On a Friday afternoon two summers ago, police stopped a car in the parking lot at Safeway in Parker. Beverly Pool, a passenger in the vehicle, was taken into custody. She died of a morphine overdose in her cell during the night.
Now, $191,000 is set to be paid to 8 of Beverly’s family members in a proposed settlement in her wrongful death lawsuit. The settlement was recommended by the Arizona Counties Insurance Pool and by outside counsel representing La Paz County, and approved by the Board of Supervisors Monday.
During the traffic stop on July 24th, 2015, a Parker Police officer discovered that Beverly had a warrant out of the Parker Magistrate Court, issued just a few days before, for non-payment of fines on a 2011 traffic offense. After a canine searched her vehicle, a prescription bottle was allegedly discovered containing two types of medication. Beverly was arrested for misdemeanor possession of a prescription-only drug in violation of state law, and for the warrant, and transported to the La Paz County Detention Facility.
According to the Joint Case Management Report, she was demonstrating signs and symptoms of “significant impairment” throughout the intake process at the jail:
“It took her two hours to complete a simple intake questionnaire. She dropped food on the floor, and could not maintain her balance when trying to pick it up. She sat hunched in an awkward position on her chair. She repeatedly dropped her paperwork. When escorted to the holding cell, she shuffled her way there, barely able to lift her feet off the ground. The two inmates in the holding cell knew that Ms. Pool was not well, and called for assistance from detention officers several times. Eventually Ms. Pool fell asleep.”
Beverly’s daughter Katherine DaRonche, on behalf of herself and the family through her attorney, argued that these obvious signs of impairment should have warranted medical attention, which was never offered. She also cited the statements of witnesses including an 18 year-old woman who was in the holding cell with Beverly, who said that she and others had been trying to get the attention of officers on Beverly’s behalf, but were ignored on what would certainly have been a busy Friday night in peak season.
At around 5 a.m., Detention Officer Dianne Williams, who had observed Beverly throughout the intake process, discovered her in the holding cell deceased. An autopsy later revealed that she had died from a treatable morphine overdose.
In the days after the event, Parker Live was invited to speak with Lieutenant Richard Epps, Assistant Commander of the La Paz County Detention Facility. Epps told us that the Sheriff’s Department was taking the matter very seriously and handing over investigative duties to the Arizona Department of Public Safety for an independent review of the facts.
The attorneys representing then Sheriff John Drum later argued that Beverly’s death, while unfortunate, was not due to the actions of jail personnel but rather to an overdose of morphine, saying:
“Beverly’s own comparative negligence significantly outweighs that of the other Defendants in this case, if such negligence is found to exist by a jury.”
The attorneys for the defense also argued that, if Dianne Williams were negligent, that does not mean that the County as an entity is also negligent, but that Dianne Williams was not negligent either because she was not liable for a failure to address Beverly’s medical needs, “since there is no evidence of deliberate indifference.”
There were also questions about Parker Police Department’s role in Beverly’s arrest, since the officers had seen signs of impairment but apparently not noted it in jail intake paperwork.
The proposed settlement with the County was approved unanimously on advice of counsel by the Board of Supervisors at Monday’s meeting, and will now be in the final stages of the process.
According to court documents, 8 of Beverly’s family members will receive $20,000 each, $1000 will go to Beverly’s estate and the attorneys on the case will receive the remaining $30,000. The settlement will not imply any admission of wrongdoing by the County.
Glenn Buckelew, Civil Deputy at the County Attorney’s Office, said the Arizona Counties Insurance Pool will pay the settlement, but that he believes it is subject to a $50,000 deductible.
The La Paz County Detention Facility has received widespread praise within the past year, after a project by VICE filmmaker James Burns shone a national spotlight on the jail and the Sheriff’s Department. The Parker Live Special Report on the facility is available HERE. Sheriff Bill Risen started in office in January.