Maryland Appeals Court Reviews the County’s Liability After Plaintiff Wins Lawsuit Involving Off-Duty Police Officer

Many people who have suffered injuries due to negligence may seek compensation for medical bills and other losses in a Maryland personal injury claim against the responsible parties.  Determining who may be held responsible, however, can be complicated in some situations.  A May 23, 2018 case before the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland shows how the issue may affect a plaintiff’s claim.

The plaintiff in the case alleged that she was battered by an unknown, off-duty County police officer while the officer was working as outside security for a nightclub.  The incident occurred after the plaintiff’s sister was escorted out of the club by the bouncers.  Once outside, one of the officers was tasked with removing her from the property.  Her sister punched the officer and ran to attack another patron being escorted out.  The plaintiff yelled at her sister to stop fighting, waving her arms.  At that point, one of the off-duty police officers grabbed the plaintiff’s arm, twisted it behind her back, and pushed her, causing her to fall to the ground.  The plaintiff suffered a broken arm and injuries to her shoulder, hand, and ankle.

The plaintiff filed negligence claims against the nightclub as well as the County, arguing that the officer was acting within his scope of employment with the County when the incident occurred.  The trial court agreed and granted a motion for judgment in favor of the plaintiff.  The issue of damages was submitted to the jury, which awarded the plaintiff approximately $70,000.  The County appealed, arguing that the scope of employment was an issue of fact for the jury to decide.

In Maryland, the general test for determining if an employee’s wrongful actions were within the scope of his employment is whether they were in furtherance of the employer’s business and were “authorized” by the employer.  Other considerations include whether the action was personal to the employee, whether it occurred during the time the employee was on duty for the employer, and whether it was related to the employee’s duties.

On appeal, the court found there was evidence that the off-duty police officers were hired by the nightclub to provide outside security, that they were paid by the nightclub, and that the incident involving the plaintiff occurred during the officers’ work hours with the nightclub.  In addition, one of the duties for which they were hired was to provide outside security for the nightclub and its patrons.  Accordingly, after considering the evidence on the record and drawing reasonable inferences, the appeals court held that there was sufficient evidence to generate a jury question regarding whether the officer’s actions were within the scope of his employment with the nightclub, rather than the County, on the night of the injury.  The case was ultimately remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings.

The Maryland accident attorneys at Foran & Foran, P.A. can represent victims and their loved ones in personal injury cases.  We have experience litigating medical malpractice cases, wrongful death actions, and premises liability cases, and we can handle any other personal injury claim arising out of negligence.  Arrange a consultation by contacting our office by phone at (301) 441-2022 or via our website form.

More Blog Posts:

Family of Maryland State Prisoner Wins Wrongful Death Case, Appeals Damages Cap, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published May 20, 2018

Maryland Plaintiff Files Negligence Claim Against Retail Store After Injury from Falling Object, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 9, 2017

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