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Baltimore Businesses Destroyed During Riots Sue City Officials for Failing to Prevent Damage

Baltimore Businesses Destroyed During Riots Sue City Officials for Failing to Prevent Damage

Former mayor’s “space to destroy” coming back to haunt the city

The April 2015 Baltimore riots caused a great deal of damage to local businesses.  Former Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is reported to have told police to stand down and insisted that the lawless mobs be given “space” to destroy private property unimpeded.

Baltimore businesses are now suing city officials, including the former mayor and local police, for failing to prevent the rampant looting and rioting that resulted in nearly $13 million in damages.

The Baltimore Sun reports:

Dozens of Baltimore business owners are suing city officials, including the police department and former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, saying they mishandled the city’s response to the rioting in 2015.

In a nearly 700-page complaint filed in federal court this week, more than 60 plaintiffs say city officials failed to prevent the looting and rioting that erupted after the arrest and death of Freddie Gray in April 2015, despite warnings the city would experience violence.

More than 380 businesses, including many located south of North Avenue in West Baltimore, were damaged or destroyed. Property losses were estimated at nearly $13 million.

The plaintiffs are suing under the Maryland riot act statute, which allows parties to bring a claim against the city for property damage during civil unrest. They name Rawlings-Blake and former Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, who were in office at the time of the riots, current Mayor Catherine Pugh, the City Council, city police and the state as defendants. They are seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

One of the attorneys for the plaintiffs specifically notes the widely-reported statements of the former mayor regarding police standing down to allow rioters “space to destroy.”

The Baltimore Sun continues:

“This lawsuit is the result of the City and the other Defendants failing to do right by these property and business owners,” Peter K. Hwang, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “The City and other Defendants failed them when they adopted a policy of restraint and issued stand-down orders, caring more about the public perception that they feared would result with increased police presence than preventing what were clearly preventable riots.”

. . . . The lawsuit includes a detailed time line leading up to the riots, beginning with Gray’s arrest on April 12, 2015, and including public statements, memos and emails in which officials describe their concerns about the potential for violence.

. . . .  The plaintiffs quote Rawlings-Blake saying at a news conference that “we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.”

Watch Rawlings-Blake in 2015:

Baltimore police are reported to have stood by and watched as looters and vandals destroyed businesses.  Those that did not watch, allegedly simply turned away.

WBAL TV reports:

It also details a “stand-down” order Batts gave to police, citing a Fraternal Order of Police report that said, “Officers were ordered to allow the protesters room to destroy and allow the destruction of property so that the rioters would appear to be the aggressors.”

Once the rioting started in earnest, the documents stated, the city should have acted more quickly to bring in more resources, and the state should not have waited for the city to ask for help to send it in.

During the worst of the rioting on April 27, 2015, documents stated, “Even in locations where BCPD officers were present, business owners helplessly watched their stores being looted and destroyed as BCPD officers also simply watched and/or turned away, and let the destruction of property continue.”

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Comments

The Friendly Grizzly | June 23, 2017 at 7:04 pm

A question to you Legal Beagles: wouldn’t it be the insurance companies with standing to sue?

    The business owners were injured; they have standing. If the business owners had insurance, and the insurance companies paid out, the insurance companies are subrogated to to the owner’s rights. That is, they have a contractual right to the amount they paid.

      Olinser in reply to Valerie. | June 24, 2017 at 5:58 pm

      To elaborate, the insurance company only paid out for the physical property that was destroyed.

      The business owner can sue for MUCH more – namely lost business and income as a result of the destruction (and yes, if they won, they would have to pay the insurance company back the claim for destroyed property).

      i.e. they may have destroyed a business building and equipment worth $500,000. But if it took them 6 months to repair and replace the building/equipment to actually re-open the business, and they did $100,000 of business per month, then they can actually sue them for $1.1 million $500,000 for actual damage, $600,000 for lost income).

      For some of those businesses that were destroyed we are talking about a LOT of money in lost income if this is successful.

LibraryGryffon | June 23, 2017 at 7:22 pm

It depends on the policy. (http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bs-bz-riot-insurance-20150501-story.html)
For instance, it’s likely that not every business will have had insurance against interruptions, so even if the building was fixed and stock replaced, they may have been closed too long to continue functioning without that cash infusion. Some may find that they didn’t have enough insurance.

And of course there are always deductibles.

Baltimore government will insist that the “general policing” did not require protecting private property.

    DaveGinOly in reply to alaskabob. | June 24, 2017 at 12:16 am

    “General policing” requires “policing.” When the police “stand down” and intentionally allow destruction to occur, then they’re not doing the job for which they are paid. It’s dereliction of duty. If they made an attempt to protect property they can always say “An honest effort was made with available resources, but unfortunately we weren’t able to protect all property in the riot zone.” When you do nothing, you can’t say squat.

    Another Ed in reply to alaskabob. | June 24, 2017 at 5:37 pm

    If you own property or operate a business in certain areas, there are inherent hazards and benefits to do so. Sell the property at a loss or close a business because of the hazards and risks are intolerable, and you may be considered racist. Stay, and you may suffer the consequences or possibly thrive for a while because of the lack of competition. Whatever you choose, you must keep this story in mind:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scorpion_and_the_Frog

VaGentleman | June 23, 2017 at 7:40 pm

B-more was quick to settle $6.4M with the Freddie Gray estate. It will be interesting to see how long it takes to settle with the INNOCENT victims.

    Zachary in reply to VaGentleman. | June 23, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    Exactly. It’s just taxpayer dollars anyway, though, so who cares?

    TX-rifraph in reply to VaGentleman. | June 23, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    Is there any way to determine how much of that $6.4M went back to the dems who authorized it? Campaign donations or ??

      alaskabob in reply to TX-rifraph. | June 23, 2017 at 11:03 pm

      There is always a Democrat “surcharge” for doing business. During the Rodney King Loot, Scoot and Shoot I and II, the LAPD made sure Parker Center and the city’s property were secure… Korea town… not so much. We can’t have police action to stop rioting having a disproportionate bias against certain minorities as they took so many goods home to protect them from harm.

      If L.A. is a model, forget these businesses ever getting a break… the “consumers” vote more.

        Bucky Barkingham in reply to alaskabob. | June 24, 2017 at 7:38 am

        IIRC Korea Town residents protected their own property by going up on roofs with rifles.

        YellowSnake in reply to alaskabob. | June 24, 2017 at 2:22 pm

        There are republican surcharges, too. They are called externalities. It turns out that republicans get a lot of campaign contributions for those who like to pass their costs on to the rest of us.

Affirmative Action strikes again.

Finally

Not looting and/or rioting, it’s feral shopping!

Just saw the link on YouTube. It’s really sad that big cities are controlled by radical left wing nuts.

    DaveGinOly in reply to Jackie. | June 24, 2017 at 12:19 am

    As long as there are Republicans somewhere, they have someone to blame. (Heck, Dems are now blaming Vladimir Putin for their woes.) Unfortunately, their constituents believe the blame game, and continue to re-elect them.

Pro-Choice/diversity, redistributive change, and retributive change have consequences. Make the [class] diversitists pay for forcing catastrophic anthropogenic climate change.

Progress. Positive progress.

    You raise an interesting, if unrelated, point. The attorneys for the Baltimore plaintiffs aren’t arguing about domestic violence (an entirely different class of crime).

    What is interesting in your observation is that the law does typically embed a “stand down” order in domestic violence cases . . . until actual harm, too often the murder of the victim, is done.

    Domestic violence is a very real legal problem that all-too-often ends in the murder of the complainant. This is not okay, and it’s not okay to blur lines between stalker/domestic violence complaints and those actions and inactions taken, arguably unlawfully, in Baltimore.

    Apples and oranges? Nope. More like apples and those great big pumpkins people need a wheelbarrow to transport.

Another crisis at one of the Democrats Centers of Excellence. Is there any question left as to why Baltimore and other Democrat Centers of Excellence (e.g., Chicago, Philly, Newark, etc.) are cesspools of crime, corruption, poverty, and just general failure?

    YellowSnake in reply to Cleetus. | June 24, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    No “cesspools of crime, corruption, poverty, and just general failure” in the rural south? The difference is that minority populated counties with white political control are the norm and nobody cares. You certainly don’t.

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