Family awarded $77 million after son was discharged from addiction treatment centre too soon
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A jury has awarded $77 million to the parents of a man who died shortly after he was let out of an addiction treatment centre.
Nicholas Michael Carusillo was 29 years old when he was admitted to Metro Atlanta Recovery Residences (MARR) on 29 August, 2017.
He had been suffering with various mental health struggles during his childhood, from substance abuse to bipolar disorder - the latter formally diagnosed when he was 20.
Just days after he was released from the treatment centre on 19 September, 2017, he passed away.
A jury has since ruled in favour of a wrongful death lawsuit filed by Carusillo's parents in 2019, awarding them a total of $77 million (£66,557,179).
Carusillo had been in and out of various treatment facilities by the time he was admitted to MARR. When he first arrived there on 29 August, 2017, he is reported as being in a mentally stable condition according to his family's lawyers - Natalie Woodward and Dax Lopez - which was reported in the court filing.
A combination of lithium and Seroquel was being used to manage Carusillo's bipolar disorder.
Despite the proclamations of his family and therapist - who he had been seeing regularly for a substantial period of time - the court filing reports Carusillo was taken off the lithium.
In the MARR facility, patients are banned from having mobile phones. Staff claimed they found Carusillo with such a device and on 19 September, 2017 he was subsequently told to leave.
By that point, his condition is said to have deteriorated.
The 29-year-old was then taken to a sober living house - The court filing claims the owner of the house was not made aware of the mental health struggles Carusillo was experiencing.
Carusillo was discharged the following day after he breached the curfew by going outside of the house early that morning.
After being discharged, he went to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, dropped off by the owner of the sober living house.
No one knew where Carusillo went between being dropped off at the AA meeting to when he was discovered to have died on 22 September, 2017.
According to the court filing, his body was recovered from a major Interstate Highway in the Southeastern United States called Interstate 85, just outside of Atlanta.
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Carusillo had been hit by multiple cars and was reportedly found naked and in a horizontal position on the road.
His system was clear of any illegal drugs or alcohol.
According to lawyers representing MARR, Carusillo protested about the side effects of the lithium he was on and that's why a doctor decided to take him off it.
They also said Carusillo was aware he would be discharged from the facility if he continued to violate rules - of which the MARR said the 29-year-old had already broken 'multiple,' including allegedly being found with a phone the next morning.
The court filing went onto claim that Carusillo agreed to go into a sober living house but refused to go to another facility where more intensive treatments were available - options which were all apparently discussed during a phone conference with the 29-year-old's parents and MARR staff.
Last week, Carusillo's parents were awarded a total of around $77 million. For the loss of their son's life, the parents received $55 million, for the pain their son experienced, $10 million, for punitive damages, $1 million and for all other expenses and legal fees, around $11 million.
In light of the jury's decision, it is hoped by Carusillo's father, Mike, that addiction facilities will implement better guidelines and staffing protocols.
Carusillo's mother, Tina, added they hope that in speaking about their son's struggles they can de-stigmatise discussion surrounding mental health.
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On Wednesday, 7 September, Tina Carusillo told the Associated Press that the jury's verdict is 'validation' for the family.
She continued: "It wasn’t his fault. He was caught up in a bad system. I’m hopeful that the size of this verdict makes a lot of people pay attention, from insurance companies to facilities to parents to loved ones to people seeking treatment."
A lawyer for MARR, Heather Saum Ware, stated: "[The MARR] play to appeal and are not commenting further about the ongoing litigation."
Other donations for flowers and the Raymer-Kepner Funeral Home can be made via Nick Carusillo's obituary page.
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