services, not crime prevention.
Fast forward a year later and Toraj Soltani was removed from Oakmont's golf course by ambulance. His injuries were described as moderate, requiring a hospital stay.
Public Safety issues remain
Oakmont Village describes itself as an "adult community" offering "assisted living." It glows with promises of a luxurious life-style, but what it doesn't do is address the duty of care owed to the public when their residents become violent. Smith, who had been out of jail on bail was ordered back in custody after the attempted murder charge.
Santa Rosa Judge Robert LaForge set Smith's bail at $1 million, deeming him as a "danger to the community" and not a candidate for real-time GPS Monitoring.
Smith's defense attorney immediately floated the idea Smith could be suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's disease. This strategy might not work as the attorney is having a psychologist, prepare a report for the court rather than an M.D. Also problematic? When Smith was originally picked up by police it was in his car. As a passenger, with a family member was driving. Not addressed was whether the family member driving at Smith's request. If so, that would speak to a cognitive mind.
If not, would the family liable along with Oakmont, given Smith's apparent history of attacking bicyclists?
It should be noted Oakmont Village is a for-profit community and doesn't offer an Alzheimer's unit. Interestingly, the non-profit, resort style active retirement community which is also open to certain members of the public, Air Force Village West, offers just such a unit.) Given the circumstances, Smith might just become the first "cautionary tale" when it comes to for-profit, "active, adult retirement" communities.
Noted personal injury attorney Gerald Sterns, doesn't think so. But Sterns also added a young attorney might think otherwise.
As the population ages it would certainly seem reasonable those considering resort style retirement communities for themselves, would do well to consider communities offering continued care with an Alzheimer's unit as a normal part of their, continuing care program. Both for their own safety, and perhaps liability issues arising within the retirement community whose residents are later charged with violent crimes.