Rural Metro Sued in Arizona Heat Stroke Death

The estate of a man who died last year from heat stroke in Arizona has filed suit against the sheriff’s deputies and firefighters who responded to his emergency.

David Cutler, 23, died on June 5, 2017 after his jeep crashed and caught fire in the desert. Cutler survived the crash and was found hours later wandering in the desert by Pima County Sheriff’s Deputy Keith Barnes. At the time Cutler had been without water or shelter in 108 degree temperatures. Barnes’ report described Cutler as “beet red, red as a firebox”.

According to the suit, Barnes handcuffed Cutler and then “slammed him to the burning hot ground…. As soon as David’s naked body hit the ground, he started to shake and yell in pain from the extreme heat of the ground and from the rocks and cactus needles on the ground.”

The suit claims firefighters from Rural Metro responded and rather than treat Cutler for heat stroke, administered Ketamine as a sedative and allowed him to remain exposed to the extreme heat long enough for him to have coded. Thereafter they unsuccessfully administered CPR.

The suit filed in Pima County Superior Court alleges wrongful death, excessive and unjustified force, and negligence in the rendering of medical aid. It names Pima County, Rural Metro, Deputy Bargen and Rural Metro Firefighter Grant Reed as defendants.

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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