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Rehab center ordered to pay $10.25M in wrongful death claim

A young man who went to rehabilitation for treatment of an eating disorder and alcoholism died at the facility in 2011. More than four years later, his parents have prevailed in a wrongful death lawsuit against the California rehab center. The jury issued an award of $10.25 million.

In their suit, the deceased man’s parents said that the facility, First House, was not qualified to treat their son. The son, 20, died of cardiac arrest due to an electrolyte imbalance caused by “unabated” binging and purging.

His parents first took him to a facility in Arizona. They said he was doing well after 30 days there, but the rehab center suggested he go to another facility, Morningside Recovery in Newport Beach. Morningside charged the parents $25,000 for a 30-day stay, and prohibited phone calls home.

At the end of the 30 days, Morningside suggested to the parents that they allow their son to be transferred to a nearby third rehab facility, First House. The parents agreed, perhaps relying on Morningside officials’ supposed expertise.

However, it appears that neither Morningside nor First House was addressing the patient’s bulimia. It was just two days after arriving at First House that he died.

His parents later sued both First House and Morningside for wrongful death. Their attorney said the facilities treated their patients like pieces of meat. They provided no treatment, but mostly kept patients busy watching TV, the lawyer said. He also accused the facilities of paying kickbacks for referrals.

Morningside settled their part in the suit for $3.7 million. The $10.25 million verdict is against First House alone.