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Maryland Court of Special Appeals Upholds $200,000 Award for Police Shooting of Dog

by Christopher Zoukis

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has affirmed a damages award against a Franklin County Sheriff Deputy who shot a family dog while attempting to serve an arrest warrant.

The deputy, Timothy Brooks, went to the house of Roger and Sandra Jenkins in order to arrest their 18-year-old son, Jared. When Mr. Jenkins attempted to remove his dogs to an outdoor kennel, Brooks claimed that the Jenkins' chocolate labrador retriever, Brandi, "came after me" -- so he shot her. Brandi, whose tail was wagging as she approached the Deputy, required emergency surgery but survived the shooting.

According to testimony, before rushing Brandi to the vet, the Jenkins' left specific instructions that Deputy Brooks was not to enter their home. Brooks and another deputy, Nathan Rector, entered the home anyway, and found Jared hiding behind a door.

The Jenkins sued the deputies under several theories, including trespass to the home, trespass to chattel, and violation of the Maryland Constitution. The jury found for the Jenkins' on all claims, and awarded $620,000 to the family.

The appellate court upheld the award of $200,000 in noneconomic damages for the shooting of Brandi, as well as $7,500 for economic damages in the form of veterinary care. The court reversed, however, the $400,000 award to the Jenkins family for the trespass to their property.

The analysis turned on whether Deputy Brooks was grossly negligent when he shot Brandi and when he entered the home. The jury determined that he was when he shot the dog, but was not when he entered the home. Therefore, the award for shooting Brandi was upheld, but the award for trespass to the home was reversed. In the absence of gross negligence or actual malice, the Maryland Tort Claims Act immunized Brooks from liability for trespass. See:  Brooks v. Jenkins, 220 Md. App. 444 (December 16, 2014).

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Related legal case

Brooks v. Jenkins