Bisnar Chase Secures $11-Million Jury Verdict for Wife and Children of Man Who Died by Suicide While in Rehab
Newport Beach personal injury law firm, Bisnar Chase, obtained an $11-million jury verdict in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against two residential treatment facilities by the family of 58-year-old John Cunningham who took his own life after not receiving the life-saving treatment he needed to overcome addiction to prescription drugs.
H. Gavin Long, personal injury trial lawyer with Bisnar Chase, who tried the wrongful death lawsuit, said Cunningham had checked into Redwood Cliffs, a rehab clinic in Watsonville, Calif. that follows the Narconon Program, which is formulated and adopted in conjunction with the doctrines, precepts and dictates of the Church of Scientology. Once Cunningham got there on August 14, 2015, based on the advice of administrators there, he was entrusted to the care of Bright Future Recovery in Hollister for the initial stages of his drug detoxification and withdrawal.
Long said Cunningham had been battling addiction to Benzodiazepines (Ativan, Xanax) for about four years. He had been to five detox programs, but found himself relapsing. Long said after extensive research, Cunningham and his family selected Redwood Cliffs, and informed the facility of Cunningham's extensive psychiatric history including suicidal ideations, hospitalizations and list of medications he was taking.
But Cunningham did not get the life-saving treatment he desperately needed at Bright Future Recovery, Long said.
"Bright Future was a horribly-run detox facility," he said. "They had inexperienced staff and supervised their clients minimally. They lacked treatment planning and didn't have a care policy. They didn't properly assess patients for suicide risk."
Long said the facility's owner, Cheree Davila, a 25-year-old former addict, even lacked the knowledge that one of the risks of mismanaging a detox was a client could try to take his or her own life. During his time at Bright Future, Cunningham was taken to the emergency room three times in five days for Benzodiazepine withdrawal.
"Bright Future never assessed the extent of (Cunningham's)
He said on Aug. 22, 2015, Cunningham was left unsupervised and unchecked between 7 a.m. and 12 p.m. At 12 p.m., when Davila went looking for Cunningham, she found him hanging by a belt in his bedroom closet, Long said. It was not until after Cunningham died that the family found Redwood Cliffs was actually Narconon – the Church of Scientology's version of rehabilitating those suffering from addiction, he said.
The defendants' team of lawyers put forth several contentions including statements that Cunningham "did not have family support" and that he had a poor prognosis and shortened life expectancy because of his addiction.
Long said the jurors who heard the case understood that it was the treatment facilities' negligence and failure to provide proper treatment to Cunningham that caused his death.
He said the jury awarded $11 million in damages to Cunningham's wife and two daughters. Attorneys for Bright Future had offered to settle with the family for $350,000 and Narconon for $100,000 – both well below the plaintiffs' demand for $1 million in damages.
Long said this verdict not only gives Cunningham's family a sense of justice, but also sends out a message to such residential treatment facilities that they will be held accountable for not providing proper care to their vulnerable patients. Cunningham's family had paid Redwood Cliffs (Narconon) $42,500 for his treatment.
"He did not get the help he needed and died a horrible death, alone," Long said. "I'm relieved that the jury saw the terrible injustice and an egregious level of negligence on the part of the treatment facilities."
Cunningham et al. vs. Narconon Pacific Coast et al.
County of Santa Cruz
About Bisnar Chase
Bisnar Chase represents victims injured by defective products and by acts of negligence. The firm has been featured on a number of popular media outlets including Newsweek, Fox, NBC, and ABC and is known for its passionate pursuit of results for their clients. Since 1978, Bisnar Chase has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for victims and their families. For more information, please call 800-561-4887 or visit http://www.BestAttorney.com for a free consultation. We are located at 1301 Dove Street #120, Newport Beach, CA 92660.
Page Updated Last on: May 08, 2019