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Parents Sue Owner Of California Detox Center For Son’s Death

A California detox facility was shut down for a number of severe violations. However, that move by the state did not come soon enough to save the life of a man who died there in 2012. Now his mother has filed a wrongful death suit against the former owner of the West Coast Detox Center.

The mother says they had sought a “medical detox” treatment center for their son, who was battling alcoholism. She says the staff at the West Coast Detox Center portrayed the center as a medical facility, and said a physician would see her son. However, the center was licensed as a “nonmedical residential facility.” Within a few days after he checked in, the San Juan Capistrano man was dead.

According to the plaintiffs, staff members gave her son anti-withdrawal medications from their supply of “dead meds” – pills that belonged to previous clients. Further, she contends that her son got on a ladder and was able to reach these medications on his own. Staff allegedly caught him doing this twice. The parents claim that no one reported the first incident. The second time, when the man confessed to taking some opiates he had accessed, they reportedly contacted the facility’s owner, but not a doctor.

According to the suit, the staff chose to keep an eye on the man after he took the pills, even though he allegedly was clearly “incoherent” and under the influence. The next day, her son’s roommate found him in a deteriorated state. He was “slumped over with blood coming from his mouth.” He died before emergency responders reached him.

The lawsuit does not request a specific dollar amount. The mother accuses the owner of breach of contract, fraud and wrongful death, as well as violations of California laws that govern detox facilities. She says the suit is about holding the owner accountable for her son’s death. She contends that he was “not forthcoming” about her son’s death, and that she only learned the details when the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs opened an investigation. The agency found a multitude of violations that led to the facility’s closure.

While this is not a traditional premises liability suit, it does, like other such suits, involve alleged negligence by a business that, according to the plaintiffs, led directly to a death. Such suits are necessary to hold businesses accountable for harm that occurs because of the negligence of businesses and their employees.

Source: Fountain Valley Patch, “Mom of Man who Died in O.C. Detox Home Sues for Wrongful Death” Penny Arévalo, Feb. 04, 2014