Now that Robert Ainsworth’s lawsuit against the Park City Police and Park City School District has been dismissed in U.S. District Court, he says he’s grateful that the legal fight over the circumstances of his son’s tragic death is over.
But he says he had multiple reasons to file the suit in 2019.
Ainsworth alleged in his lawsuit that the Park City Police Department and the Park City School District withheld information that could have saved his son from a fatal opioid overdose in September of 2016.
Federal judge Howard Nielson dismissed the case in late January, ruling that Ainsworth didn’t show a constitutional violation and that individual defendants were covered by a “qualified immunity.”
In response, Ainsworth told KPCW that the ruling could be challenged, but that would be exhausting and expensive.
“There was enough significant technical inaccuracies in that ruling that made an appeal likely to succeed, to appeal that they were not entitled to ‘qualified immunity,” he said. “That being said, it’d be a long and very expensive process to go through the appeal process. If I won, then we would finally begin the first rounds of the lawsuit, with discovery and depositions and that kind of stuff. It would begin a many-years-long project to finally get to the actual meat of the case.”
He said he filed the suit because local authorities were contemplating charges against him.
“My lawsuit was initiated as a defensive maneuver,” he said. “I had false criminal charges against me, and civil charges against me, and those were in the paper with the other family that was suing me and some other families based on some false reports. I had a number of attorneys that I consulted, and they all said it was essential for me to file this lawsuit and a couple of other lawsuits as a defensive measure. So the judge’s findings have satisfied my goal, and that was to prove that the allegations against me, criminal false allegations, that they were false.”
He said those allegations have been resolved by the passage of time. But he never got any word from the city to tell him where he stood.
“I never received definite word from them that I had criminal charges,” Ainsworth said. “It was word-of-mouth that I had criminal charges. I found out about that, about four or five months after they had forwarded me for prosecution. And then it was another many months until I got the actual report. I got it through the lawsuit from the other family, that showed what those allegations were, and that I had been forwarded for prosecution. On the fourth anniversary of my son’s death, it’s my understanding that the statute of limitations has expired. And so based upon that, I believe I’m no longer under any criminal jeopardy. But I’ve never received any official documentation directly from the city. It all came from Discovery through the lawsuit with the other family.”
Ainsworth said that for a number of years, he and his family have been in medical and legal jeopardy.
“This began with my children and a family situation,” he said. “And for the last eight years, I’ve been in litigation- where the consequences included them possibly dying, or me going to jail-- for eight years.”
In the end, he said there are lessons for everybody, from the tragic events that occurred.
“There’s a lot of information there that I think—there’s no need for any new laws or any new regulations,” Ainsworth said. “They were all in place, and many of them were violated, which is disappointing. They were put there to protect children, and at each level, they were ignored. Then for the last four years, people have been doing a very good job of trying to make sure that information was not known to the public.”
Ainsworth said he doesn’t think anyone else has put the facts together as he has. But he said when he tried to talk to Park City or the School District, they did not respond.