County paid $65,000 to settle lawsuit
Published 10/28/09

A county police officer has lost a lawsuit she filed against a Glen Burnie man who crashed into her patrol car in 2007 while she was in Arnold running radar.

Advertisement The loss last week comes a few months after the county agreed to pay the man $65,000 to settle a separate lawsuit he filed in 2008 claiming the officer was at fault because part of her car was blocking the dark roadway.

Officer Dina Johnson, who started with the department in 2005 and continues to serve in the Patrol Services Bureau, said she was disappointed in the jury’s verdict, calling it “unfair.” She declined further comment.

Jory Lee Beatty, 23, of Glen Burnie, could not be reached for comment.

The two lawsuits filed in county Circuit Court stem from an April 30 wreck. Beatty’s 2005 Chevrolet Aveo ran into the front right corner of Johnson’s patrol car – a wreck county police blamed on Johnson and which netted no charges against Beatty.

The key issue, according to court testimony, was whether the patrol car, which had its emergency lights and sirens off, was stopped and blocking about one foot of the left lane of Ritchie Highway near Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard in Arnold.

Accident reconstruction experts with the county Police Department testified Oct. 20 that Johnson was blocking part of the lane, which is 12-feet, 4-inches wide, but an expert hired by the defense said she was outside of the travel lane and parked in the median.

According to court testimony before Circuit Court Judge D. William Simpson – a retired judge from Wicomico County – Beatty was driving north on Ritchie Highway in the right lane behind a dump truck at about 4 a.m. when he moved into the left lane. Police said he appeared to be speeding, driving between 52 mph and 72 mph on the 50 mph highway.

As he passed the dump truck, Beatty clipped the corner of Johnson’s patrol car, knocking it 13 feet into the median. Beatty bounced off the patrol car and into the path of the dump truck, which in turn knocked his car into a utility pole.

Beatty was seriously injured in the wreck and taken by helicopter to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. There he was treated and eventually released.

Johnson was taken to Baltimore Washington Medical Center in Glen Burnie, where she was treated and released within 24 hours of the wreck. A defense attorney claimed at trial, however, she continues to suffer numbness down one arm, debilitating headaches and shoulder and neck pain.

Johnson sought from Beatty about $1,600 for lost wages, $8,500 for medical bills and more than $80,000 for pain and suffering. The jury, however, found Beatty was not negligent and therefore not responsible for any of the damages, attorneys said.

Richard Jaklitsch, Johnson’s attorney, said he respected the work of the jury, but said its decision “definitely has us scratching our heads.”

“Maybe I am old fashion, but I think if you crash into a parked car that is at least 99 percent off the road then that is negligence,” he said.

Justin Mulcahy, spokesman for the county Police Department, declined to comment about the crash, referring questions to the county’s Office of Law.

County Attorney Jonathan Hodgson could not be reached for comment.