A state appeals court has ruled that Sacramento County cannot be sued over the death of an Oak Park group home employee that allegedly resulted from a conservator’s placement of a paranoid schizophrenic with a 20-year history of violence into the home.
The mental patient, Ofiu Edwards Foto, is accused of smashing Pausta Sibarani over the head with a wooden chair and assaulting her husband, Tumbur Purba, who also worked at the home. Sibarani, 65, died and Purba, now 73, was left with permanent brain injuries.
A year ago, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Rudolph Loncke rejected the county’s argument that it is immune from Purba’s $14.5 million wrongful-death lawsuit over the 2008 incident.
But a three-judge panel of the Sacramento-based 3rd District Court of Appeal has overturned Loncke, ruling the county is entitled to “absolute immunity” and directing Loncke to vacate his order and grant the county’s motion for summary judgment. The panel issued a 16-page opinion earlier this month and certified it for publication Wednesday.
Purba’s suit alleges the county conservator failed to warn Sandy’s Guest Home on 44th Street about the danger that Foto represented.
But California law plainly states “liability does not attach to a conservator for the actions of a conservatee,” wrote Associate Justice M. Kathleen Butz, with Presiding Justice Vance W. Raye and Associate Justice William J. Murray Jr. concurring.
Butz noted that an analysis of the 1972 measure granting the entitlement expresses the Legislature’s intent “to provide conservators with a similar immunity from liability for a conservatee’s acts that other professionals and entities in the mental health system possessed.”
Unless Purba’s attorney is able to convince the California Supreme Court to review the matter, his client’s suit against the county will not go forward.
The attorney could not be reached Wednesday.
After the attack at the group home in Oak Park, Foto, now 43, was found incompetent to stand trial and was placed in a state mental hospital.
Renewed murder and attempted murder charges were filed against him in May, and he is currently in the Sacramento County Main Jail.
The county conservator recommended his placement in Sandy’s Guest Home after he pleaded no contest to assault in connection with a 2005 attack that resulted in serious injuries to a 76-year-old female employee in another group home.
Foto’s record chronicles a history of violent attacks dating back to 1988.
Sacramento County can’t be sued in group home death, court rules
September 27, 2012
The Modesto Bee