An award of $850,000 was the result after a Baltimore City jury heard a wrongful death case involving a woman who was shot by her fiancée, who was a City of Baltimore police officer at the time. In May 2013, a neighbor called the authorities to report a domestic problem at the home of James Smith and Kendra Diggs. Two officers arrived on the scene and heard a female calling for help. The officers kicked the door in and brought Diggs outside in front of the house. Her fiancé, Officer James Smith, refused to exit the home and as officers spoke with Diggs in the front yard Smith opened a 2nd-floor window and shot Diggs. The wrongful death suit was brought on behalf of her children alleging that the officers were negligent in protecting Diggs at the time of her death. Dwight Pettit, an attorney for the plaintiff, explained that because the officers were aware that Smith was armed, they should have exercised better caution.
After escorting Diggs outside, the officers claim that Smith went to the second floor and refused to talk. After the shooting occurred, based on the threat of additional gunfire, they were forced to seek cover until tactical (shielded) officers could arrive and put her in an ambulance. A Baltimore police spokesman stated that Smith had no prior instances of domestic violence or any criminal history. Smith had received highly specialized training and was considered (at the scene) to be a very dangerous suspect. He had training in the army and significant tactical training as a police officer. Smith and Diggs had apparently resided together for approximately eight years. A relative said that they had planned to marry soon in the Bahamas and that they had a four-year-old child together.
Smith was housed in the Baltimore City Detention Center awaiting a murder trial. A jail officer making security rounds at 1 a.m. found Smith unconscious in his cell, which was later determined to be a result of suicide. Although Smith was in protective custody, he was not believed to have been suicidal.
Maryland provides that a civil action may be brought against a party whose wrongful actions result in the death of another. The statute defines a wrongful act as being an action or act of neglect which would have otherwise entitled the party to bring a personal injury suit had death not occurred. Maryland allows for recovery of economic damages and noneconomic damages in actions of wrongful death as follows:
- Past medical costs
- Future medical costs
- Past earnings lost
- Future earnings lost
- Emotional anguish
- Pain and suffering endured
- A loss of companionship
- A loss of marital or parental care and others
Maryland statute requires that civil actions of wrongful death be brought within a period of three years unless special circumstances apply.
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