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Beall v. Holloway-Johnson

Court of Appeals of Maryland

January 21, 2016


         Argued September 29, 2015

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          Certiorari to the Court of Special Appeals (Circuit Court for Baltimore City. Case No. 24-C-11-002394). Marcus Z. Shar, JUDGE.

         ARGUED BY William R. Phelan, Jr., Chief Solicitor (George A. Nilson, City Solicitor, Jeffrey Hochstetler, Assistant City Solicitor, Baltimore City Department of Law of Baltimore, MD) on brief FOR PETITIONER/CROSS RESPONDENT.

         ARGUED BY William H. Murphy, Jr. and Andrew K. O'Connell (Edward R. Cardona, Murphy, Falcon & Murphy of Baltimore, MD) on brief FOR RESPONDENT/CROSS-PETITIONER.

         Amicus Brief of Medical Mutual Liability Society of Maryland and MedChi, The Maryland State Medical Society, Mitchell Y. Mirviss, Esquire Venable LLP, Rockville, MD.

         Brief of Amicus Curiae Maryland Defense Counsel, Inc., Gardner M. Duvall, Esquire, Danielle G. Marcus, Esquire, Peter W. Sheehan, Esquire, Whiteford Taylor & Preston, L.L.P., Baltimore, MD.

         Barbera, C.J., Battaglia, Greene, Adkins, McDonald, Harrell, Glenn T., Jr. (Retired, Specially Assigned), Cathell, Dale R., (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.


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         [446 Md. 56]  Harrell, J.

         This tragic case arose out of a motor vehicle collision between a Baltimore City police cruiser and a privately-owned motorcycle, resulting in the death of the motorcyclist. Respondent Connie Holloway-Johnson, on her own behalf and as the personal representative of the estate of her deceased son, Haines E. Holloway-Lilliston, initiated a wrongful death suit against, among others, Petitioner, Timothy Everett Beall, a Baltimore City police officer. The complaint, filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, alleged negligence, gross negligence, battery, and a violation of Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. Compensatory and punitive damages were sought.

         At trial, Petitioner made a Motion for Judgment at the close of the Plaintiffs' case-in-chief. The Circuit Court (Hon. Marcus Z. Shar, presiding) granted the motion in part, allowing to go to the jury only the question of whether Officer Beall was negligent and, if so, what amount of compensatory damages should be awarded. The jury returned a substantial verdict for compensatory damages for Respondent, which amount was reduced subsequently by the trial judge, on Petitioner's motion, to $200,000 to comply with the damages " cap" of the Local Government Tort Claims Act (" LGTCA" ), Maryland Code (1974, 2013 Repl. Vol.), Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, § 5-301, et seq. (" CJP" ).

         Respondent appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, which reversed the judgment in a reported opinion and remanded the case for a new trial. We granted Petitioner's Petition for a Writ of Certiorari to consider multiple questions regarding the partial grant of the Motion for Judgment, the availability for the jury to consider

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an award of punitive damages, and the applicability of the LGTCA.


         On 25 July 2010, Officer Timothy Beall was on duty in a marked police car in Baltimore City working the midnight patrol shift in the Northern District. He overheard a call on his radio from an off-duty officer about a Mercedes convertible and a motorcycle " chasing each other or racing each other" at about 100 miles per hour (m.p.h.) on Interstate 83 North (also known as the Jones Falls Expressway) in Baltimore City. A second transmission related that other officers were able to stop the car[1] but not the motorcycle.

         Officer Beall, who was near the I-83 interchange with Cold Spring Lane at the time of the second transmission, turned onto I-83 North to see if he could " observe the motorcycle." As he was merging onto the Interstate, he noticed a motorcycle on I-83 northbound that was traveling at the time about 35 m.p.h. in a 50 m.p.h. zone. Unable to determine whether this was the same motorcycle as the one involved in the reported chase/race, Officer Beall followed the motorcycle in an attempt to ascertain license plate information. At approximately I-83 North's interchange with the Northern Parkway, the motorcycle sped-up to about 75 m.p.h., a speed in excess of the posted limit. Officer Beall noted that " [i]nitially I didn't have much reason to suspect that [the motorcycle] was stolen. But once the motorcyclist fled, that heightened my suspicion based on the extremely high rate of stolen motorcycles in the City of Baltimore that the bike may be stolen." After the operator of the motorcycle " popped a wheelie," Officer Beall turned on his siren and lights to pursue the motorcycle.[2]

          [446 Md. 58] The pursuit continued, at speeds of 75 m.p.h., onto the inner loop of Interstate 695 East (the Baltimore Beltway) in the direction of Towson. At the Charles Street interchange, the speed of the motorcycle reduced to the posted speed limit of 50 m.p.h.[3] As Officer Beall trailed the motorcycle, he received intermittent messages over his car's police radio. The messages were intermittent due to reception problems along portions of the route. Officer Beall denied hearing an initial direct radio order from his Shift Commander to discontinue pursuit of the motorcycle; he acknowledged, however, that he was advised indirectly thereafter to disengage from the pursuit after he was on I-695 East into Baltimore County. His Shift Commander stated over the radio " Yeah, have the officer disregard and come back, notify the state police of [the motorcyclist's] location, the radio is going to die

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out soon, if there are repeaters out there, so just come on back." Officer Beall responded to this by stating " 10-4" (meaning " acknowledged" ), turning off his lights and his siren, and planning to turn back to Baltimore City. At this time, Officer Beall called the State Police from his cell phone to inform them of his position and that he had followed a motorcycle from Baltimore City onto I-695 East.

         Officer Beall followed the motorcycle onto the exit ramp for Dulaney Valley Road. He explained that he chose this exit, rather than the closer Lutherville/Timonium exit, because " [t]he next exit [he] was familiar with was Dulaney Valley Road to go south, which [would take him] right down to Northern Parkway from York Road." On the exit ramp, the motorcyclist reduced his speed to between 31 and 33 m.p.h. [446 Md. 59] Officer Beall was traveling at about 40 m.p.h. The police cruiser made contact with the motorcycle. The motorcyclist, later identified as Holloway-Lilliston, was ejected from the bike.[4] His body made contact with the hood of Officer Beall's car. He died upon hitting the pavement. State Police Sergeant Jon McGee, an expert witness in accident reconstruction, offered his opinion about how the collision occurred:

So based off all the evidence, it's my opinion that there was contact between the two vehicles, and at that time Mr. Holloway[-Lilliston], based on that contact, the bike would have went out from Mr. Holloway[-Lilliston]. When he came down, he came down on the hood of the police car. My initial assessment on the scene was that the speeds of both vehicles were low. I estimated probably the police maybe 40. And I knew the speed differential between the two vehicles, because there was no inward crush damage to the bumper, was significantly low, maybe 5 to 10, 15 mile an hour speed difference, with the police car obviously going slightly faster than the motorcycle. Based off of where the initial tire marks and scratch marks of where the motorcycle went down and the location of where Mr. Holloway[-Lilliston] fell to the road and slid to final rest, and the damage associated with the front hood of the police car, it's my opinion that there was contact. Mr. Holloway[-Lilliston] fell onto the top of the police car, rolled off the left side. Based on the helmet damage, the circumference of the helmet, there were scratches pretty much the entire circumference [446 Md. 60] of the helmet, landed head first as he rolled off the hood and slid to final rest.

         Sergeant McGee concluded that " Officer Beall failed to maintain a safe and proper following distance when he collided into the rear of the motorcycle driven by Mr. [Holloway-]Lilliston."

         On 6 April 2011, Holloway-Lilliston's mother, Connie Holloway-Johnson, filed a complaint against Officer Timothy Beall and the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore City in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. The complaint alleged counts of

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negligence, gross negligence, battery, and a violation of Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. Ms. Holloway-Johnson sought compensatory and punitive damages in the sum of $20 million. Prior to trial, she dismissed voluntarily her claims against the City and proceeded to a jury trial against Officer Beall.

         The case was tried between 24 July 2012 and 3 August 2012. At the close of the Plaintiffs' case, Officer Beall made a Motion for Judgment on the basis that insufficient evidence was presented as to each of the claims. Judge Shar granted Officer Beall's motion as to the battery, gross negligence, and Article 24 claims, as well as the prayer for punitive damages. The only claims that were allowed to go to the jury were the negligence claim and the prayer for compensatory damages. On 3 August 2012, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Ms. Holloway-Johnson and the estate of her son for $3,505,000. On 20 August 2012, Officer Beall filed a Motion for a New Trial or to Revise the Judgment by reducing the verdict to conform to the damages " cap" in the Local Government Tort Claims Act (LGTCA). The Circuit Court reduced the judgment to $200,000, in accordance with the LGTCA. Ms. Holloway-Johnson appealed timely to the Court of Special Appeals.

         The Court of Special Appeals held, in a reported opinion, that there was sufficient evidence for each of Ms. Holloway-Johnson's claims to have been submitted to the jury and that it was error for the Circuit Court to have granted Officer Beall's Motion for Judgment. Additionally, the intermediate appellate court determined that, although the evidence adduced [446 Md. 61] would not justify under the gross negligence count an award of punitive damages, the battery and Article 24 counts could qualify as " predicates for punitive damages" under a theory of " malice implicit" in the elements of each cause of action. Holloway-Johnson v. Beall, 220 Md.App. 195, 227, 103 A.3d 720, 739 (2014). The Court held that the applicability of the LGTCA (which was not raised until Officer Beall's post-verdict motion) and its cap on damages was a " furiously contested moot question," concluding that, under the provisions of the LGTCA, any potential cap on damages could not be waived by Officer Beall as to his local government employer, who would be liable for the judgment (up to the limit of the LGTCA " cap" ).

         On 27 March 2015, we granted a writ of certiorari, Holloway-Johnson v. Beall, 442 Md. 194, 112 A.3d 373 (2015), to consider five questions (posed by the parties in their respective petitions), which we reorganize and condense as follows[5]:

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1) Did the Court of Special Appeals modify improperly established standards to conclude that there was sufficient [446 Md. 62] evidence to support the counts for gross negligence, battery, and a violation of Article 24?
2) Did the Court of Special Appeals err when it held that Respondent's counts could support an award of punitive damages, contrary to the long-established law that actual, not implied, malice was necessary and remanding the case for further proceedings which might result also in the award of duplicative compensatory damages?
3) Did Officer Beall waive the damages cap and judgment avoidance afforded by the Local Government Tort Claims Act, having failed to raise the defense until after trial and entry of judgment?

         Although we agree with the Court of Special Appeals as to the sufficiency of the evidence as to the counts for which the trial court gave judgment in favor of Officer Beall at the close of Ms. Holloway-Johnson's case-in-chief and on the LGTCA question, we reverse ...

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