Baltimore City settled a wrongful death and survival action by Freddie Gray’s family for $6.4 million. The criminally unfair Maryland Local Government Tort Claim Act would have capped these claims at $400,000. So Baltimore City settled for a whopping $6 million more than the maximum value of the case. Said another way, the settlement was 16 times the cap for personal injury and wrongful death claims had this case taken the standard path and been heard by a Baltimore City jury.
High profile cases mold public perception in Baltimore and throughout Maryland about our civil justice system. People form impressions on how well the system performs when placing a dollar amount on personal injury and wrongful death cases.
On some level, Freddie Gray is a Baltimore specific McDonald’s coffee case. It has now been 24 years since Stella Liebeck spilled coffee on herself at a McDonald’s drive-through in New Mexico and that case continues to inform prospective jurors on how personal injury cases actually work. Freddie Gray may leave a similar legacy in Baltimore. What will that legacy be? What misimpressions will juror carry into the jury box as a result of this case? I believe there are unintended consequences to this settlement that will be felt for years.
I think these are the Freddy Gray takeaway messages: