Prince George's County v. Longtin, 1818, Sept. Term, 2007.

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Citation190 Md. App. 97,988 A.2d 20
Docket NumberNo. 1818, Sept. Term, 2007.,1818, Sept. Term, 2007.
Decision Date27 January 2010
988 A.2d 20
190 Md. App. 97
No. 1818, Sept. Term, 2007.
Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.
January 27, 2010.

[988 A.2d 23]

Rajesh A. Kumar (Jay H. Creech, Stephanie P. Anderson, County Atty., on the brief), Upper Marlboro, for appellant.

Cary J. Hansel (Timothy F. Maloney, Steven B. Vinick, Joseph M. Creed, Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, PA on the brief), Greenbelt, for appellee.

Panel: HOLLANDER, ZARNOCH and RAYMOND G. THIEME, JR., (Retired, Specially Assigned) JJ.


We are asked in this appeal to determine whether Maryland's expansive damage remedy for State constitutional violations is subject to key strictures of the statutorily-created Local Government Tort Claims Act (LGTCA), Md.Code (1973, 2006 Repl.Vol.), Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article (C & JP) §§ 5-301 et seq. This question arises in the context of allegations by appellee and cross-appellant Keith Longtin of a pattern and practice of police misconduct and wrongful incarceration sanctioned by Prince George's County,

988 A.2d 24

appellant/cross appellee.1

On October 7, 1999, Longtin was charged with first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Donna Zinetti, who three days earlier was raped and murdered while jogging near her home.2 Longtin was then incarcerated in the Prince George's County Detention Center. Eight months later, Longtin was released. Another man, Antonio Oesby, was charged with the crime.3

On October 31, 2000, Longtin's lawyer sent to then-Prince George's County Executive Wayne Curry a notice of claim that stated:

Pursuant to Md.Code Ann. Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-304, Mr. Longtin hereby gives notice that he suffered injuries to his person and his property and was denied important rights guaranteed to him under the United States Constitution when he was arrested on October 5, 1999 by the Prince George['s] County Police Department, and thereafter incarcerated in Prince George[']s County for a period of months for a murder he clearly did not commit.

The claim was apparently forwarded to the County's Office of Law, which received it on November 6, 2000.

Nearly a year later, on October 22, 2001, Longtin filed suit in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County. In his 13-count complaint, he named as defendants, Prince George's County, it's then-Chief of Police, John Farrell, and 5 members of the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of the County Police Department: Troy Harding, Ronald Herndon, Bert Frankenfield, Glen Clark and Michael McQuillan. Longtin alleged that the defendants' actions violated two provisions of the Maryland Declaration of Rights (Articles 21 and 24)4 constituted false imprisonment, false arrest and malicious prosecution, intentionally inflicted emotional distress, invaded his privacy and portrayed him in a false light, intentionally misrepresented material facts, amounted to negligence, and resulted in negligent detention. The complaint also asserted, among other things, that the individual defendants had engaged in a pattern or practice of "unconstitutional and unlawful detention and interrogation" and "excessive force and brutality," which the County had tolerated, encouraged and instigated by allegedly failing to "properly train, prosecute, supervise and discipline its officers." Longtin also sought injunctive relief prohibiting improper interrogations and imposing certain procedural safeguards on those interrogations. In addition, he alleged a civil conspiracy by which the defendants "agreed and jointly acted in ... unconstitutional and unlawful conduct." Finally, Longtin sought a declaratory judgment "that the detaining and

988 A.2d 25

interrogation of the plaintiff as well as the on-going pattern and practice of detaining individuals and conducting interrogations in the manner detailed herein violate[d] Maryland Rule 4-212 and the Maryland Declaration of Rights."

An allegation generally repeated in many of the counts stated:

As a direct result of [Defendants'] deprivations, Plaintiff was subjected to excessive interrogation totaling 38 hours, deprived of sleep and privacy, harassed, humiliated, and subjected to undue infliction of emotional distress. The CID Defendants attempt[ed] to coerce Longtin to make a false confession, and thereafter falsified a confession, resulting in Longtin's incarceration for eight months, while Defendants ignored and/or neglected the exculpatory evidence in their possession.

In 12 of the 13 counts, the complaint sought $10 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages.

The County and the individual defendants filed separate, boilerplate answers. However, the County's answer specifically noted that "[p]laintiff's claim is barred by the required notice provisions" and the individuals' consolidated answer stated that the "claims are barred by the provisions of section 5-304 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings [A]rticle...." The defendants sought to raise the notice of claim issue in various motions, including motions for summary judgment, but their contentions were ultimately rejected by the circuit court.5

After some claims fell out, including some counts against the County, and the Chief of Police and Detective McQuillan were dropped as parties, the trial began in August of 2006. The case was submitted to the jury on eight counts.6 On August 31, 2006, the jury returned a verdict in Longtin's favor on all eight counts.7 It then awarded $5.2 million in compensatory damages against the County.8 In addition, Hardy, Frankenfield and Clark were each assessed $275,000 in punitive damages and Herndon was assessed $350,000.

On September 11, 2006, the County and the officers filed a Motion for Judgment

988 A.2d 26

Notwithstanding the Verdict and/or for New Trial and/or to Exercise Revisory Power. They argued that 1) there was no authority for Longtin's "pattern and practice" claim; 2) the jury instruction on his due process claim under Article 24 was insufficient; 3) the $200,000 property damage award should have been reduced to reflect the evidence at trial; and 4) the damage awards should be limited by the caps in the LGTCA, C & JP § 5-303 and in C & JP § 11-108 (limitations on non-economic damages). Longtin opposed the motion, asserting, among other things, that even if the defense's first two arguments were correct, the errors were harmless and that § 11-108's damage cap did not apply to intentional torts such as those involved here. In addition, he asserted:

The Local Government Tort Claims Act ("LGTCA") does not cap the damages here because, at the time of the facts giving rise to this case, the cap did not apply to constitutional claims. See Housing Auth. v. Bennett, 359 Md. 356, 754 A.2d 367 (2000).

A hearing was held on the motions, where argument was confined to those issues specified in the written motion. Subsequently, in an order dated August 31, 2007, the circuit court denied the motions for judgment notwithstanding verdict and for new trial, but with respect to the motion to revise, the court granted it in part and denied in part. Specifically, the court reduced the property damage award to $25,000, reduced Herndon's punitive damages to $50,000 and, "[u]pon reconsideration" of appellants' motion for judgment at trial, vacated the punitive damage awards assessed against the remaining defendants because of insufficient evidence of actual malice. Relying on Longtin's arguments, the court rejected the contention that the statutory caps applied in this case.9 The County and the officers noted their appeal and Longtin cross-appealed on the punitive damages ruling.


In this appeal, appellants have raised the following issues:

1. Whether the trial court erred in denying Appellants' Motion for Summary Judgment on 12 of 13 Counts in Appellee's Complaint for failure to comply with the notice provisions of the LGTCA, and/or not applying the Act's limitation on damages.

2. Whether the trial court erred in allowing Appellee to advance a "Monell [v. Dept. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978)] type" theory of liability against a municipality based on a "pattern and practice" violation under the Maryland Constitution, when no such claim has been previously recognized in Maryland and, if adopted, there was insufficient evidence for such a finding.

3. Whether the trial court erred during its evidentiary rulings allowing testimony of DNA testing along with the crimes and conviction of another individual after the determination of probable cause; permitting testimony of other interviews or interrogations; and limiting hearsay to establish probable cause for an arrest and detention.

988 A.2d 27

4. Whether the trial court erroneously instructed the jury regarding the law as it relates to claims for a due process claim; pattern and practice; that probable cause is to be judged at the time of arrest; intentional infliction of emotional distress; the authority to terminate a prosecution; and the definition of malice for punitive damages.

On cross-appeal, appellee raises this question:

Did the trial court improperly reduce the punitive damages in this matter sua sponte without first providing notice or an opportunity to be heard to the parties?

For reasons set forth below, we affirm the jury verdict as modified by the circuit court.


On October 5, 1999, Longtin called the Prince George's County Police to report that his estranged wife was missing. At that time, the police had already discovered Zinetti's body and CID considered her husband a suspect.

A note from Detective Harding to Detective Herndon expressed police reaction to the call:

RON: Your V's husband called Dist. VI for check on the welfare. Det. Lloyd played along and took m/p info.

He made statement to her about the V being sexually assaulted at knifepoint in the past.

He is working somewhere in DC tomorrow. He agreed to meet Lloyd at 1500 hrs. at...

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