Families of slain Capital employees, survivors of newsroom shooting settle suit with Baltimore Sun, Tribune Publishing

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The families of Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters, along with some Capital employees who survived the deadly June 28, 2018, attack on the Annapolis newsroom, dismissed civil charges against The Baltimore Sun and Tribune Publishing this week after settling the case.

The plaintiffs filed a joint notice in court with The Sun and Tribune, two of the defendants, to dismiss the claims in Anne Arundel Circuit Court against the news organization and its parent company on Tuesday afternoon.


The negligence lawsuit, filed in 2021 shortly after the gunman, Jarrod Ramos, was found criminally responsible for the shooting, stated the attack in Annapolis was “a preventable tragedy,” saying that if the defendants had “taken reasonable steps to protect The Capital and its employees,” the gunman “would have been detected and stopped prior to entering The Capital’s newsroom, and he may never have attempted the assault at all.” The lawsuit was consolidated with a similar claim in early 2022.

Following Tuesday’s filing, any dispute between the plaintiffs and the newspaper and its parent company is settled, Steven Silverman, an attorney for the families of Smith and Fischman said Wednesday. Everything else regarding the settlement, including the terms, are confidential, he said.


The notice does not dismiss claims against St. Johns Properties, the owner of the 888 Bestgate building where the shooting unfolded. A previous filing said the plaintiffs had reached an agreement with St. Johns but were awaiting the settlement to be completed.

On June 28, 2018, Ramos blasted his way into The Capital’s office at 888 Bestgate armed with a shotgun, smoke bombs and a device that blocked his victims from fleeing. He shot and killed five employees. Six other employees inside the newsroom survived either by fleeing or hiding from Ramos.

After pleading guilty and being found criminally responsible for his actions, Ramos was sentenced in September 2021 to six terms of life in prison, five without the possibility of parole, plus 345 years — all to be served consecutively.

The lawsuit had claimed the newspaper companies “certainly should have known” that Ramos was a threat to journalists at The Capital due to litigation between him and the company, as well as a series of communications and tweets dating back to 2011 in which he threatened employees. It accused The Sun and Tribune of failing to secure the newsroom against threats when The Capital moved its offices from Capital Drive to 888 Bestgate in 2014, months after the Annapolis-based newspaper was purchased by Baltimore Sun Media, a subsidiary of Tribune Publishing.

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In response, James P. Ulwick, a Baltimore attorney representing The Sun and Tribune, argued in a motion that the company “wasn’t legally responsible for the criminal behavior of a third person.”

The claims against The Sun and Tribune were dismissed with prejudice, meaning they cannot be brought back.

The suit is still docketed for a lengthy jury trial in September this year, which will likely be avoided if the plaintiffs settle with St. Johns.

St. Johns still appears to be heading toward a settlement, closing on Wednesday a separate lawsuit against ACE American Insurance, which provided liability insurance to The Sun and Tribune in 2018. St. Johns argued it was owed insurance money from The Sun’s policy. That matter was settled and dismissed Wednesday.


The Sun and Tribune also recently sued ACE, stating the insurer was wrongly refusing to cover all of the legal costs for the lawsuit.

The Sun’s and Tribune’s suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, says ACE had initially told the newspaper companies they were covered for legal defense costs under their workers compensation and employers liability insurance, but later reversed course, stating that some of the defense costs would be allocated to their other insurance plan, which has a $1 million deductible.

The matter, filed Dec. 29, is ongoing. ACE has not filed a response.