Traffic death award raises liability debate

July 03, 1996|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore Circuit Court jury awarded nearly $2.1 million yesterday to the family of an 18-year-old college student killed in a collision with a speeding city police cruiser -- but state law could decrease the award to $40,000.

State law limits a municipality's liability in the event an accident is caused while an officer is in an emergency situation. The jury paved the way for the decrease in the award when it found that while Officer Keith N. Devoe was negligent, he was acting in an emergency capacity when he broadsided a car.

Killed in the New Year's Day 1995 accident was Valerie Lynette Taylor, a freshman at University of Maryland College Park. The Randallstown resident was returning home from a midnight church service when Devoe -- speeding toward a call for a police wagon -- rammed into her car at Caroline and Orleans streets in East Baltimore.

Marvin Ellin, the attorney representing Taylor's family, described the teen-ager as a well-liked and promising student.

Ellin said he will ask the Court of Special Appeals to let the award stand on the grounds that the jury was not given a proper definition of a police emergency.

"We anticipate a long fight here. The jury reached a very fair verdict here today" and the award shouldn't be limited, he said.

A police review board found Devoe, who was 21 at the time of the accident, to be at fault. Taylor's 12-year-old sister, Laurie M. Taylor, suffered head and neck injuries in the accident, but was treated and later discharged from Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Pub Date: 7/03/96

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