The City of Baltimore approved settlements in three civil claims filed against the city, totaling $340,000. The city’s Board of Estimates, a five-member board that includes the mayor, the president of the City Council, and the city comptroller, approved the settlements by a unanimous vote. The three claims all involved traffic accidents with city vehicles, including a 2007 collision between a fire truck and a car that killed three people.
Sovereign immunity, the legal principle that the government cannot be sued unless it consents to the lawsuit, governs claims made for accidents involving public vehicles, and requires that injured persons or their representatives file claims with a designated government agency before attempting to file suit. In Baltimore, for example, claims go through the city’s Law Department.
The fire truck accident occurred early on Sunday, December 9, 2007, when a fire engine ran a red light on Park Heights Avenue and struck a vehicle. The fire truck was reportedly responding to a report of smoke in an apartment building, and had its emergency lights and siren activated at the time. The smoke turned out to be from burning food in an apartment unit. Traveling at forty-seven miles per hour, the fire truck hit a Nissan Murano traveling at twenty-three miles per hour.