By Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun
11:29 PM EDT, October 24, 2011
A Baltimore City Circuit Court jury awarded $18.5 million on Monday to the family of a man murdered by a fellow inmate on a prison bus in 2005.
The jurors found that the state and four corrections officers were negligent in the death of Philip E. Parker Jr., who was killed by inmate Kevin Johns while he was being taken from a court hearing in Hagerstown to a prison in Baltimore.
In their lawsuit filed in 2006, Parker's parents had alleged that the state did not provide adequate security.
The state had made the case that the incident was not foreseeable, that it happened quickly and that the corrections officers couldn't see the strangling because the bus was dark, according to Michael Mastracci, an attorney representing Parker's family.
It is unclear how much of the verdict the state could have to pay, said David Paulson, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office.
While the state's liability is limited to $200,000 in negligence cases, state officials do not know whether that means $200,000 per incident or per plaintiff, Paulson said. It's also unclear whether the cap applies in the case of gross negligence; one of the four officers was found to be grossly negligent.
"It's a little murky at this point. … It's a legal issue that's going to be settled at a later date," Paulson said.
The state will probably file post-trial motions and will consider appealing the verdict, he said.
Of the $18.5 million, the jury awarded $7.5 million to Parker's mother; $1 million to his father; and $10 million to his estate, Paulson said.
Samuel M. Shapiro, a lawyer for Parker's family, said he hoped the verdict would send a message to the state.
"I … hope maybe the state gets the idea that these are human beings who are incarcerated, and should be treated that way," Shapiro said.
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