Lawyer for Wrongful Death: Advocating Disabled Care

by | Mar 15, 2024 | News Updates

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Peter Mifflin, a lawyer for wrongful death who fought for the autistic boy, says, “…in the state of Utah, someone who leaves a dog in the back of a car is charged immediately for animal cruelty without blinking, and that exact same conduct with regard to a human being is not charged at all. That still bothers me,”

‘Roost services,’ which claims to elevate life, has literally failed to care for the autistic boy. Their negligence ended in the demise of a loving and happy boy in Utah. The facility was very eager to settle the case for a secret compensation and had left their license lapse to pull the curtain on their services. Will the settlement be an eye-opener for the facilities in their care for the needy? Let’s wait and see.

This blog takes you to the life of an autistic boy who lost his life in a hot car on July 21, 2021. This incident is a handful for the whole sac to know the ongoing negligence in the care facilities across the country. There is an increase in wrongful death cases across the U.S. against care facilities.

The heartbreaking story of Joshua Hancey

Tyler and Robyn Hancey gave birth to Joshua Tyler Hancey on September 30, 2009, in Murray, Utah. He was a lovely and lively child with autism. He had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as well as a compulsive eating disorder. Mary and William Tonata became his foster parents in 2014, and he stayed with them for nearly seven years.

An American Fork day-treatment center for the intellectually disabled, Roost services, used to take care of the boy during the daytime. They used to pick him up from his foster home to the facility. The facility was owned by Robert Rudd, who was running the facility with a small number of employees to take care of the disabled. It is said that he had hired unskilled young adults of college age to handle the people who needed special care.

Joshua Hancey previously “wandered off” on July 11 and July 20 while under the supervision of the program- the Department of Human Services reports in a notification that placed the license of Roost Services on provisional status. The notice states that after Joshua was left unsupervised twice, Roost Services “trained employees on [Hancey’s] behavior plan and the need to be aware at all times to keep him safe.”

On July 21, 2021, the employee who used to pick up Joshua was on leave, and another employee picked him up and handed him over to the staffer. He took Joshua with him to see other clients. When he came back, the staffer went in with the other clients forgetting Joshua in the car. He had been in the car for around three hours under the mid-90 temperature. The staff who left him in the car came in search of him after that and found him unresponsive.

When the police found him unresponsive, the windows were up, and the car was under direct sunlight. Though he was taken to the hospital, he was pronounced to be dead. The investigator stated that it was very hot on that day.


Joshua’s uncle, Dustin Hancey, said that the whole family was devastated.


The family sought donations from the kind-hearted for the funeral expenses of Joshua Hancey through GoFundMe.

Lawyer for Wrongful Death Stands with the Family

On behalf of the boy’s estate, a lawyer for wrongful death, Peter Mifflin, brought a wrongful death claim against the facility and its negligent staff members. According to the lawsuit, Joshua experienced considerable agony, pre-death pain, and suffering, as evidenced by fresh bite marks on various locations of his body before his death.

In Joshua’s stomach, the medical examiner discovered a brown paper McDonald’s bag and pieces of blue paper, possibly from an absorbent urinary pad. According to the lawsuit, he ate the items “out of hunger or frustration due to the heat.” The employee in charge of watching the boy was charged with child abuse, homicide, and obstruction of justice, according to police investigators.

Wrongful death Attorneys for Joshua claim that the Utah Division of Child and Family Services was never notified of the occurrence. In addition, the lawsuit claims that despite the fact that staff members missed the youngster wandering off, Roost did nothing to help the problem during the month that passed between that occurrence and Josh’s passing.

Following a seven-month investigation, Utah County Attorney David Leavitt declined to file charges, claiming that the death was unintentional. The boy’s lawyer for wrongful death feels that in Utah, the human life does not get even the value of a dog under the same circumstance, where the offender would be charged with animal cruelty.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security found Roost Services in violation of several licensing rules in July 2021, including not having an adequate number of trained staff, not properly supervising clients, and failing to take “reasonable measures” to keep clients and staff safe.

It made the facility’s license conditional, which meant it had to notify clients that it had violated its licensing agreement and could not accept new clients until the violations were resolved, among other things.

After a year of suffering and agony for the family, in July 2022, the case was settled for an undisclosed amount by the facility, and the wrongful death lawsuit for negligence in nursing care was dismissed. Mifflin anticipates that the wrongful death lawsuit will result in improvements in care to prevent similar errors from occurring in the future.

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

When a person’s death is brought on by another person’s carelessness or malicious intent to hurt the deceased person, a wrongful lawsuit can be pursued. Attorneys for wrongful death can assist the needy in suing the negligent defendants.

What does the wrongful death law mean? Family members like spouse, children, lover, and so on, and dependents can file a lawsuit for wrongful death against anyone who kills another person either intentionally or negligently. Someone who is being sued for wrongful death may also be charged criminally in connection with the same incident, and because the standard of proof is lower in a wrongful death action, even if the defendant is not found guilty on the criminal charge, they may still be held accountable.

In most states, the wrongful death lawsuit should be filed within the 3 years of the demise of the victim. Have a glance at the statutes of limitation for wrongful death litigation.


To know more about wrongful death claims, read our blog- Why should you seek the help of a wrongful death lawyer?

What are the Damages for Wrongful Death?

Usually, the decedent’s family- spouse or children could get economic, non-economic damages, and punitive damages from the defendants.  The economic damages include:

  • Medical expenses incurred as a result of a fatal injury or illness
  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Loss of future earnings of the deceased person
  • Loss of benefits such as medical insurance or a pension
  • Loss of benefits such as medical insurance or a pension Inheritance
  • Value of services provided by a victim to the household, such as cleaning and home maintenance

The non-economic damages include:

  • The loved ones of the deceased’s mental anguish or pain and suffering
  • Loss of the deceased victim’s guidance, care, advice, and nurturing
  • The deceased’s loss of companionship, love, and society
  • The loss of a spouse’s consortium

Punitive damages:

A deceased person’s estate or family members may be allowed to initiate a survival action against an at-fault party in addition to bringing a wrongful death claim. By taking such legal action, the family is able to receive payment for the losses the deceased individual could have sought in a personal injury lawsuit had they lived.

However, in Joshua’s case, the wrongful death lawsuit did not proceed to court and was dismissed. We are not sure of the settlement amount and if it could equal the wrongful death settlement if the case proceeded to court. Joshua’s lawyer for wrongful death hopes Utah County will re-examine the case with a new county attorney at the start of next year.

In another similar case, where 51-year-old Timothy Cortinas, an intellectually disabled man, was seat-belted and found dead in a locked car in 2018. The wrongful death lawyers filed a lawsuit on behalf of his grieving mother and finally secured her a $7 million recent verdict in July 2022.

Why is there a Surge in Wrongful Death Cases against Care Facilities?

Do the care facilities really care? Many care facilities are giving enhanced care to the needy and the disabled. Even then, there are some facilities that do not care for the inhabitants or the individuals they are supposed to care for. There are many causes of this piteous condition. The most important are given below:

  • Untrained staff without any knowledge of the need of the disabled and the invalid people.
  • Preferring money-making to give essential care
  • Carelessness as the invalid or the disabled could not respond or react to the negligence.
  • Fewer employees or staff, as in the case of Joshua
  • Caretaker-patient ratio difference makes giving proper care impossible
  • Giving poor-quality food
  • Responding slowly to the calls of the needy
  • Isolating the needy and the disabled from society may lead to psychological suffering.

Mostly, when the care facilities fall behind the standard of care expected from them, abuses and wrongful deaths occur. Hiring people with proper training and a service mentality, enhancing the facilities in the care centers, giving one-to-one attention to the invalid and the disabled, and proper surveillance from the authority could improve the conditions of the care facilities and reduce the abuses and wrongful deaths.

In Joshua’s case, sheer negligence can be evidently seen. Overwork or understaffing cannot be a valid and humane reason to shift the blame. Staff in the care facilities should be vigilant when taking care of the disabled. Like, Joshua’s lawyer for wrongful death, we can also hope that Joshua’s family would get justice.

To wind up,

If you have lost your loved one to someone else’s carelessness, seek the help of attorneys for wrongful death to know the statutes of limitation in your state to proceed with your wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death lawyer who knows the nook and corner of wrongful death law can easily guide you to get the reparation to encounter the rest of your financial needs in the absence of your loved one to an extent.

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