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Parties Settle Case in Which Autistic 11-year-old Died in Hot Car

— August 1, 2022

A child passes away after a care center employee leaves a child in a hot vehicle.

Joshua “Joshee” Hancey, an 11-year-old by with autism, died after being left in a hot car on July 21, 2021, at outside of Roost Services, a treatment center for persons with disabilities. A wrongful death lawsuit was subsequently filed by his family against the center and some of its employees. The suit has now been dismissed after the parties have settled for an undisclosed amount.

The day Hancey passed away, an employee picked him up from his foster parents’ home and left him inside the vehicle for almost three hours while they went inside the center.

Peter Mifflin, the attorney for Joshua’s estate, said, “Roost Services LLC is no longer in a position financially or otherwise to neglect other disabled individuals.” according to a statement from attorney Peter Mifflin. “No more children will be neglected or die in Roost Service’s day treatment program. From our point of view, that is a good outcome.”

Although they had reached a settlement, Mifflin said “no amount of money can make up for the family’s loss.” But his clients are hopeful that the case will help drive “improvements in the system.”

In 2021, Roost employees had been complaining about being overworked due to being understaffed. According to a police report following the incident indicated that miscommunication led to Hancey being left in the hot vehicle. Law enforcement wanted to have the individuals responsible be charged with child abuse homicide and obstruction of justice but the county attorney said the death was accidental.

Parties Settle Case in Which Autistic 11-year-old Died in Hot Car
Photo by Tara Winstead from Pexels

“Prior to essentially cooking to death in the back seat of (the) car, Joshua Hancey experienced considerable agony, pre-death pain and suffering as evidenced by fresh bite marks on various locations of his body,” the lawsuit stated.

Police recommended the employee in charge of watching Joshua be charged with child abuse homicide and obstruction of justice. Utah County Attorney David Leavitt declined to file charges, saying the death was unintentional. At the time of his decision, Leavitt said, “This is the worst nightmare — to have a child in someone else’s care die after being overlooked. For it to be a criminal charge, the mistake has to be of such a gross nature that it shocks your conscience so to speak. When we looked at the facts of the case, what we found was a tragic accident, not a crime.”

“From a legal perspective, that’s a nonsense answer, that doesn’t make any sense. Because that’s not what’s required,” Mifflin said of the county’s refusal to bring child abuse charges, which he argued is commonly unintentional. He added, “I still, to this day, find it interesting that, in the current environment 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.”


Parties settle lawsuit over death of 11-year-old Utah boy left in hot car

New details emerge in case of 11-year-old boy who died inside hot car

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