Kearney parents whose son died in addiction treatment center awarded over $10 million in wrongful death case

Represented by a pair of Kansas City attorneys, a Kearney, Kansas, couple won $10.25 million from a wrongful death lawsuit filed against a California drug and alcohol treatment center. The litigation accused the detox center of negligence in the death of their son, who was seeking treatment there.

The couple's 20-year-old son had struggled with alcohol abuse and bulimia when he asked his parents about going into rehab. Although the family initially settled on A Sober Way Home in Arizona, they were recommended by the facility a month later to transfer the young man to Morningside Recovery in Newport Beach, California, instead. While the recommendation was made on the premise that Morningside was better suited to treating their son's bulimia, it was later discovered that A Sober Way Home had actually received a kickback from Morningside to facilitate the transfer.

The parents paid Morningstar $25,000 to treat their son for bulimia, but just a month after treatment began, they were informed that he would need to be transferred yet again, this time to a "higher care" center called First House, also in Newport Beach. One day after being moved to First House, the young man went into cardiac arrest — triggered by an electrolyte imbalance stemming from continuing binging and purging — and died.

According to the Kansas City Business Journal, Morningside isn't a medical center and is not legally allowed to treat patients for eating disorders.

"[Morningside's representation about its ability to treat eating disorders was false," the family's attorneys said in an official statement. "They didn't do anything to stop [the victim] from binging and purging. Morningside just left [him] to engage in his bulimic behavior."

The attorneys described Morningside and First House as having "a buddy-buddy relationship," where the latter serves as "an overflow place" for the former to accept more patients into its facility — and with them, another $25,000 per person. Internal emails between the two revealed "illegal kickbacks and referral agreements to induce facilities to refer clients."

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed against both rehab centers in Orange County, California. While Morningside chose to settle out of court for $3.7 million, First House went to trial. On February 25, in under two hours of deliberation, the jury decided to award the young man's parents $10.25 million in damages and another $40,622.50 for funeral and burial costs. The ruling also placed 80 percent of the blame on First House and 20 percent on Morningside.

If you've ever lost a loved one to a third party's negligence and need to find a personal injury attorney to take on your case, schedule an appointment with The Meyers Law Firm. Our expert lawyers can assess your claim and fight for the restitution you may be owed.