An Orange County Superior Court jury recently awarded more than $10.25 million to the parents of a young man who died while in the care of a Newport Beach drug and alcohol detox center, plaintiff attorneys announced.
Ted and Kim Jacques alleged in a wrongful death lawsuit that First House LLC was negligent in accepting 20-year-old Brandon Jacques as a client, according to a statement from Anne Menedjian, a litigation consultant with the El Segundo-based Sizemore Law Firm that represents the couple.
The controversial Morningside Recovery of Newport Beach, which has since relocated to Irvine, had advertised itself as qualified to treat addictions and eating disorders before Brandon Jacques went there for treatment of bulimia, according to the statement.
But after several weeks at Morningside, Jacques was told that the facility could not treat his eating disorder and that he required "higher care," so they agreed a decision on a new treatment facility would be made the following week, according to the statement. Jacques did not know that a decision had already been reached to have him transferred to First House, "a place that cut a discount deal with Morningside to handle Morningside's 'overflow,'" the statement reads.
"First House was not licensed or equipped to handle people with eating disorders," reads the statement, and Jacques died on April 2, 2011, from "cardiac arrest caused by his electrolyte imbalances that resulted from his unabated binging and purging."
"By simply reading internal emails, the jury was able to see the reality of what these free standing detox facilities are doing in their community," says Shawn Foster, co-counsel representing the Jacques family from Kansas City, Missouri, in the statement. "The facilities admitted in internal emails that they were buying and selling these kids, like they were a piece of meat. The jury heard that these facilities are run and managed by convicted felons, that simply put profit ahead of safety and prey on people when their families are at their most vulnerable moment."
"It's a parent's worst nightmare," added David Skeens, another co-counsel for the parents from Kansas City. "Your child has a serious medical condition and you think you have them in a place that can and is treating them. Instead, it was all a lie just to make a buck. The jury understood that and made the right decision."
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The attorneys report that jury deliberated less than two hours on Feb. 24 before finding First House negligent in the young man's death. The jury verdict included $10.25 million in non-economic damages for the loss of Brandon's love, comfort, affection, care, assistance, protection, society, moral support and companionship, and $40,622.50 for funeral and burial costs, say the attorneys.
The jury found First House 80 percent at fault and Morningside Recovery, which had settled with the parents before trial, 20 percent at fault, the statement claims.
The judge must still sign off on the proposed judgment.