Family sues rehab over death

The family of a man who died after being transferred from a Newport Beach recovery clinic is suing the clinic for wrongful death.

Brandon Jacques was 20 when he died of cardiac arrest last April after leaving treatment at Morningside Recovery, according to his family’s civil complaint, filed March 29 in Orange County Superior Court.

His family is seeking an unlimited amount in damages.

Jacques first sought treatment for his alcoholism and bulimia at A Sober Way Home in Prescott, Ariz., but only made headway in addressing his drinking while there, his family said in the lawsuit.

Sober Way staff recommended that he be transferred to Morningside, which bills itself as having expertise in dual-diagnosis treatment, according to court documents.

Jacques’ parents paid Morningside about $25,000 for a month of treatment. Their son was admitted March 14, 2011, according to court documents.

While at Morningside, Jacques’ electrolyte levels became unbalanced, and his family claims he had hypokalemia — abnormally low levels of potassium in the blood.

Jacques’ food intake went unchecked, and Morningside staff did not prevent him from purging his meals, the lawsuit alleges.

On March 31, 2011, Jacques was sent to First House Detox in Costa Mesa. The family asserts that their son was moved so Morningside could free up space for new clients and make more money.

“What is clear is that Morningside is an institution that was/is out of control; an institution that will falsely claim it has the ability to treat a host of disorders that in fact it cannot and does not properly treat and makes these knowing misrepresentations simply to get patients and their substantial payments in the door,” Jacques’ family states in their lawsuit.

Days after his transfer to First House, Jacques went into cardiac arrest. He died at Hoag Hospital on April 2, according to court documents.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Ted Jacques, Jacques’ father, said he was hesitant to discuss the details of the case because of the open litigation, but said he hoped no other family would go through what his did.

Morningside attorney Mary Helen Beatificato said the recovery center hasn’t been served with the lawsuit and wouldn’t discuss the specifics of it, but spoke of the center’s general practices.

She said Morningside is an equipped dual-diagnosis facility that works with psychologists and other licensed staff and consultants. Moves among recovery centers are routine, she explained.

“Speaking for the industry, it happens all the time,” Beatificato said, adding that family members are “involved in the process every step of the way.”

Richard Perlin, the former director of First House, was named as a defendant. He said he has not yet been served with the lawsuit and wouldn’t be able to comment until he reviewed a copy. He did say he was surprised to be listed as a defendant.

First House’s Costa Mesa facility, which was on Joann Street, is now closed.

The California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs moved to revoke Morningside’s license in November based on multiple violations, which state investigators reported had occurred at Morningside’s facilities. The violations included improper handling of prescriptions and providing medical services beyond the scope of the license.

In court documents, Jacques’ family described him as a bright student, who excelled in school. He was also close to his family.

“Brandon had been husky as a child and then in his teen years, he became very focused on his appearance,” according to court documents.

Later Jacques became an alcoholic, as some people with eating disorders seek drugs or alcohol “as an escape from their obsession with food or their weight,” the civil complaint said.

Toward the end of 2010, Jacques’ family said he became withdrawn and distant from them, and it was at his own suggestion that he enter rehab for treatment.

Twitter: @lawilliams30