A repairman who says he was assaulted by a Baltimore police officer, who injured his head and broke his wrist, won a $30,000 settlement approved today by the city Board of Estimates.
So far this year, the city has paid out nearly $1 million to settle lawsuits brought by citizens involving alleged police misconduct, City Solicitor George A. Nilson said after today’s board meeting.
The 2012 city budget allocates $1.9 million to settle police suits, sparking concern by some City Council members on the use of taxpayer money to resolve police-involved litigation.
Nilson said today’s settlement was actually $15,000 less than recommended by a Baltimore Circuit Court judge handling the case and was done to avoid the uncertainties of a jury trial. “It seems we’re gaining the reputation at the plaintiff’s bar of becoming much tougher on settling cases,” Nilson said, adding that the plaintiff had a preexisting wrist injury.
Michael Wright, a furnace repairman, filed the suit against Officer Matthew Daugherty of the Southwestern District. The lawsuit stemmed from an incident on February 21, 2009, after the officer had stopped Wright and a colleague while they drove to a service call on Bentalou Street in southwest Baltimore.
Wright alleged the officer “suddenly and without warning” grabbed him from the front seat of the vehicle and threw him to the ground, stomping on his head and bending his right wrist. Officer Daugherty said Wright was belligerent from the start and loudly cursed out the officer. When a crowd began to form, Daugherty said he arrested Wright for disorderly conduct.
Nilson said the disorderly conduct charge was later dropped by the state’s attorney’s office.
Wright originally sued the city on six counts, including assault and false imprisonment, and asked for $6 million in compensatory damages and $120 million in punitive damages. As part of the settlement, Wright’s lawyer, William R. Teets Jr., said he could not comment on the case, which was first reported in the Daily Record.
We have written about other police misconduct cases, mostly recently here.