A Maryland personal injury claim can arise out of careless or even intentional conduct. Recently, a Maryland plaintiff won his case against a county and police department for acts that occurred during his arrest. The plaintiff brought claims of battery, assault, malicious prosecution, false arrest, false imprisonment, and constitutional violations, as well as intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence. After a trial, the jury determined that the police officers involved in the arrest were liable on some of the claims and awarded the plaintiff a total of $600,000. In an August 15, 2017 opinion, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered the government’s argument that the award should be capped pursuant to the Local Government Tort Claims Act.
The Local Government Tort Claims Act applies to the tortious acts or omissions of local government employees, committed within the scope of their employment and without actual malice. Under the Act, local government employees have qualified immunity from liability for such acts or omissions. The Act requires the local government to provide a legal defense for its employees in these types of actions, and it shifts liability to the local government to cover any judgment against an employee.
The Act also establishes limits on the government’s liability, capping the amount of damages that may be paid. Specifically, the Act limits the liability of the local government to $200,000 per individual claim, and $500,000 per total claims that arise from the same occurrence. On appeal, the government argued that the plaintiff asserted only one set of aggregate, operative facts, giving rise to one individual claim under the Act. The primary question for the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, therefore, was whether each of several causes of action alleged by the plaintiff constituted one individual claim.