(CN) – A Maryland police officer who ran a red light and smashed into another car is not protected by immunity, because he was not responding to an emergency, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled.
Cleveland Brent was driving through an intersection in 2002 when he was hit by an officer of Prince George’s County. Brent received a judgment for $320,000, which was later reduced to $20,000.
Brent then brought an individual action against the driver, Officer Michael Daily.
The county responded by asserting the defenses of res judicata, collateral estoppel, and official immunity.
The trial against Daily focused solely on the issue of whether he was in emergency service when the accident occurred.
Daily testified that he was responding to a call about a man with a gun, but the computer printout indicated that another officer – not Daily – responded to that call.
Brent argued that Daily briefly activated his emergency lights simply to get through rush hour traffic. The trial court ruled in Brent’s favor, and he was awarded $180,000.
Judge McAuliffe agreed. “The evidence was sufficient to sustain the jury’s finding that Officer Daily was not ‘in the performance of emergency service’ when the accident occurred,” the judge wrote.
McAuliffe also upheld the award amount, because the Maryland Legislature deliberately made a county’s cap for damages larger than the cap for a city.