Paralyzed Child’s Claim Against Montgomery County

Jonathan Turley writes a good post about the insanity of the cap on liability provided by the Maryland Local Government Tort Claims Act.

The case involves a car accident that resulted from a Montgomery County, Maryland police officer doing what a noticeable minority of police officers do in police cars: drive at excessive speeds. This police officer was doing 56 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone. When we see this on the road, no one even complains about it. It is just something we accept. Police officers drive at a speed of their choosing, even off-duty. That is, until something this happens.

But making matters worse in this case, the off-duty police officer was able to hide behind the shield of the Maryland Local Government Tort Claims Act because “police officers are always on duty.” So if a police office is driving 100 miles an hour to pick up his laundry, he is still on duty protecting us. Please. So a paralyzed child who now needs around the clock medical care is not able to recover anything resembling his damages, nothing to change the way he lives, while the police officer is able to return to work as if nothing ever happened.

That “able to return to work” line is stronger than it should be. Going 56 in a 30 is a really bad idea but not a crime against the people. If the police officer is a decent human being – and there is no reason to believe that he is not – he will have to carry with him the harm he has caused for the rest of his life. The fact that a catastrophic car accident ensued from the police officer’s bad conduct does not mean he should lose his job. (I guess. I don’t know.) But the dichotomy is amazing: he goes back to work while this boy suffers every day for the rest of his life. That bitter pill would be a lot easier to swallow if the boy received the kind of money for his injuries that would change his life, making an awful situation just a little less awful.

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