Family of man who died after rehab release wins $77 million

(NewsNation) — A Georgia court awarded the family of Nick Carusillo $77 million in a wrongful death lawsuit against a rehab there. Carusillo had been taken off his bipolar medication, even though his family and therapist warned against it. 

The addiction crisis in the United States has been declared a public health emergency.  Millions suffer from substance use disorder, and fewer than 20% get help. 

However, once someone does make the difficult decision to go to rehab, many confront another pressing problem: some rehabs are not especially good at helping people get clean and sober.

Tina Carusillo, Nick’s mom, said she was advised to cut ties with her son for three weeks while he was at the rehab facility. She later received a call that her son had broken rules over a cellphone violation and was being released. It was then that she also learned he had been taken off of his medication.

Nick Carusillo died Sept. 22, 2017 after being hit by multiple cars on a Georgia interstate, days after the rehab released him. In 2019, his parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the facility that released him and several people who were responsible for his care there.

“We asked, ‘Is he on his medication?’ And we were shocked when they said no,” Tina said Friday night during an appearance on “NewsNation Prime.” “We got no answers as to why … We asked, could he stay? He wanted to stay … And that was not a possibility.”

Attorney Natalie Woodward says there were multiple allegations of negligence against the facility.

“We saw that there were multiple levels of wrongdoing … things that we believed were easily preventable. And that’s ultimately what the jury was so shocked by. This did not have to happen,” Woodward said.

Dr. Gregory Jantz, a best-selling author and founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE, also weighed in on “Prime,” saying it’s important to remember that people in rehab facilities are real people.

“There are third parties that are trying to hustle patients in, and they route them to different places. So there are unethical things going on. I know that happens,” Jantz said. “When a person says, ‘Yes, I will get help,’ we need to make sure they get the right kind of help.”

Jantz suggests calling at least three facilities, gathering information, and trusting your discernment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.