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Davis denies Baltimore policy change on punitive damage awards

Baltimore City Solicitor Andre M. Davis

Baltimore City Solicitor Andre M. Davis

Baltimore City Solicitor Andre M. Davis reiterated Wednesday his office had not changed its policy on not paying out punitive damages in police misconduct lawsuits.

The Baltimore police union warned members Tuesday the city had changed its policy and will not pay out punitive damages awards in misconduct lawsuits.

But the email to union members came two months after the Law Department explicitly stated the city was not liable for $40,000 in punitive damages awarded by a jury in August, and Davis on Wednesday rejected the notion there was a policy change from his office, which the union claimed previously “generally supported” officers by paying punitive damages.

Davis said he is being more transparent about not paying punitive damages and said in August he wanted to bring to the Board of Estimates’ attention to the fact that he was not approving the punitive damages payout, noting that it was difficult to find evidence the city had done so in the past beyond anecdotes.

The city spending panel approved the payout of a $147,000 jury award in early December and the memo by the law department noted that Maryland law does not require the city to pay punitive damages awarded when a jury finds actual malice.

Attorneys for Leo Joseph Green and James Green, the plaintiffs owed the punitive damages in that case, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. But in December, attorney Nikoletta Mindrinos said her clients “will enforce the judgement against the individual officers through all available avenues, including garnishment of the officers’ wages, liens and seizure of their assets, and any other available avenues permitted by law.”

Davis on Wednesday accused the union of trying to “stir something up” with the email, noting they “have an adversarial relationship” with the city right now due to pending pension lawsuits and contract negotiations.

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