Seaver vs. Shappard And Others Continues In Summit County Third District Court
Lawyers representing three local families being sued for the alleged wrongful death of a Park City teen, who died in 2016 from a drug overdose were in Summit County’s Third District court on Thursday. The families are asking Judge Kent Holmberg to dismiss two of the allegations - negligent misrepresentation and abnormally dangerous activity. Carolyn Murray was in the courtroom and has this report:
The family of Grant Seaver - one of the two boys who died in 2016 – are suing the parents of Ryan Ainsworth – who also died just days after friend Grant did from a similar drug overdose, as well as the Moeller and Shappard families – whose children are alleged to be involved in the deaths of the two teens.
Each had their own attorney present at the hearing. The verbal argument asking for dismissal was primarily made by attorney Adam Pace who represents the Ainsworth’s.
"You’ll notice that they’ve sued all the defendants that are here today who are the parents of these minor children. The allegation is that the children, various children of the other parents that are the defendants in this case, were somehow involved in procuring or distributing this dangerous drug to the son of the plaintiff’s and therefore contributed to his death, that is seeking to hold the parents liable for the actions of their minor children.”
Pace asked Judge Holmberg to grant the motion to dismiss saying there is no legal precedent for the claims that parents have a duty to tell others in the community about their children’s drug use or distribution.
“The claims for negligent misrepresentation and abnormally dangerous activity have no application to these facts as they’re alleged. A claim for misrepresentation is a type of fraud claim and it requires that there is a duty running between the parties to either disclose the information that was omitted if it’s based on an alleged omission or to communicate correctly the information that was misrepresented.”
Judge Holmberg asked if there is a difference between drug use and drug distribution.
“Isn’t it (the allegation) that they were also distributing drugs?”
"Against the parents, no it’s not your Honor but the children, yes. The allegation is that the children of one or more of these parents were involved in procuring or distributing these drugs and that the parents knew or should have known about the circumstances of their children doing that and should have communicated that…that’s the allegation.”
“The example you gave is a little different from that…you gave an example about the parent knowing about a child having used drugs. But, in this case, the allegation is not just that the parents knew not only that they used them that they were also involved in distribution.”
“Right, and I can see the distinction you’re drawing there. But, my response to that would be that there is no duty for that established anywhere in the law either.”
The Seaver’s attorney, Angus Edwards, said he believes the defendants committed fraud by omitting information about their children’s purchase and distribution of dangerous drugs. He claims the parents had a duty to speak up. Judge Holmberg asked how Edwards would argue the parents had a duty to speak.
“You’re claiming that the defendants defrauded your client. How would you articulate the special relationship that exists that gives rise to the duty to speak?”
“What the policy determination this court must make is there a duty to speak because a particular plaintiff is entitled to protection. We’re asking the court, yes we know it’s a novel theory, we’re asking the court to say the policy determination to protect this 13-year-old boy, a duty arose, because of his age, because of the wide-spread knowledge, because of all of the wrong-doing it took, to get that drug, that incredibly dangerous drug from a clandestine labs in China, shipped by the US Postal Service to Park City, Utah."
Due to a request made by defense attorney for Jillian Ainsworth, the judge ordered attorneys for all sides to coordinate their discovery calendars. The end date for discovery on the case is next May.
Judge Holmberg said he would take the defendants motion to dismiss into consideration and decide soon.