Lawsuit: Officials didn’t warn parent before teen overdose
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The father of one of two 13-year-old Utah boys who fatally overdosed on a synthetic opioid drug sued police and a school district on Wednesday, saying officials withheld information that could have helped him prevent his son’s death.
The suit claims that Park City officials knew Ryan Ainsworth could be in danger after his friend died in September 2016 but did not give his father specific warnings about the new substance U-47700, also known as pink, before he overdosed two days after his friend.
Robert Ainsworth’s lawsuit claims that lapse violated the plaintiffs’ civil rights and the duty of police and schools to protect the teenager.
Park City School District had no comment on the case. Mayor Andy Beerman offered condolences and said the city has generally been proud of how police handled the high-profile case.
“While we’ve had no prior indication of claims against the department, we will evaluate and respond accordingly in due course,” Beerman said in a statement.
As police investigated the Sept. 11, 2016, death of Grant Seaver, they discovered messages on his computer indicating Ryan Ainsworth could also be using the drug, the lawsuit states.
School officials were aware of contact between the two boys when the officials met with Robert Ainsworth a day later, the lawsuit states. They told him Seaver may have taken the drug but did not specifically warn him that his son may also be using it, attorneys said in court documents.
A school official said police asked him not to share information about the death because they were worried about interference with their investigation, according to the lawsuit.
Still, “extremely distressed” administrators recommended that Robert Ainsworth take his son to a hospital and have him checked out, the lawsuit states. Robert Ainsworth said he came away from the meeting thinking they were concerned about suicide risk.
The boy was screened for drugs, but U-47700 was new and the tests came back clean, according to court documents.
School officials and police did send out a joint warning email to the community about the drug, but it was a general announcement that Robert Ainsworth did not read immediately, according to the lawsuit. He also searched his home several times without finding any sign of the drug, the suit said.
He found his son dead on a sofa on the morning of Sept. 13, 2016.
In 2016, U-47700 was among a new generation of drugs being synthesized in clandestine labs. Nearly eight times stronger than morphine, it has been connected with about 50 deaths nationwide.
At the time the Utah teens overdosed, it was too new as a recreational drug to be listed as an illegal substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Police have said a group of Park City teenagers purchased the drug online through the dark net, an area of the internet often used for illegal activity.
The lawsuit seeks damages on a number of claims, including one for at least $3 million.