As a general rule, state actors, including employees and state-run agencies, are entitled to official government immunity when it comes to personal injury lawsuits. However, each state is free to enact certain exceptions for when an accident victim is able to pursue a claim for compensation against a state actor. Thus, all states have a tort claims act, or something similar, in which the waiver of official government immunity is discussed.
Maryland’s Tort Claims Act (MTCA) is different in that it broadly waives immunity for cases involving damages totaling less than $200,000. Thus, in Maryland, rather than immunity completely barring an accident victim from recovering damages for their injuries, the Tort Claims Act merely limits their recovery. However, immunity is not waived when the government actor’s actions are determined to be grossly negligent. A recent case discusses how this can play out in a Maryland wrongful death lawsuit against a government official.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiffs were the parents of a man who was killed while an inmate in a Maryland prison. According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the man was killed by another inmate. The case proceeded to trial against several inmates as well as the State of Maryland. At the conclusion of the case, the jury found that several corrections officers were “negligent,” and one correctional officer in particular who was tasked with supervising the inmates had acted grossly negligently.
The court imposed a judgment of $200,000, the maximum under the MTCA, against the state for the ordinary negligence of the correctional officers. The court also imposed a judgment against the grossly negligent correctional officer. However, based on a state limit for non-economic damages, the court limited the judgement to $200,000. Additionally, the court rejected the plaintiff’s request to add the state to the judgment against the grossly negligent officer because, under the MTCA, immunity is not waived for the grossly negligent actions of a state employee.
The plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the damages cap should not apply here because 1.) the damages cap should not apply to intentional acts, and 2.) the damages cap should not apply to state agencies or employees. However, the court rejected both of the plaintiffs’ arguments, noting that there was no support in the statutory text to support the plaintiffs’ position. The court explained that when statutory text is clear, it will be given its ordinary meaning. Having determined that the statutory text was clear and did not allow for the plaintiffs’ interpretation, the court affirmed the judgement below.
Have You Been Injured in an Accident with a State Employee?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured on state-owned property or in an accident with a state employee or official, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Maryland wrongful death lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have extensive experience representing victims in a wide range of Maryland wrongful death and personal injury cases. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule your free consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Court Dismisses Slip-and-Fall Plaintiff’s Case Based on Conflicting Testimony, Maryland Accident Law Blog, April 16, 2018.
Court Discusses Admissibility of Social Media Evidence in Recent Personal Injury Case, Maryland Accident Law Blog, April 2, 2018.