Thursday, January 25, 2007

Pope v. Barbre (Ct. of Special Appeals)

Decided January 25, 2007--Opinion by Judge Sally D. Adkins.

Pope suffered paralyzing injuries when Mark Barbre, appellee and Queen Anne's County Deputy Sheriff, shot him in the neck following a traffic stop. The Circuit Court for Montgomery County granted summary judgment on Pope's claims against Barbre, and dismissed his claims against the State of Maryland and Queen Anne's County, because Pope mistakenly notified Queen Anne's County of his claim under the Maryland Tort Claims Act (MTCA), rather than notifying the State Treasurer or one of two specified designees. Pope challenges those rulings, arguing that he complied with the mandatory notice requirements of Md. Code (1984, 2004 Repl. Vol.), section 12-106(b) of the State Government Article (SG), and that such notice is not a prerequisite to his claim against Barbre individually.


1. The "substantial compliance" doctrine under the Maryland Tort Claims Act can be expanded to encompass such defective notice. Pope had provided notice of his claim to the Queen Anne's County Commissioner. However, the Court concluded that the Queen Anne's County Commissioner was not a "Treasurer’s designee" for purposes of accepting notice of tort claims under the MTCA. Furthermore, service on the County does not constitute substantial compliance with §12-106(b) of the MTCA.

2. Notice under the MTCA is not necessary to sue an individual State officer in his individual capacity for torts allegedly committed with malice or gross negligence, or outside the scope of employment. The Court found that:
When, as in this case, the claimant pursues tort remedies against an individual classified as State personnel, based on acts allegedly committed with malice or gross negligence, a requirement of notice to the State would not serve the investigation and settlement purposes underlying section 12-106(b). Nor would notice to individual State personnel serve such purposes. Thus, the State Treasurer does not require early notice of a claim against an individual officer alleging a malicious or grossly negligent tort.

A copy of the opinion is available in PDF.

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