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Murrieta, CA – After years of litigation, American Addiction Centers, based in Nashville Tennessee, has been held responsible for the wrongful death of Shaun Reyna. This past Friday, February 2, 2018, a jury in Murrieta, California, found the company was negligent and found it violated regulations in causing the suicide death of Shaun Reyna. The jury also awarded Reyna’s surviving wife and two adult children seven million dollars in compensatory damages. The jury found no responsibility on the part of decedent Shaun Reyna.
CEO Michael Cartwright testified in the trial that American Addiction Centers is a national company he founded with Jerrod Menz in 2011. Evidence at trial revealed that Mr. Cartwright instructed employees to “pull all calls” regarding Shaun Reyna following his death. The recordings in question were Shaun Reyna’s calls to the company responding to the company’s extensive marketing and sales campaign. American Addiction Centers initially denied the recorded calls existed but persistent litigation efforts by the lawyers representing Reyna’s family discovered the calls. Those litigation efforts revealed a “Call Center” that was staffed by sales people with little to no experience in addiction screening. American Addition Centers pressured sales people to sell by any means possible and fired them if they failed to meet sales quotas.
Forty-six-year-old Shaun Reyna suffered from depression and began using prescribed medication (benzodiazapines) and drinking heavily. After working 22 years at a dairy product production facility, advancing to a supervisor position, he was forced to leave his job to progressive eye disease resulting in loss of eye sight. In December 2012, he decided to get help. He wanted to finally get healthy and be a role model for his wife and children. After a domestic dispute, Shaun and his wife decided to look for help and get treatment. They saw American Addiction Center’s ad in a local yellow page listing for drug and alcohol addiction treatment.
After speaking to the American Addiction Centers, Inc.’s call center and arranging treatment through insurance, Shaun was transported 360 miles from Atwater to Murrieta, CA to be admitted. Shaun and his wife were told he would receive Medical Detoxification with Doctors and psychiatrists providing medical care and supervision.
But this was not true. What Shaun and his wife did not know that is that American Addiction Centers, Inc. was only licensed to operate non-medical treatment facilities in California, and its “facilities” were just residential homes within neighborhood cul-de-sacs in the Murrieta area. Upon admission, American Addiction Centers, Inc. confiscated his cell phone, wallet, and other personal items, and it would not return them until he finished his 30-day program.
While in defendant’s care, Shaun never saw a doctor, never saw a psychiatrist, and was never prescribed a medical taper for his withdrawal symptoms. He was also reported by staff at the house to be delusional, and have active symptoms of delirium tremens. At 5:00 pm, a crisis counselor reporting to the home saw that Shaun showed a drastic change in condition, in that he was now hallucinating, agitated, and confused. The crisis counselor reported to management his serious concerns about Shaun, and recommended that Shaun needed to go to a higher level of care. Nurses working at the program agreed, and asked that Shaun go to the ER immediately. However, it was not their call to make. It was management’s. Management’s policy was to keep clients regardless of their medical needs, in order to collect the maximum amount of insurance coverage.
From approximately 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm, Shaun was left alone in his room, unattended and with the door closed. And despite confiscating a number of personal items to stop clients from leaving treatment early, staff did not confiscate Shaun’s shaving razor from his toiletries bag. When a nurse walked upstairs to deliver the sedatives to Shaun, she opened the door and saw that Shaun had seriously cut himself in multiple places with his razor and was bleeding out. 911 was called, but paramedics were unable to revive him. Shaun died in Erica Avenue in less than 24 hours after he was admitted. His death was ruled a suicide.
Shaun’s surviving family was represented at trial by Jude Basile, of the Basile Law Firm, located in San Luis Obispo, California, and Jeremiah Lowe of Gomez Trial Attorneys, located in San Diego, California. Mr. Basile’s practice focuses exclusively on the representation of ordinary people that have suffered harm because of the wrongful or negligent conduct of others. He also enjoys an exclusive of counsel role with Gomez Trial Attorneys. Jeremiah Lowe is a partner with Gomez Trial Attorneys based in San Diego, California. Gomez Trial Attorneys is a nationally recognized law firm representing plaintiffs only in personal injury, mass tort and class action matters. The firm has recovered over $400 million in verdicts and settlements since its founding in 2005.
Case Information: Ana Reyna, individually and as successor-in-interest to the Estate of Shaun Reyna; Brandi Reyna; Brandon Reyna v. ABTTC, Inc. d/b/a A Better Tomorrow Treatment Centers, Inc.; Forterus Health Care Services, Inc.; American Addiction Centers, Inc. (Case Nos. 1400534 (Lead Case) 1500001 (Consolidated Case)).
John Gomez founded the firm alone in 2005. Today, John acts as President and Lead Trial Attorney. He has been voted by his peers as a top ten San Diego litigator in three separate fields: Personal Injury, Insurance and Corporate Litigation. Since 2000, he has recovered over $800 million in settlements and verdicts for his clients with more than 160 separate recoveries of one million dollars or more. A prolific trial lawyer, John has tried to jury verdict more than 60 separate cases.
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