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Disabled man files lawsuit against former Utah trooper Lisa Steed

Published July 29, 2013 10:00 pm

Lawsuit • Fired UHP trooper is accused of unlawfully searching and detaining man.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A disabled man is suing former Utah Highway Patrol trooper Lisa Steed, claiming she put him at risk and caused seizures by forcing him to undergo sobriety tests and jailing him after pulling him over while he was riding his bicycle in 2010.

In a federal lawsuit filed last week, Michael Tilt claims he was riding his bicycle about 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28, 2010, near 2700 S. Main St. on a trip to a grocery store. Tilt, who suffers from seizures, cerebral palsy and other birth defects, has his bike outfitted with an electric motor to propel the bike when he is unable to pedal, the lawsuit states.

Tilt claims that Steed's police cruiser was following him closely; after he stopped to find out why, the cruiser's emergency lights were activated.

Steed then ordered Tilt to take "a litany" of field sobriety tests despite Tilt's objections that he could not perform them because of his disabilities, according to the lawsuit. For example, Tilt claims his seizure disorder affects his gaze and he has a weak left side and legs of uneven length, which compromise his balance.

Additionally, Tilt claims that his disabilities made the tests dangerous and painful. He says he was required to stand unassisted in front of the flashing emergency lights despite the risk that flashing lights could trigger a seizure. He also claims that the walk-and-turn test and other balance tests were painful and put him at risk of falling.

While Tilt was stopped by Steed, his 18-year-old daughter Michaela Tilt grew worried because her father was away from home for a long time, the lawsuit states. Michaela Tilt rode her bicycle down the street to find her father with Steed. Michaela Tilt tried to explain Michael Tilt's disabilities to Steed, but the trooper repeatedly shouted at her or ignored her, the lawsuit claims. Steed allegedly ordered Michaela Tilt to sit on the other side of the street and then left her there after the traffic stop. Michaela Tilt, who herself is mentally disabled, was "traumatized" and "panicked," according to the lawsuit.

Steed then searched Tilt "despite a lack of probable cause, emergency or warrant" and took him to have his blood drawn, the lawsuit states. She then allegedly took him to the Salt Lake County jail where he was again searched. Steed found a pill box with one dose each of Kepra and Trilepetal. Tilt told Steed that he takes the drugs to prevent seizures, the lawsuit claims, but Steed allegedly took the pills away and put Tilt into a jail cell.

Tilt's eldest daughter, Courtney Tilt, and his on-call physician both tried to persuade jail personnel to let Tilt have his medications, to no avail, the lawsuit states. He claims no doctor ever visited him in jail and the pills never were returned to him; he was released about 5:30 a.m. the next morning.

Later that day, he suffered a seizure, the lawsuit states. It also claims he likely suffered a seizure while he was jailed.

Shortly after Tilt's arrest, Courtney Tilt was called by a UHP employee who asked to speak with her "off the record," according to the lawsuit. The employee said "he felt it was wrong what had happened to Mr. Tilt but that his supervisors prevented him from dropping the charges earlier," the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit doesn't state how long Tilt was jailed. No charges against Tilt were found on record.

The employee also asked Courtney Tilt not to contact an attorney, the lawsuit alleges.

Michael and Michaela Tilt are suing Steed and yet-unnamed employees of Utah Highway Patrol, claiming civil rights violations and other damages.

The Utah Attorney General's office has not received the lawsuit, said spokesman Paul Murphy.

Steed faces several other lawsuits from people who claim they were wrongly arrested for driving under the influence.