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Jury awards $760K for crash fatality

The family of a 24-year-old woman killed in a traffic accident in Baltimore in 2010 was awarded $760,000 by a city jury — almost all of it in solatium damages.

Allen W. Cohen, who represented the plaintiffs, called the solatium verdict a rarity.

After a three-day-long trial in Baltimore City Circuit Court, the jury returned a verdict Thursday in favor of the family of Kaitlynn E. Fisher. An engineer at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Fisher was killed in a two-car accident in Baltimore on June 19, 2010.

“The family is just trying to come to grips with what is one of the phases of mourning,” said Allen W. Cohen, with Cohen and Greene PA in Annapolis. “This has provided them with the answer for who caused their daughter’s death.”

The Fishers filed the lawsuit on March 29, 2011, seeking $1.1 million from the driver of the other vehicle in the accident, Ronald K. Hope III. Progressive Casualty Insurance Co. was added as a party later.

Defense lawyer Robin F. Kessler, with the Law Office of Andrew B. Greenspan, in Linthicum, said no decision has been made yet on whether to appeal the verdict.

“It was a disputed case,” she said. “And we’re still evaluating what our post-trial strategy will be.”

Given that the accident occurred in June 2010, Maryland’s cap on noneconomic damage for wrongful death lawsuits is $1.1 million.

Cohen said it was rare for the bulk of the verdict to be for solatium — the mental anguish, emotional pain and loss of companionship that the family will experience in the future. It accounted for all but $5,000 of the jury’s award, which was applied to funeral costs, Cohen said.

“There aren’t many of these types of cases that get tried,” Cohen said. “This just doesn’t happen very often.”

The case hinged on whether there was contributory negligence on Fisher’s part. Under state law, if the jury found she had contributed to the accident, damages would not have been awarded. While the Baltimore Police Department’s crash reconstruction expert and some witnesses said Fisher ran the red light, the jury did not find Fisher had been negligent.

Fisher, 24, was born in Waterbury, Conn., and was living in Towson at the time of the accident. She received her bachelor of science degree in engineering from the Johns Hopkins University and her master’s of materials engineering degree, also from Hopkins, in 2009.

At the time of the accident, she was a contracted employee with the Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

According to court records, Fisher was driving her Honda Insight north on Calvert Street in the 2700 block. The hybrid vehicle was struck on the driver’s side as she crossed through the intersection at West 28th Street.

Hope was driving the other car, a Ford Explorer, heading east on 28th Street.

The Insight was pushed onto a curb, where it struck a light pole. Fisher died of her injuries a short time later at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Hope, who was not charged after the accident, was not injured.

JOAN FISHER, ET AL V. RONALD KEVIN HOPE III

Court:

Baltimore City Circuit Court

Case No.:

24C11002185

Judge:

Jeffrey M. Geller

Outcome:

Jury verdict for plaintiffs ($760,000)

Dates:

Event: June 19, 2010

Suit filed: March 29, 2011

Trial: Aug. 6, 2012-Aug. 9, 2012

Verdict: Aug. 9, 2012

Plaintiffs’ Attorney:

Allen W. Cohen, with Cohen and Greene P.A. in Annapolis.

Defendants’ Attorneys:

Robin F. Kessler, with the Law Office of Andrew B. Greenspan, in Linthicum; Jeffrey Moffet, with the Law Offices of Progressive Casualty Insurance.

Counts:

Wrongful death, Survival action.

 

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