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ANTOINE LEWIS, et al. v. BRANDON JENNINGS, et al.

Torts — Negligence — Sufficiency of the evidence

This tragic case (of Shakespearian dimension) springs from the murder of Kendra Diggs (“Diggs”) by James Smith, Sr. (“Smith”), her fiancée. Diggs’ estate, the couples’ minor son (J.S.), and Diggs’ adult son (Brandon Jennings) brought a civil suit in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City against, among others, two Baltimore City police officers, seeking, in relevant part, to hold them liable as negligent for their roles leading to the murder committed by Smith, who subsequently killed himself while in prison. A jury returned a $425,000 verdict against each officer in favor of Jennings and J.S., for a total of $850,000. The jury determined that the officers were negligent in failing to prevent Diggs’ death because a special relationship to protect her arose between the officers and Diggs before Smith shot her.

The defendant officers filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict based on (1) insufficient evidence of negligence, (2) statutory immunity, and (3) common law public official immunity. The officers filed additionally a motion for remittur based on application of the Local Government Tort Claims Act. The trial court denied the motions without a hearing. The officers appealed timely.

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