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Maryland Named as a Defendant in Wrongful Death Suit

By Alpert Schreyer on June 14, 2016

Wrongful DeathIn early 2013, Robert Ethan Saylor, a 26-year-old man from Maryland, was killed in a movie theater while being forcibly removed. Three Frederick County deputies, working second jobs as mall security officers, were called to the theater because Saylor had gone into the theater without a ticket to watch the movie “Zero Dark Thirty.” According to the lawsuit, witnesses reported that the young man was sitting quietly awaiting the start of the movie, and was not causing any kind of disturbance in the theater. When officers approached, Saylor’s full-time aide, who had accompanied him to the movie, informed them that Saylor would “freak out” if they touched him, just as she had previously told the movie theater manager. She asked for additional time to handle the situation, and told officers that Saylor’s mother was coming to help. Despite the warning, the officers allegedly wrestled Saylor to the floor while witnesses heard him yelling for his mother and screaming “it hurts.”

The struggle allegedly fractured Saylor’s larynx, making it difficult for him to breathe and eventually resulting in death by asphyxiation. The lawsuit alleges that the deputies realized they had injured Saylor, so they rolled him to his side, removed his handcuffs, and called 9-11, but by the time medical help arrived, Saylor had already suffocated. The Frederick County Sheriff’s office contends that the injury may have occurred during breathing tube insertion by paramedics, and that there is no evidence that the officers injured or applied any force to Saylor’s neck during the events at the movie theater.

Saylor’s parents filed a wrongful death suit requesting both compensatory and punitive damages, alleging that their son died a “violent, terrifying, and painful death” as a result of the theater and deputies’ negligence. Initially the lawsuit named the individual officers, Regal Cinemas movie theater, and Frederick County. Early in 2014, however, the plaintiffs’ attorney stated that the state of Maryland would be added to the lawsuit in place of Frederick County. According to plaintiffs’ counsel, the state was added because it is the officers’ employer and thus is responsible for the actions of its employees. Among other counts, the suit claims that Regal Cinemas was negligent in its failure to modify its practices to allow Saylor’s aide and mother to assist him in leaving the theater without involving law enforcement agents, and this negligence led to his death. Against the officers themselves, the suit claims negligence due to their treatment of the man despite their knowledge that he was disabled and at risk of asphyxia from handcuffing.

The state medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, but a grand jury declined to indict any of the officers involved. This decision made national headlines and prompted an ongoing civil rights investigation by the U.S. Justice Department. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley also created a task force to increase awareness and training for emergency response crews when dealing with events involving those with disabilities.

Lost a Loved One? Get Legal Help Now

If your loved one lost their life due to someone else’s actions, call the experienced Maryland personal injury attorneys at Alpert Schreyer, LLC for help. We know that monetary compensation can never take the place of your loved one, but you should not be saddled with additional expenses after they are gone. You may be entitled to medical and funeral expenses, lost wages, or loss of companionship damages. Contact us at 301-932-9997 for a free case evaluation so we can take care of the financial issues and give you one less thing to worry about.

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