Negligence Lawsuit Filed Following Movie Theater Death of Man with Down Syndrome

A civil lawsuit was recently filed in the case of a man with Down Syndrome who was killed by Sheriff’s Deputies following a misunderstanding after his attempt to view a movie twice without paying.

The altercation happened last January, when the man and his caretaker had just finished watching a film. His caretaker left him out front to retrieve her car, and the man attempted to re-enter the theater to watch the film a second time. After a confrontation with the management, several Sheriff’s Deputies arrived. According to witness statements, deputies wrestled the man from his seat and onto the floor despite warnings from his caregiver that the man would “freak out” if they touched him, and requesting that they be able to “wait it out.” The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office said, when they released the full incident report, that the man had resisted and swore at the officers.

The lawsuit states that he “died a violent, terrifying, and painful death” due to the alleged negligence of the theater and deputies.

An autopsy concluded that he died from asphyxia after the struggle that ended with him in handcuffs, face-down on the floor. The state medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, but said that the man had a heart condition (which is a relatively common condition for individuals with Down Syndrome) and other health problems that made him susceptible to sudden death. A grand jury failed to indict the officers in the case.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. It alleges the Frederick County deputies fractured the man’s larynx during the struggle last January, making it difficult for the 26 year old to breathe, and ultimately led to his death.

The case has since led to speculation that Maryland could soon become the first state to require its law enforcement officers and other first responders to receive training relating to disabled individuals. The U.S. Justice Department has additionally begun a civil rights investigation.

Although not mentioned in the article, the family in this case is likely filing a claim for their son’s wrongful death. Wrongful death claims in our state are governed by the Maryland Wrongful Death Statute. The lawsuit is brought by the victim’s surviving family members on their own behalf. The claim seeks to compensate the family members of the loss of the victim’s life and his or her companionship, love, and financial support that the family would have received had the victim not died.

If you believe that your loved one died because of the wrongful or negligent actions of another in the Maryland or Washington D.C. area, contact the experienced wrongful death attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen. As experienced attorneys, we have represented families who have suffered from wrongful deaths caused by car accidents, medical malpractice, hospital negligence and other traumatic events. Contact us today in order to schedule your free initial consultation. You can reach us through our website, or by calling 1-800-654-1949 today.

More Blog Posts:

Baltimore County School Bus Flips in Single Vehicle Accident, Maryland Accident Law Blog, published October 11, 2013
Four Year Old Maryland Boy Accidentally Shoots Self, Maryland Accident Law Blog, published October 4, 2013

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