Family of Man with Down Syndrome Killed in Altercation with Off-Duty Police Files Amended Complaint in Wrongful Death, Survival Lawsuit

Cinemaaustralia.jpgThe family of a man who was killed in an altercation with off-duty sheriff’s deputies at a Maryland movie theater have filed an amended complaint in their wrongful death and survival lawsuit. Estate of Saylor, et al, v. Regal Cinemas, Inc., et al, No. 1:13-cv-03089, am. complaint (D. Md., Mar. 11, 2014). Several defendants moved to dismiss the lawsuit late last year, claiming that the lawsuit failed to state a claim on which the court could grant relief against them. The plaintiffs sought and received leave from the court to amend their complaint, dropping two defendants and adding the State of Maryland in March 2014.

The decedent, Robert Ethan Saylor, was twenty-six years old at the time of his death on January 12, 2013. He had Down Syndrome, with an I.Q. of 40 and physical features commonly associated with the condition. According to the amended complaint, he was about five-feet-six-inches tall and weighed 294 pounds. He went to a movie theater in Frederick on the evening of January 12 with an aide. After the movie, Saylor reportedly became angry when the aide asked if he wanted to go home. The aide called Saylor’s mother, who suggested she go get the car. She left Saylor outside the theater to get the car, which was permitted under his care plan, and when she returned found that he had gone back inside.

A manager approached the aide, and she explained Saylor’s condition, explained that he would “freak out” if touched, id. at 6, and recommended that no one speak to him. The manager then asked an off-duty sheriff’s deputy working as a security guard to remove Saylor. The guard called in two additional security guards, also off-duty deputies, to assist. When they attempted to physically remove Saylor, he resisted, and the guards used force against him. Saylor suffered a fractured larynx, and was pronounced dead at the hospital just before midnight. The medical examiner ruled it a homicide. The plaintiffs describe it as a “violent, terrifying, and painful death.” Id. at 7.

Saylor’s parents filed suit individually and on behalf of his estate against Frederick County, the Sheriff’s Department, Regal Cinemas, the owner of the theater property, and the three off-duty sheriff’s deputies on October 17, 2013. The lawsuit asserts a cause of action for wrongful death and various survival actions on behalf of the decedent, including negligence, gross negligence, battery, and civil rights violations. The three security guards are directly liable for Saylor’s death, the complaint alleges, while the property owner and the governmental defendants are liable as their joint employers. The theater is liable for failing to accommodate Saylor’s needs under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The county, sheriff’s department, and deputies filed a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on December 23. They argued, in part, that Frederick County is not liable for the actions of sheriff’s deputies, because sheriffs and deputy sheriffs are employed by the state, not the county. The plaintiffs filed an unopposed motion to amend their complaint on March 10, 2014, asking the court’s permission to drop the county and sheriff’s department from the lawsuit and add the state of Maryland as a defendant. They filed their amended complaint the following day.

Lebowitz & Mzhen’s personal injury lawyers have dedicated their practice to the pursuit of justice for people in Maryland who have suffered injuries because of the illegal or negligent acts of others. Please contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 to schedule a free and confidential consultation about your case.

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Lawsuit Accuses Sheriff’s Deputies of Negligently Putting Locksmith in Harm’s Way, Resulting in His Death, During Attempted Eviction of Tenant with Violent History, Maryland Accident Law Blog, January 14, 2014
Parents of 7 Year-Old File Notice of Intent to Sue Police for Allegedly Handcuffing, Interrogating Child for 10 Hours, Maryland Accident Law Blog, February 11, 2013
Federal Lawsuit Alleges Police Brutality; Local DA Declines to Prosecute Officers, Maryland Accident Law Blog, August 13, 2012
Photo credit: By Fernando de Sousa from Melbourne, Australia (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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