We frequently get letters and phone calls from prisoners. It is hard not to discount these cases. It is not just the “People in Jail Are Less Likely to Be Credible” problem. It is also the “People Who Have Tons of Time on Their Hands Tend Chase Windmills” problem that is demonstrated by the 10 page letters that incarcerated people send to lawyers setting forth their grievances.
Of course, this bias leads lawyers to miss a lot of cases that are both lucrative and serve the interests of justice – Because we criminally mistreat our prisoners. But, because you have to kiss so many frogs to find a princess with prisoners, most lawyers just ignore the cases. We are probably guilty as charged on this one.
In fact, the only kind of prisoner cases we have taken are cases where prisoners working on a road crew were hit by a prison owned or, better yet, a third party vehicle. Those are the facts of Goss v. Jennings, a “pedestrian” wrongful death case decided by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals last week.
While working on a litter pickup detail on the Capital Beltway (I-495) in Landover in Prince George’s County, a man was struck and killed by a dump truck. Plaintiffs filed a wrongful death/survival action against the driver, the Department of Corrections, and the Maryland State Highway Administration. The jury then returned a verdict against both the dump truck driver and the state of $ 2,025,000: $ 350,000 for the survival action and $ 1.675 million for the wrongful death action. Pursuant to the cap on non-economic damages, the trial court reduced the wrongful death awards to 150% of the [...]