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Proposed $200K Baltimore police settlement rejected by plaintiff

Board of Estimates also to consider $125K settlement with grandmother over custody of grandchildren

Proposed $200K Baltimore police settlement rejected by plaintiff

Board of Estimates also to consider $125K settlement with grandmother over custody of grandchildren

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A lawyer for a police trainee who lost an eye after being accidentally shot during a training exercise says he will not accept a $200,000 settlement that is listed on Wednesday’s Baltimore City Board of Estimates agenda.

Raymond Gray was training to be a University of Maryland police officer three years ago when William Scott Kern mistakenly used a live weapon in demonstrating the danger of standing in the potential line of fire, according to a memorandum prepared for the city spending panel.

A. Dwight Pettit, Gray’s attorney, said the $200,000 settlement is not worth responding to and has not been accepted. There have been no negotiations between the parties, added Pettit, who said he is preparing to go to trial April 25 in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

“It’s not a real settlement offer,” said Pettit, a Baltimore solo practitioner. “They know that.”

Gray lost his eye and suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of the incident, according to the lawsuit.

“This man was shot in the head,” Pettit said. “He lost his eye. What are they talking about with $200,000?”

The offer, which the defendants argue is the most Gray could recover under the Local Government Tort Claims Act, was previously made in late 2015 and never accepted, which led Kern to seek dismissal of the case because the refusal rendered it moot, according to federal appeals case law.

The Supreme Court ruled in January, however, that a rejection of a settlement offer is an unaccepted contract offer which cannot moot a plaintiff’s claim because “adversity between the parties persists.” Citing the decision, U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson declined to dismiss the lawsuit.

Nickerson also referenced arguments by Pettit that the settlement offer did not encompass all of the damages the plaintiffs claimed, a total of $390 million, according to electronic court files.

Pettit said Tuesday the cap does not apply to federal constitutional claims and the case remains in the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court despite defense attempts to have it transferred back to state court.

City Solicitor George A. Nilson said the case is the first time in at least a decade where a settlement is going before the Board of Estimates without negotiations first between the city and a plaintiff.

“This is offering him a chance to claim the maximum amount he can get,” Nilson said of the $200,000. “We think if he doesn’t take it, the judge is going to agree with us.”

If approved, the settlement money would go into an account that could be claimed by Gray, Nilson added. It could also become a pretrial issue next month, he said.

In an October response to Kern’s motion to dismiss, the plaintiffs argued the damages cap was unconstitutional because it would “cut off all remedy” for Gray by resulting in “dramatically inadequate compensation.” The filing also argues the cap is not applied equally in all cases, citing the $6.4 million settlement reached between the city and the family of Freddie Gray.

“The City was swift to act and take financial liability for the Police Officers’ conduct at 32 times the damages cap,” the filing states.

All parties responsible for the accident have been dealt with through the BPD’s administrative discipline process, according to the memo.

Kern was convicted of reckless endangerment in Baltimore County Circuit Court, according to the memo; the incident occurred at the former Rosewood Center in Owings Mills.

“The BPD training protocols, which were ignored by former Officer Kern, were put into place specifically to avoid the type of accident that injured Plaintiff Gray,” the memo states.

Medical bills are already in excess of $800,000, according to Pettit, and will only increase as continued care is necessary.

Pettit is representing Gray along with fellow Baltimore solo practitioner Allan Rabineau.

The case is Raymond Gray et al. v. Officer William Scott Kern et al., 1:13-cv-02270-WMN.

Children removed

In a separate settlement before the Board of Estimates, a grandmother would receive $125,000 stemming from an incident where grandchildren placed in her custody their parents’ arrests were removed by a detective and placed with the Department of Social Services.

Jean Williams has a foster care and assisted living license and her home was “documented to be a safe environment and a good place to raise the grandchildren,” according to a memo prepared for the spending panel.

The children’s parents, Robert Moore and Sarah Hooker, were both arrested in March 2012, leaving the two minor children without a caregiver, according to the memo. Williams was identified and the children were placed with her temporarily but she was told to keep the children away from areas of the city related to their mother’s “illicit activities.”

During surveillance, officers observed Williams with the children in an area they had deemed unsafe, and a detective, pursuant to a shelter care order, removed the children, according to the memo. Williams said she was never told the area in question was unsafe. She eventually regained custody of the children, according to the memo.

A civil trial was set to begin March 2.

Gray and the children are represented by the Law Office of Michael P. Taylor LLC in Catonsville. The officers are represented by Michael L. Marshall and Chaz R. Ball of Schlachman, Belsky & Weiner P.A. in Baltimore.

The case is Jean Williams et al. v. Detective James A. Bradley et al., 24C14006881.

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