Lawyers for Sacramento County failed again Monday to knock out a $14.5 million wrongful- death lawsuit filed over a conservator’s decision to put a paranoid schizophrenic with a 20-year history of violence into an Oak Park group home.

The placement left a 65-year-old woman dead when the 6-foot, 300-pound conservatee smashed the group home employee over the head with a wooden chair. The Sept. 5, 2008, attack also resulted in permanent brain injuries for the woman’s husband, then 69, who also worked in the home.

In allowing the suit to proceed, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Rudolph Loncke turned back defense arguments that state law entitles the county to immunity.

Loncke, in affirming a tentative decision he issued last week, said either a jury or an appellate court must decide whether the county had a duty to warn the group home operators. Plaintiffs lawyers charged that the conservatee, Ofiu Edwards Foto, posed a life-threatening danger.

When a county lawyer suggested the conservator did not have such a duty, Loncke replied, “You want to sneak that information by people?”

Foto, now 42, has since been found incompetent to stand trial and was placed in a state mental hospital. He is due back in court next year for another hearing on whether he can be tried.

He is accused of murder in the death of Pausta Sibarani and of almost killing her husband, Tumbur Bastion Purba. The county conservator recommended his placement in Sandy’s Guest Home on 44th Street after he pleaded no contest to assault in a similar attack that resulted in serious injuries to a 76-year-old female employee in another group home in 2005.

Foto’s record showed he had a history of violent attacks dating back to 1988.

Wendy Motooka, one of two privately retained lawyers defending the county in the wrongful-death suit, told the judge that without the immunity from civil liability, nobody would want to work as conservators.

Motooka also argued the conservator in the Foto case, identified in court papers as Rachael Harris, “gave sufficient warning” to the group home’s administrators. Judge Loncke said that while the conservator provided the group home with information about Foto’s 2005 attack, the county did not give administrators the full picture on the slaying suspect’s past, like when he broke a woman’s jaw in Burlingame and took a shovel to the windows of a home in San Bruno, among other incidents.

“I think you’re presenting a good argument,” Loncke told Motooka later. “I’m not being persuaded by it. Maybe at another level. Not here. I think there are triable issues here.”

Lawyers for the county declined to comment on whether they would appeal Loncke’s decision.

Monday’s setback was the second for the county in its effort to kill the lawsuit.

Last year, Motooka and her partner, Robert L. Chalfant, argued unsuccessfully that the county wasn’t liable because the group home was a “mental institution.”

Along with their immunity arguments, the defense lawyers maintained that Purba can’t seek damages for emotional distress because he testified in depositions that he couldn’t remember the attack.

In response, plaintiffs lawyer Craig J. Rolfe said in court papers: “The fact that Mr. Purba is so severely brain-damaged that he does not recall the details of this horrific incident does not negate his … claim.”

Judge Loncke agreed.

Loncke also ruled that Purba’s $950,000 workers’ compensation award doesn’t nullify his effort to seek damages from the county based on its alleged negligence.

Endurance Insurance Co., the workers’ comp carrier for Sandy’s Guest Home, has filed a $950,000 lien against any award that might result from the lawsuit.

The Bee, meanwhile, has filed an action in the case to unseal five documents relating to the county’s placement of Foto in the group home. A hearing on The Bee’s effort to obtain the documents has been scheduled for Sept. 28.