A former Overland Park lawyer who failed to tell police about his role in a friend’s unexpected death must pay the woman’s mother nearly $300,000, a Clay County judge has ordered.
Robert A. Mintz allegedly left a heavily intoxicated Jennifer L. Arnett alone in her Kansas City apartment before she fell down a flight of stairs and died from a broken neck, according to a wrongful death lawsuit and other court documents.
Mintz later found her body but did not immediately alert authorities or call Arnett’s family and then tried to cover up that they had been drinking together, even though he knew she was an alcoholic trying to avoid alcohol, according to the lawsuit filed by her relatives.
State supreme courts in both Missouri and Kansas suspended Mintz’s law license for dishonest conduct related to his cover-up of the events of Jan. 30, 2012, court records show.
On Wednesday, Circuit Judge Larry D. Harman approved the resolution of the wrongful-death case and ordered Mintz to pay Arnett’s family.
“Jennifer was an only child,” said John Kurtz, the family’s attorney. “This broken-hearted family treasured the opportunity to be heard.”
Lawyers for Mintz did not respond for comment.
At a hearing before the Kansas Supreme Court in December, Mintz apologized for his actions.
“I have a number of personal regrets that I am going to have to live with or try to for the rest of my life,” he said. “She needed strength, and I didn’t give it to her. The truth is that Jennifer was vulnerable and weak, and I was too.”
According to court records, Arnett and Mintz had worked together at a law firm and had an affair that lasted several years.
Arnett, who grew up in North Kansas City, was hired as an associate at the law firm where Mintz worked in 2005.
Family members said Arnett suffered from depression and chronic alcohol abuse. At some point, she received outpatient treatment at Shawnee Mission Medical Center.
She left the law firm in 2011 but continued her affair with Mintz, the court records said. The two discussed getting married.
According to the lawsuit and supreme court records, Arnett continued to drink heavily. At her family’s urging, she entered an inpatient facility for treatment of alcohol abuse. When Arnett graduated from the program on Jan. 20, 2012, Mintz attended the ceremony.
But six days later, despite attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings three times a day, Arnett relapsed and had drinks at a bar by herself. From there, the drinking increased.
The next day, she and Mintz shared a bottle of wine at dinner.
Two days later, they attended an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting together.
Three days later — Jan. 29, 2012 — they drank Champagne with brunch at a Country Club Plaza restaurant. Hours later, they sat down in a Northland bar, ordered dinner and drank vodka martinis, tequila, three or four shots of vodka and a glass of port wine.
Leaving her car there, Mintz drove Arnett home afterward. In what he called a romantic gesture, he said he carried her from the car into her apartment. He placed her on a landing inside the front door and left.
The following morning, Mintz called Arnett but she did not answer. Worried, he drove to her apartment. The front door was unlocked. He found Arnett lying on the floor of the landing.
According to Kansas Supreme Court documents, Arnett felt cold to the touch, did not respond to Mintz and was not breathing. Mintz realized that Arnett had died.
Mintz said he was afraid to call Arnett’s mother because she would blame him for allowing Arnett to drink. As he went to retrieve her car from the restaurant, he deleted text messages between them from her cellphone.
He left Arnett’s phone and keys inside her vehicle before driving home. Mintz called his law partner, who told him to call police.
After returning to Arnett’s apartment, Mintz called police. After officers arrived, Mintz lied to them about the drinking and other details of what had happened.
Though Mintz did not face criminal charges, Kansas suspended his law license indefinitely. He can reapply for reinstatement there in three years. Missouri suspended his license in June. He can apply for reinstatement after 32 months.
Mintz told the Kansas Supreme Court that his actions were “a personal failure.”