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Verdicts & Settlements

Family of Korryn Gaines May Not See Full $37m Verdict Following Fatal Shooting

— February 21, 2018

Two years after Korryn Gaines was shot and killed by police in Maryland, her family faces an uncertain future ahead of a massive settlement.

Earlier in the week, Gaines’ surviving family was awarded $37 million. But, as The New York Times reports, the full amount may never be paid.

The State of Maryland holds a cap on the financial liability of local governments in cases like the Gaines’. Legal experts interviewed by the Baltimore Sun said the chances of a full payout on Friday are slim.

“While that’s a tremendous verdict, it’s certainly going to be subjected to challenges left and right,” said attorney Andrew G. Slutkin. Slutkin, who wasn’t involved in the case, has worked on similar large claims in the past.

Black Lives Matter initially protested the death of Gaines. Pictured is a march in Minneapolis in 2015. Image via user: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr. (CCA-BY-2.0)

“This will be litigated for years,” he added. “It’s going to be subjected to many motions in the trial court and the appellate courts as well.”

The 23-year old Gaines was shot and killed by Baltimore County law enforcement in 2016. Armed with a Mossberg shotgun, Gaines was engaged in an hours-long standoff. Police eventually opened fire when Gaines was standing near her 5-year old son, killing her and seriously injuring the boy.

Gaines’ behavior preceding and leading up to the shooting was nothing short of irrational. She had an outstanding bench warrant for a traffic citation and charge of resisting arrest – a precursor to the shooting. The woman, apparently subscribing to ‘sovereign citizen’ ideologies, had attached a cardboard license plate to her vehicle, claiming that she could travel and operate a motor vehicle ‘unhindered’ and would sue any law enforcement officer who tried to stop her.

But Gaines’ strange ways weren’t what prompted the jury to award a multi-million dollar verdict – it was the reckless indifference of police to a calamitous standoff involving a 5-year old boy and unstable woman.

Despite having crisis negotiation officers on hand, Baltimore County police never tried to talk down Gaines or negotiate. Some organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, say the shooting may have stemmed from biased law enforcement personnel reacting to a crisis in a predominately African-American area.

Officers on-site purportedly refused to let Gaines’ mother de-escalate the situation; other family members say they were refused to visit the injured 5-year old boy in the hospital afterward.

While a six-member jury awarded now-6-year old Kodi $32 million and other relatives some $4 million total, the Local Government Tort Claims Act caps payouts to each plaintiff at $400,000 or $800,000 per incident.

Experts consulted by the times say the result may be contentious – the Gaines’ family could be entitled to more, since a jury found that the officer who shot and killed Korryn and injured Kodi violated their federal constitutional rights. Penalties incurred by constitutional violations aren’t capped by Maryland law.


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