FMG helps drug rehabilitation facilities continue their critical work


California flag; CA

By: Parisa Saleki

There’s a reason they call it “practicing law.” In a case of first impression in California, Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP’s Paul Bigley and Parisa Saleki brought home a great verdict in a complicated and emotional case after four long weeks of trial in El Dorado County.   

In 2021, a Decedent, through her estate, and her baby, through his guardian, filed a lawsuit against a long-operating and respected recovery home and treatment center dedicated to helping people overcome substance use disorders.  

Decedent became a client of the facility, our client, when she was eight months pregnant and battling an active heroin addiction. This facility is one of the few in California that treats pregnant and post-partum women. While at the facility, Decedent thrived. She accomplished 70+ days of sobriety (the most prolonged period throughout her nearly 17-year addiction history), gave birth to a heroin-free child, and worked with outside providers to find success. 

About a month after giving birth, Decedent told her counselor she was ready to go home with her baby, fiancé, and animals. As a non-medical and voluntary treatment center, Decedent’s counselors embraced her desires. Based on her wishes, improvement, and care coordination, it was deemed that Decedent met her goals and the facility’s level of care treatment was no longer a medical necessity; therefore, discharge was agreeable. A few days later, Decedent returned home but, unfortunately, relapsed the next day and suffered a fatal heroin overdose.  

Plaintiffs sought to hold the facility liable for Wrongful Death, Negligence, Dependent Adult Abuse, Neglect, and Abandonment, Negligent Misrepresentation, and Fraud.  

We successfully disposed of the Dependent Adult Abuse, Neglect, and Abandonment claim through a motion for summary adjudication, but the remaining issues went to trial. Plaintiffs’ counsel would ultimately abandon the Negligent Misrepresentation and Fraud causes of action just short of closing arguments. 

Throughout this case, Plaintiffs’ counsel unsuccessfully attempted to analogize people with an addiction and rehabilitation facilities to mentally compromised persons residing in psychiatric hospitals. However, Plaintiffs’ counsel failed to realize that at the heart of every unfortunate relapse is a person choosing to use, and that person is not necessarily “incompetent” simply for having an addiction.  

The parties stipulated to the value of past and future household services at $610,746.50. At trial, Plaintiffs asked the jury for 48.6 million dollars and denied any comparative fault whatsoever. We argued that rehab is a resource, not a cure, and we presented the jury with a clear message: this was a tragic case, an avoidable death, but not a fault-free accident. 

After two days of tense deliberations, the jury returned a net verdict of $993,000–less than what was offered to settle the case before trial. Included in the net verdict was a 70% comparative negligence finding on the Decedent.  

The effect of this case on substance use disorder treatment in California is significant. The critical facilities that dedicate everything they have to help underserved communities overcome challenging addictions can continue operations and their essential work.  

This case serves as a reminder of the importance of teamwork. Aside from the handling attorneys, many more were fundamental in this win, including a dedicated team of paralegals, litigation support, and support staff who tirelessly worked behind the scenes.  

Special thanks to attorneys Jason Dineros, Tim Kenna, and Christian Foy Nagy for their tireless support throughout this very hard-fought trial. 

Please contact Paul Bigley at or Parisa Saleki at to discuss this important verdict.