Utah Appeals Court Says Wrongful Death Lawsuit Can Go Forward

When a person sues a Utah government agency or employee for negligence in connection with their official duties, one of the main hurdles for the claimant is often the state’s Governmental Immunity Act, which shields government personnel and agencies from lawsuits in some circumstances. Whether the Act applies in a given case is often a complicated legal question.

Take, for example, a pending wrongful death case against the city of Provo based on the alleged negligence of some of its police officers. The Utah Court of Appeals recently ruled that the lawsuit, filed by a local man who lost his wife due to drug overdose, can proceed. The appellate ruling stated that the Governmental Immunity Act does not protect the police department from the alleged negligent actions of police officers and other local agencies. As a result, the wrongful death claim filed in connection with the woman’s drug overdose death may go to trial.

The overdose victim’s husband alleges that the police did not evaluate his wife’s condition properly when they responded to the man’s 911 call. Apparently, the husband suspected that his wife was trying to commit suicide, and was afraid that she had already overdosed. The police responded to the husband’s call and talked to his wife. However, the officers allegedly did not call EMTs in order to make sure that the woman had not overdosed. The husband asked about the matter but was told that he would be arrested if he called 911 again. The man later found his wife dead.

A wrongful death lawsuit does not only arise from fatal car accidents or workplace deaths; it may also derive from situations where the negligence or misconduct of others contributed to a person’s death. While the death of loved one is devastating, a wrongful death lawsuit can help a family recover from the financial consequences of the death.

Source: Daily Herald, “Appeals court: Provo City can be sued in wrongful death case“, Kurt Hanson, Jan. 13, 2015