Suit dismissed in death

No grounds found for teen's parents' complaint

July 10, 2008|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN REPORTER

A Baltimore County judge dismissed a $6 million lawsuit filed by the parents of a Baltimore County teenager who was fatally crushed in 2006 on the job at a landscaping company .

Adrienne M. Miranda and Robert Miranda Sr. contended that the negligence of several law enforcement departments, prosecutors' offices and other state agencies to properly investigate the death inflicted "overwhelming mental distress and suffering" and "emotional grief, anguish and added despair."

But Baltimore County Circuit Judge Dana M. Levitz told the mother Tuesday that Maryland law does not allow for the filing of civil claims that allege negligent infliction of emotional distress.

"You cannot sue the state or the agents of the state because you have been emotionally disturbed or emotionally upset," the judge said. "The only way such a claim is allowed is if it was intentional."

Adrienne Miranda then tried to explain how prosecutors, police investigators, the state treasurer and others had acted with malice by lying to her, withholding documents and failing to reconstruct the scene of the accident, as she said they were required to do in such investigations.

But Levitz did not budge.

"So they were negligent? They didn't do what they were supposed to do?" he asked.

Saying he sympathized with her loss and the pain suffered by her family, the judge said her only recourse was to "vote out" the state and county officials whose conduct she disliked.

During the brief but emotional hearing, Adrienne Miranda alternately sobbed and shouted at the judge. A pair of sheriff's deputies were summoned as their exchanges became more heated. Meanwhile, a half-dozen attorneys representing the 42 defendants in the case said nothing beyond identifying themselves and their clients for the record.

Joseph A. Miranda, a 19-year-old graduate of Towson High School, died in July 2006 when his head and neck were crushed by a construction vehicle at Outside Unlimited Inc., a landscaping company on the border of Baltimore and Carroll counties, where he worked as a foreman. Although authorities have said they believe the death was an accident, a state medical examiner found "a strong possibility" that the death might have been a homicide and recommended additional investigation.

Authorities took a closer look at the case - including a recent review by the Baltimore County Police Department's homicide unit - but found no evidence of a crime.

"I feel very badly for Mrs. Miranda," said Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger, who decided last month against filing any criminal charges in the death. "She has suffered a tremendous loss. Unfortunately, the criminal courts are not the place to pursue any of this."

jennifer.mcmenamin@baltsun.com

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