Family Of Man Who Died In California Rehab Awarded Millions from Wrongful Death Suit

By Victoria Kim 02/14/18

The family’s attorneys argued that the man would still be alive if the staff at the facility had checked on him every half hour, as required by the state.

judge striking the gavel

The family of Shaun Reyna, who died in a California treatment center, was awarded $7 million by a jury this month.

His family sued A Better Tomorrow treatment center for failing to provide the level of care promised to Reyna, who entered the facility “barely hanging on by the edge of my nails,” according to what he told a phone representative before entering the facility. Reyna was legally blind, and was contending with a history of physical and mental health issues, according to Mercury News. On top of that, he had a problematic relationship with alcohol and benzodiazepines.

“I’m depressed. I’m paranoid. I don’t know, I just feel like people are watching me and… I feel like I can’t hold on any longer,” he told the phone rep.

Reyna entered A Better Tomorrow in Murrieta in 2013. He was in bad shape early on, shaking and hallucinating until staff at the facility suggested that he be transported to a hospital. But that didn’t happen, based on the final say of supervisors, according to court papers.

The morning after he arrived, Reyna died by suicide. American Addiction Centers (AAC), which owns A Better Tomorrow facilities, denied responsibility for Reyna’s death. But the family’s attorneys argued that Reyna would still be alive if the staff had checked on him every half hour, as required by state law for detoxing clients. According to Mercury News, Reyna went undetected for about two hours.

Per the jury’s verdict, American Addiction Centers was held responsible for Reyna’s death. The attorneys say facilities like A Better Tomorrow take advantage of California’s “notoriously unregulated and unchecked” rehab industry, collecting money from insurance payments with less thought to the quality of treatment they offer. “They’re preying on vulnerable people and the law just hasn’t caught up,” said Patrick Stormes-Swan, one of the family’s attorneys.

This isn’t the first wrongful death lawsuit lobbed at A Better Tomorrow facilities. A 2015 report in Forbes outlines the legal issues that American Addiction Centers has faced in the last decade. Four deaths occurred at the same Murrieta location of A Better Tomorrow in a span of two-and-a-half years, in addition to Reyna and one other suicide.

Also this month, over on the other side of the country, Senator Marco Rubio urged federal authorities to crack down on the “bad actors” in Florida’s rehab industry.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr