Eugene Volokh, at the Volokh Conspiracy, Baltimore Might Be Liable for Riot Damage to Businesses
From Chae Bros. Limited Ltd. Co. v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore, decided yesterday by Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher (D. Md.):
Plaintiffs, consisting primarily of small businesses, small business owners, and property owners in Baltimore City, seek to recover for damages suffered during the civil unrest that occurred after the arrest and subsequent death of Freddie Gray in April, 2015….
Maryland's Riot Act provides that "if a structure or personal property is stolen, damaged, or destroyed in a riot, the injured party may recover actual damages sustained in a civil action against the county or municipal corporation of the State in which the riot occurred." However, the county or municipal corporation is not liable unless it:
(1) had good reason to believe that the riot was about to take place or, having taken place, had notice of the riot in time to prevent the theft, damage, or destruction; andMoreover, a plaintiff may not prevail under the Riot Act if the county or municipal corporation, "used reasonable diligence and all the powers entrusted to them to prevent or suppress the riot." Because the City has moved for summary judgment, it bears the burden to show that the Plaintiffs have not produced sufficient evidence to raise a genuine dispute of material fact about whether the City may be held liable under the Riot Act. Viewing the facts, as this Court must, in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs, the City has not met its burden….
(2) had the ability, either by use of the county's or municipal corporation's police or with the aid of the residents of the county or municipal corporation, to prevent the theft, damage, or destruction.
. . .
The City knew that the protests on April 25th turned from peaceful to violent and destructive. Nonetheless, the City coordinated with the BPD to ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, the BPD did not engage with protesters. After the April 25th protests, the Mayor initially admitted that the City "gave those who wished to destroy space to do that[.]" The City anticipated that protesting on April 27th—the day of Freddie Gray's funeral—might again turn violent and destructive. As predicted, the protests on April 27th did, in fact, lead to violence and property damage. The City did not declare a state of emergency, which would have allowed it to assist the BPD in obtaining additional police resources, until several hours after rioting had begun on April 27th. Finally, the City did not announce a curfew until several hours after rioting began, and that curfew did not go into effect until 10:00 PM the following day.
Because these were rioters whose side they favored.