An Orange County, California jury has awarded more than $10.25 million dollars to the parents of a young man who died while in the care of a Newport Beach drug and alcohol detox center.
Ted and Kim Jacques alleged in their wrongful death lawsuit that First House LLC was negligent in accepting 20-year-old Brandon Jacques 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 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,” said Shawn Foster, co-counsel representing the Jacques family from Kansas City, Missouri. “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 ran 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,” he added.
Brandon had been transferred to First House from Morningside Recovery, a Newport Beach facility that advertised itself as qualified to treat addictions and eating disorders. After several weeks at Morningside, on Friday April 1 they told the Jacques that they could not treat Brandon’s eating disorder and that Brandon needed “higher care” and agreed that the determination of where to send Brandon would be made the following week. They did not disclose that the day before, Brandon had been transferred to First House, a place that cut a discount deal with Morningside to handle Morningside’s “overflow.”
“First House took Brandon in knowing he needed higher care but without bothering to find out what that care was, a gross violation of their duty to assess an incoming client and if that person has a medical need to refer them on to proper medical care,” said David Skeens, co-counsel from Kansas City, Missouri representing Ted and Kim Jacques. “It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. 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,” said Skeens. “The jury understood that and made the right decision.”
The jury deliberated less than two hours before finding that First House was negligent and that such actions were a substantial factor in the young Kearney (CAR-nee), Missouri 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 had settled with the Jacques before trial.
The jury refused to apportion any fault to Brandon Jacques despite defense counsel’s pleas in closing argument.
In addition to Morningside Recovery, several other defendants also settled with the Jacques before trial.
The verdict was handed down on February 24, 2015.
“It was a privilege to represent the Jacques family and work with such talented co-counsel, it’s the way Paul Sizemore worked and the tradition we intend to carry forward,” said Jeffrey C. Bogert of The Sizemore Law Firm, co-counsel for the Jacques family.