Maryland has paid out roughly half a million dollars in settlements for lawsuits brought against state troopers since 2006, including the most recent payment of $32,000 to a woman whose two front teeth were knocked out during a DWI arrest.
The most recently settled lawsuits include accusations that state troopers violated arrestees’ civil liberties and withheld public documents from residents.
Eighty percent of the state’s settlement costs stemmed from a single lawsuit that accused state troopers of profiling black drivers. The state closed the case in 2008 for $400,000, which included a $100,000 bill to the state police agency.
In the most recent case, Harford County resident Teresa McClain-Brown Rice filed a federal suit claiming she was beaten and harassed by state troopers.
Rice was pulled over for speeding around 12:30 a.m. on Nov. 9, 2007, according to the lawsuit.
After she failed a field sobriety test, Maryland State Trooper Justin Gross cuffed her and placed her in his police cruiser. Rice then tried to exit the vehicle, so Gross and another trooper began to attach leg irons to Rice.
“While that was happening she fell, landed on her face and lost her two front teeth,” said Phillip Pickus, deputy counsel to the Maryland State Police. He said Rice was later pepper-sprayed while she was “incapacitated and bleeding.”
Gross referred The Washington Examiner’s calls to Greg Shipley, spokesman for the Maryland State Police.
“There was no fault found of the troopers involved in this,” Shipley said. “They were doing their duties.”
Maryland State Comptroller Peter Franchot pointed to reports that Rice was inebriated and resisted arrest.
The state needs to protect taxpayers from “what some people call a cottage industry of producing these lawsuits in great number and getting settlements,” he said at a Board of Public Works meeting before approving the settlement amount.
Pickus said the cost to the state is surprisingly low.
“I honestly cannot say this is one of those cases where a plaintiff came looking for trouble,” Pickus said. “If she did, she threw herself on the ground and purposefully knocked out her front teeth and I just have trouble believing that.”