By Eric Heinz
According to court documents obtained by the San Clemente Times, behavioral health treatment facility Sovereign Health has been ordered to pay one of its former clients nearly $9 million in an arbitration case after he allegedly suffered physical trauma and mistreatment at one of its outpatient residences.
Zachary Peterson was living in San Juan Capistrano in 2014, under the auspices of Sovereign Health, when he had an incident that left him “incapacitated,” as noted in the court documents.
Peterson was originally awarded $18 million, but that was reduced by 50% when the arbitrator determined it was Peterson’s own medication that had caused the most severe of his injuries.
“He checked into Sovereign after dealing with some drug issues, and he was looking to get better, and it was going great for the first 30 days,” said Travis Corby, the co-counsel representing Zachary Peterson’s mother. “He broke his foot while he was in there, and they had a duty to provide medical assistance. Eleven days went by in October 2014, and there was no treatment except for taking him to the emergency room.”
Corby said Sovereign was supposed to take Peterson to an orthopedic specialist but instead, after a lengthy debate and his complaints of pain, they gave him Tramadol, a synthetic opioid. The arbitration brief stated that Peterson wasn’t given the medication properly, and he ended up taking 60 of the pills at once.
This caused him to have a seizure and fall, in which he fractured his skull and led to his currently being listed as someone incapable of representing himself legally.
“Someone should have made an appointment (for him), and by Nov. 6 it became an emergency situation; his foot was black,” Corby said. “There was no plan for pain medicine.”
Sovereign Health has been under investigation since the summer of 2017, when federal agents raided their headquarters in San Clemente. The impetus of the raids may likely be tied to health insurance fraud claims that were levied against Sovereign by HealthNet, which Sovereign also fought against in court. Sovereign has since closed a number of its facilities, including the San Clemente location, but is reportedly still operating around the nation under different names.