Two years after the terrible incident and after a lengthy civil trial that ended with a $38 million verdict against the Baltimore police for shooting and killing Korryn Gaines in a standoff, the judge on the case shocked lots of people by throwing away the verdict.
The case bears a review of the motion judgment notwithstanding the verdict, a complicated legal mechanism that was designed to reign in emotional juries but more often leads to judicial overreach.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit After Police Shooting Wins $38 Million
Korryn Gaines was shot and killed after a six-hour armed standoff with police that stemmed from a traffic ticket that escalated with her “sovereign citizen” ideology. Her five-year-old son, Kodi, was also wounded in the encounter.
Family members filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the officers involved in the shooting, as well as the Baltimore Police Department, claiming that details of the armed standoff ensured there would be a firefight. Negotiations were meaningless and Ms. Gaines' family members, who claimed they could talk her out of the situation, were never allowed access to the scene.
After days of testimony and deliberation, the jury awarded $38 million to Kodi and the family members in the lawsuit.
Judge Uses JNOV to Overturn Verdict
Following the verdict, the judge on the case, Mickey J. Norman, invoked his power to issue a judgment notwithstanding the verdict – which has the acronym JNOV for its original Latin label – and overturned the award.
According to Judge Norman, the officers in the case were entitled to qualified immunity, which shielded their conduct while they were behaving lawfully as police officers. It is unclear why he made this decision after the jury's verdict, rather than before the trial, as is normal.
JNOVs and Their Role in Civil Cases
JNOVs are exceptional devices that judges rarely use, despite being called to use them by losing parties in nearly every case. They are designed to allow judges the power to overrule a jury's irrational decision or extreme verdict, and are often reserved to verdicts that “shock the conscience” or are logically impossible – like if a jury decides that the plaintiff failed to prove an essential element of their case, but awards them damages, anyway.
In fact, JNOVs are so exceptional that they are prohibited in many criminal cases. A judge cannot issue a judgment notwithstanding a “not guilty” verdict in a criminal case without violating the defendant's Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights, which prohibit multiple cases for the same offense and guarantee a right to trial by jury.
The attorneys for Ms. Gaines' family are expected to appeal from the judge's decision to overturn the verdict.
Personal Injury Lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian Serve Victims in Baltimore
Recovering the compensation that you need and deserve after a terrible situation is not always easy. In many cases, it makes use of the appeals process all the way to the end.
The personal injury lawyers at the Baltimore law office of Gilman & Bedigian understand this and strive to represent accident victims in the surrounding area get the compensation they deserve. Contact them online.