Trials & Litigation

Woman who OK'd $900K settlement in phone call with her lawyer is bound by it, federal judge rules

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The mother of a 22-year-old man shot to death in 2014 by police in a Utah city is bound by her oral agreement to a $900,000 settlement, a federal judge has ruled.

Susan Hunt initially agreed to the pact in a recorded phone call with her lawyer. But she then repudiated the settlement based on her understanding of a non-disparagement clause she says she did not OK. However, a federal judge in Salt Lake City ruled Monday that the oral agreement by Hunt, which was also supported by an email she sent to her then-attorney, is binding, because she had given the lawyer authority to accept the settlement.

The Associated Press, the Daily Herald and the Deseret News have stories.

U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell rejected a request by Saratoga Springs for reimbursement of the attorney fees the city expended in enforcing the settlement agreement, saying that such an award would be inequitable.

At issue in the case was the fatal shooting by city police of Darrien Hunt, who was in costume and carrying a 3-foot metal costume samurai sword in a busy shopping area at the time. His mother and other supporters said he did not pose a threat to the Saratoga Springs officers and was primarily shot in the back while fleeing. They also contended that Darrien Hunt, who is black, was discriminated against by the white officers.

The Utah County attorney found the shooting justified, saying that Hunt had swung his sword at the two officers before one chased him and fired at him as he was running toward a business, the Salt Lake Tribune reported last year.

“I don’t find it reasonable to require that [officers] permit a person who is armed and has most immediately attempted to wound or kill police officers to escape into a presently populated retail area,” said county attorney Jeff Buhman at a news conference.

The $900,000 settlement will be deposited by Saratoga Springs into a court fund while it is determined what share attorney Robert Sykes may get as reimbursement for his work.

He formerly represented Susan Hunt, but she fired him when she disputed the settlement.

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