Do intoxicated rehab patients have the mental capacity to enter contracts?

By: - November 2, 2018 4:59 pm

A Solutions Recovery facility in Las Vegas, June 2018 (Nevada Current file photo).

Solutions Recovery in Las Vegas

Clark County Judge Kerry Earley is refusing to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the mother of  23-year-old Cody Arbuckle, an Indiana man who died while being treated for heroin addiction at Solutions Recovery, a Las Vegas drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.  Solutions is owned by industry giant American Addiction Centers (AAC).

Earley also denied AAC’s motion to compel arbitration in the case.  

The attorney for Solutions Recovery argued that Arbuckle voluntarily executed an arbitration agreement that is binding on his heirs.  

Arbuckle’s mother, Kathryn Deem, acknowledged the arbitration agreement was “purportedly signed at the time of his admission. However, claimant challenges the arbitration agreement as being both procedurally and substantively unconscionable,” Deem wrote in a arbitration demand filed as a procedural matter.    

Attorneys for Deem say on the day Arbuckle signed the arbitration agreement, he was in the throes of addiction and lacked the capacity to contract. A drug screen performed the same day by Solutions indicates Arbuckle tested positive for fentanyl, norbuprenorphine, hydromorphone, and norfentanyl.     

“Defendants had a practice of routinely and knowingly requiring clients such as Arbuckle to sign admissions paperwork that included not only an arbitration agreement, but also a complete waiver of liability, when they were acutely intoxicated and not of sound mind,” wrote Deem’s attorneys.  “Determining enforceability of an arbitration agreement that was purportedly executed under these circumstances … is a critically important issue to be decided by this court.”

“The for-profit residential treatment industry, including Defendants’ own conduct, has drawn widespread scrutiny for the deceptive practices, lack of client care and patient brokering, leading to numerous patients’ deaths,” the plaintiff’s motion stated.

In a declaration filed with the court, Greg Houck, a registered nurse who says he worked at Solutions from May 2017 through September 2018, stated new patients routinely signed contractual agreements while intoxicated.

AAC vice-president David Marlon told the Current earlier this year that clients have an opportunity to review the paperwork.

Houck stated “I am not aware of anyone from AAC presenting the clients with the paperwork again once they were no longer acutely intoxicated.”

An attorney for Solutions Recovery declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.

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Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana has four adult children, two grandsons, three dogs, three cats and a cockatoo named Casper.