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An Atlanta Wrongful Death Suit Settles Out of Court, but Legal Issues Remain

Out-of-court settlements are good for the plaintiff. They do not mean there was not a case in the first instance.
This particular case captured national media headlines when a former patient of Narconon of Georgia died while in treatment. Patrick Desmond met his death in 2009 as a result of a fatal mix of opiates and booze, while a patient at the Church of Scientology run Norcross drug treatment center.

The long and short of this case was that the treatment facility misrepresented itself as being a residential treatment center that offered in-patient care. In truth, they had no license to offer such services. Desmond was sentenced to six months in such a facility by a court in Florida.

Evidently, questionable drug treatment protocols were not the only issue to come into the spotlight as a result of Desmond’s death. There were also allegations of illegal housing operations and insurance fraud which surfaced during the investigation. Settling the case out of court, just three days prior to jury selection, was likely a smart move on the part of defense counsel, and typically indicates a concern about what a jury may do with the evidence amassed during an investigation, when it goes to court.

Rather than take a chance on having a huge award handed down by a jury, it is often wiser to settle out of court and save legal fees, while still not admitting any culpability in the case. In this particular instance though, a prior court ruling virtually set the stage for a settlement versus a court trial, when a county state court judge ruled that Narconon of Georgia had intentionally provided false information during plaintiff’s discovery proceedings. Apparently, they also withdrew the treatment facility’s responses to the allegations in the lawsuit.

Despite all the finger-pointing, the bottom line of this case dealt with Narconon having a contractual duty to provide the services they say they provide for drug addicts at their clinics. As a side note, the outfit is also facing fraud charges for billing $166,275 for doctor’s visits for a former patient that never did get the care or treatment the facility allegedly provided.

Wrongful death lawsuits can often bring other issues to the surface while they are being investigated. This case is a good example of this. While not all cases are like this, most take time to get to court and get settled. For a family in a situation like this, reach out for an experienced Atlanta personal injury lawyer. The only way to get justice is to have someone be your voice in court.

Tim Anderson writes for Atlanta Personal Injury attorney, Stephen M. Ozcomert. The firm specializes in personal injury, malpractice, motorcycle accidents, and wrongful death. To learn more about Atlanta personal injury lawyer, Stephen M. Ozcomert, visit

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