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Part of lawsuit against Baltimore police survives

A woman who claims she was roughed up and insulted during a wrongful arrest on drug charges can proceed with part of her lawsuit against the officers and the Baltimore Police Department, a judge ruled Monday.

Judge Emanuel Brown allowed Adair Wiley to sue for defamation and malicious prosecution in Baltimore City Circuit Court but ruled for the police on five other counts because Wiley waited too long to notify the city of her claims.

Wiley, 31, was arrested on Oct. 6, 2008. After a jury acquitted her of the charges, she sued the department and the three officers involved.

But it had taken nearly two years for her case to get through the criminal court and by the time the jury cleared her name, the 180-day deadline to give notice under the Maryland Local Government Tort Claims Act had long passed.

Because of the delayed notice, Brown granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on Wiley’s claims for battery, false arrest, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

However, the judge allowed the defamation and malicious prosecution counts to proceed because those related to the criminal trial as well as Wiley’s arrest, and Wiley had filed her suit within 180 days of the “not guilty” verdict on Aug. 10, 2010.

Dale B. Garbutt, an attorney from Whiteford, Taylor & Preston LLP who represented the police officers, had argued that Wiley also missed the deadline to sue for defamation because that tort was completed when she was released from prison on the same day she was arrested.

But Brown likened the defamation count to a ringing bell: No one disputed that the bell began to ring when Wiley was arrested, but there was some dispute over when it ceased ringing.

Wiley’s attorney, solo practitioner Norris C. Ramsey, took that analogy and ran with it.

“Up until she was found ‘not guilty’ the bell has been rung and it can’t be un-rung until the jury comes back and says ‘No, you’re not a criminal; you’re not guilty,’ ” Ramsey said.

Wiley is suing for $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.

Garbutt didn’t dispute that Wiley had met the deadline to file suit for malicious prosecution, but he said she had no basis to request punitive damages on those grounds because it would require she prove actual malice.

Ramsey said the circumstances of the arrest — which he said included a public strip-search — suggested actual malice.

“There was no need to hit her in the mouth, there was no need to kick her and there was no need to call her inhumane names and expose her body in public,” Ramsey said.

But Garbutt said the circumstances of the arrest were irrelevant because the count centered on her prosecution, not the arrest.

“He’s got to come up with some specific facts that allege actual malice in the malicious prosecution section,” Garbutt said. “Those facts do not.”

Brown made no decision on punitive damages at Thursday’s hearing.

The parties are awaiting a scheduling order.