Los Angeles is home to more than its fair share of drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities. While most of these make good faith efforts at curbing drug and alcohol addicted patients, the Hollywood Reporter recently published a story about a wrongful death civil lawsuit filed by the parents of 22 year old Andrew Witkoff arising from his death while a patient at one such facility. (See story here). The facts allege that the facility represented itself as a “Class A” in house clinic with trained personnel but, in fact, the staff persons assigned to monitor Mr. Witkoff had little or no training in monitoring and supervising drug addicted patients and that lack of proper supervision led to Mr. Witkoff continuing with his oxycontin consumption and his eventual overdose while at the facility. The lawsuit raises three, principal claims as follows: (1) Negligence; (2) Dependent Adult Abuse; and (3) Fraud. I thought it would be interesting to explore what will need to proven by the parents of the deceased patient to prevail on these claims and what potential recovery of money damages may be gained in these various causes of action.
What is “Negligence” As It Applies to The Administration of Drug Counseling and Rehabilitation?
California law defines “negligence” as a breach of a legal duty to provide ordinary and reasonable care which causes damage to another person. If this results in a death, then the survivors or heirs (including parents, siblings, and children) may be entitled to recover damages for both financial support previously provided by the decedent as well as the “economic value” of the loss of “love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, moral support.” (See: Wrongful Death Claims in California). In this case, it appears that the decedent may not have provided financial support to his surviving parents but, they would still be entitled to the “general damages” for the loss of their loved one if they can prove that the care provided was below reasonable standards for a same or similar rehab clinic.