Harassment case moved to Carroll court Suit involves run-in with hospital guards

September 27, 1992|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

A case involving the alleged harassment of a Springfield Hospital employee by two hospital security guards has been moved to Carroll County from Baltimore City Circuit Court, where it was filed in early August.

Judge Thomas Ward ruled two weeks ago the city was not the proper place to consider events which had taken place in Carroll County.

"I didn't think this case had any business being tried in Baltimore," said William J. Wiseman III, who filed the change of venue motion for the town of Sykesville.

The town is one of three defendants in the suit. The other two are Springfield Hospital Center security guards Ricky Hinkle and John Craven.

The plaintiff, Ida C. Hawkins, a black woman from Baltimore County, is seeking $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages in the suit. She claims that Mr. Hinkle, who is white, stopped her car on hospital grounds, blocked her entrance to a building and referred to her as a "savage" in the June 1990 incident.

The suit says Mr. Hinkle stood in front of Ms. Hawkins, then pushed her twice. She produced her driver's license at the guard's demand, the suit says, and walked past as he reached for the license.

Ms. Hawkins' attorney, Mark A. Epstein of Towson, said earlier that he had several venues to chose from in filing the suit and simply chose Baltimore.

Mr. Epstein doesn't see the change of venue to Carroll as an obstacle to his case. "It doesn't effect the merits of this case or its outcome," he said. "We are looking forward to pursuing the case in Carroll County."

Mr. Wiseman said his other reservation about trying the case in Baltimore was that its residents are unhappy with rising racial tensions and could bring some of those feelings to the jury box.

"Some people in the city may not like it there right now, and I don't want them to take it out on this little town," Mr. Wiseman said.

"I think the woman's lawyer was yelling racial overtones, too," he continued. "If this woman presents this picture of 'woe is me,' the jury may not need to see anything else. They may not look at what she had done [in the incident]," he said.

Mr. Epstein said that being called a "savage" could definitely be thought to contain racial overtones to some people.

The suit also alleges that with the help of Mr. Craven and a Sykesville police officer, who was not named in the suit, Ms. Hawkins was arrested for various charges including a traffic violation after dropping off a friend.

Ms. Hawkins was later found not guilty of all charges except the traffic violation. She is seeking $2 million in compensatory damages and $3 million in punitive damages from each of the defendants for intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

Mr. Wiseman said he will ask the judge to dismiss the charges against Sykesville because a town should not be penalized for carrying out its law enforcement duties.

"The city police officer only arrived after a call for backup was made," Mr. Wiseman said. "And he was not involved in the events, except as an observer."

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