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Timothy Maloney addresses Maryland’s Cap on Civil Rights Judgments against Local Governments

In a recent Baltimore Sun article, Timothy Maloney discusses why his client who won an $11.5M verdict against Prince George’s County will only receive $400,000. A 1980s Maryland law caps the amount of money a person can receive when suing a local government. The case is currently before Maryland’s highest court to determine whether the lower court properly applied the state law. 

The Washington Post also covered the story and examines how the Maryland civil rights case could have a major affect on how victims are compensated in cases involving police brutality and other civil violations. 

The family of a man wrongly shot and killed by a Prince George’s County police officer in 2008 is challenging a state law that limits the amount of damages for which the county can be held liable. The issue in Espina v. Jackson is whether a Maryland law passed in the 1980s can cap how much local governments owe plaintiffs who have successfully sued municipalities.

In finding for the family, the jury in the 2011 case found the county liable for wrongful death and for violating Espina’s due process rights under Article 24 of the Maryland Constitution’s Declaration of Rights. 

Earlier this month, Joseph Greenwald & Laake Principal and attorney Timothy F. Maloney argued that a trial judge erred in cutting the jury’s $11.5 million damages award for the widow and son of Manuel de Jesus Espina to only about $400,000. The trial judge said the cap was mandated under the state’s Local Government Tort Claims Act. “The $200,000 cap has not been addressed in 27 years,” said Maloney. “This is a police killing that could have been avoided. Eleven million is not a runaway verdict in this case.” 

An intermediate court later upheld the decision. Now, the state’s high court has taken up the matter and is expected to rule by August 2015. No payouts of the award have been made while the case is under appeal.

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