Mark Puente and Doug Donovan, Baltimore Sun, April 29, 2015
Online reports are swirling that Freddie Gray had spinal surgery shortly before he died in police custody, and had collected a payout in a settlement from a car accident. Those reports–which raise questions about the injury that led to his death in April 19–point to Howard County court records as proof.
But court records examined Wednesday by The Baltimore Sun show the case had nothing to do with a car accident or a spine injury. Instead, they are connected to a lawsuit alleging that Gray and his sister were injured by exposure to lead paint.
Paperwork was filed in December allowing Gray and his sister, Fredericka to each collect an $18,000 payment from Peachtree Settlement Funding, records show. In exchange, Peachtree would have received a $108,439 annuity that was scheduled to be paid in $602 monthly installments between 2024 and 2039.
In her documents, Fredericka Gray checked “other” when asked to describe the type of accident. She also said that the date of the accident was “94/99” and that she was a minor when the case was settled.
In his documents, Freddie Gray checked “work injury, medical malpractice and auto accident” as the type of accident. When asked to explain, he also wrote something that is unreadable. He also wrote something unreadable when asked if he was a minor when the case was settled.
A judge dismissed the case on April 2 when neither Gray nor his sister appeared in court, records show.
Baltimore attorney William H. “Billy” Murphy, who represents the Gray family, confirmed that the Howard County case was connected to the lead paint lawsuit.
Jason Downs, an attorney who is with Murphy’s firm and represents one of Gray’s relatives, said, “We have no information or evidence at this point to indicate that there is a prior pre-existing spinal injury. It’s a rumor.”