Hurricane city paid $2 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a man who died in 2009 after being shocked with a Taser by police.
The settlement agreement, provided to The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday in response to a records request, limits what the parties can say about the resolution of the case. But it allows the family of Brian Cardall, who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, to continue their advocacy work with National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Utah and police departments on how to improve interactions with people who have mental illness.
Cardall's death on June 9, 2009, sparked a statewide discussion over the use of Tasers and the police response to the mentally ill. The Utah Legislature passed a resolution encouraging police departments to provide officers with better training on mental illness, which was signed by Gov. Gary Herbert in May 2011 during a ceremony attended by Cardall's family.
Neither the settlement nor other documents provided to The Tribune indicate whether the Hurricane Police Department adopted any additional policies, procedure or training after the incident. Attorney Julia Kyte, who represented the defendants, said the agreement prohibited her from answering questions about that issue.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, were Cardall's wife, Anna; his daughters, Ava and Bella; and his parents, Duane and Margaret Cardall. Duane Cardall is the retired editorial director at KSL TV.
Cardall, 32, his then-pregnant wife Anna and their oldest daughter were traveling back to Flagstaff, Ariz., after attending a wedding in Salt Lake City when he began to act out. The couple pulled to the side of State Road 59, which runs from Hurricane to Fredonia, Ariz., so Cardall could take medication. Before it took effect, Cardall removed his clothing and began darting into the roadway.
Concerned about her husband's safety, Anna Cardall called 911. Hurricane police Officer Kenneth Thompson and Police Chief Lynn Excell responded to the scene. Thompson shocked Cardall twice with a Taser near his heart within minutes of arriving on the scene. Cardall had no pulse by the time another officer arrived on the scene.
A small study published in the American Heart Association's journal earlier this year found that Tasers can cause an irregular rapid heartbeat, sudden cardiac arrest and death in clinically healthy people when aimed at a person's chest. The study looked at cases of eight men shocked with a Taser near the heart, all but one of whom died.
In October 2009, Taser International issued a "training advisory" for law enforcement officers that recommended against shooting people in the chest with the 50,000-volt stun gun to avoid an extremely low risk of an "adverse cardiac event." The advisory said research has not shown that the weapons cause cardiac arrest and noted thousands of people have been hit by Taser probes in the chest with no adverse effects. But the company said avoiding the chest would defuse "controversy about whether or not the [electronic control devices] could have caused a cardiac event."
A Taser training article says the preferred target zones "when possible" are below the chest for the front and below the neck for the back, though hitting the chest may be necessary in fast moving and unpredictable encounters.
As part of the settlement, reached in December, the Cardalls agreed to drop all claims against the police officer, its police chief and the city. Described as a "compromise of doubtful and disputed claims," the settlement notes that the financial payment is not an admission of liability by the defendants.
The settlement anticipates a records request, referencing the state's records statute and saying parties may publicly say only that "the case was resolved." A statement for media, included in the settlement, said the parties realized that a trial to resolve factual disputes would have been a "substantial expense" and "emotional burden" for both sides.
"After a full consideration of all the factors involved, the parties are satisfied that the settlement reached in this case represents a prudent assessment of the risks of going to trial and the implications that the burdens of trial would have for everyone involved," the statement says.
Based on the settlement, U.S. District Court Judge Clark Waddoups dismissed the lawsuit against Hurricane City on Jan. 4.
The settlement provides for a portion of the payment to be placed in a trust for Brian Cardall's two daughters. Since her husband's death, Anna Cardall has focused on raising their daughters and is studying to become a nurse.
Northern Arizona University, with support from Cardall's family, has set up a scholarship fund in his name to aid science students, said attorney Nate Alder, who represented the family. Cardall was a completing his doctorate degree at the school when he died.