March 13, 2015
Congratulations to David Skeens, his trial team, and co-counsel on obtaining an award of more than $10.25 million dollars in Orange County, California on behalf of a Kearney, Missouri family. Our clients, Ted and Kim Jacques, alleged in their wrongful death lawsuit that First House, LLC, a Newport Beach, California drug and alcohol detox center, was negligent in accepting their 20-year-old son, Brandon, as a client. Brandon had bulimia, and First House was not licensed or equipped to handle people with eating disorders. Brandon died at First House on April 2, 2011 from cardiac arrest caused by electrolyte imbalances that resulted from his unabated binging and purging.
Brandon also suffered from alcohol abuse related to his bulimia. Before coming to First House, Brandon sought treatment at a facility in Arizona that claimed it could treat his alcohol issues and his bulimia. After a month of treatment, that facility referred Brandon to a different Newport Beach detox center called Morningside Recovery, telling the family that Morningside was an expert in treating eating disorders. And indeed, Morningside advertised itself as qualified to treat addictions and eating disorders. They told the family they could care for Brandon. But after several weeks at Morningside, the Jacques were told that Brandon needed “higher care” for his eating disorder. It was agreed that the determination of where to send Brandon would be made the following week. Morningside did not disclose that the day before, Brandon had been transferred to First House, which had cut a discount deal with Morningside to handle Morningside’s “overflow.” In violation of its policies and procedures and California law, First House failed to properly assess Brandon to determine if he was medically appropriate for admittance to their facility (he clearly was not).
WRRSV’s trial team proved to the jury that this case concerned not only the extraordinary loss resulting from the death of the Jacques’ beloved son, but the fact that First House put dollars ahead of client safety. Though required by law and its own policies to assess incoming clients, First House accepted Brandon, knowing he needed “higher care” at a medical facility. The jury deliberated less than two hours before finding that First House was negligent and that its actions were a substantial factor in the young man’s death.
The verdict included $10.25 million in noneconomic 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. The jury found First House 80% at fault for Brandon’s death. The remaining 20% fault was given to Morningside Recovery, which, along with several other defendants, had settled with the Jacques family before trial.
The jury refused to give any fault to Brandon despite First House’s argument that he and his family were to blame.
Earlier, the family settled their claims against Morningside for $3.7 million dollars and against Jill Shelton, a nurse practitioner affiliated with Morningside for a confidential amount.
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