Lawsuit behind $6M judgment against Sandy Spring Bank

We told you last week that Sandy Spring Bancorp Inc. announced it would set aside money to cover a $6 million jury verdict in a civil lawsuit it lost. Now we know the rest of the story.
The case stemmed from a 2011 incident involving a CommerceFirst Bank executive. Sandy Spring was named as a defendant because it bought CommerceFirst in May 2012, essentially inheriting its liabilities, including the future litigation.

The case dates to November 2011 when Thomas Bolander, then vice president of CommerceFirst, was charged with second-degree assault for pointing a shotgun at two workers who were trying to remove equipment from a closed Jaspers American Grill restaurant in Prince Frederick, Maryland. The incident involved a dispute between the bank and the business about removing the assets, according to a story in The Gazette.

Bolander pleaded not guilty to two counts of second-degree assault but was later sentenced by a Calvert County District Court judge to 18 months unsupervised probation for one of the counts, according to The Gazette.

The two restaurant workers sued Bolander and CommerceFirst in October 2012. Last week, a civil jury in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court awarded them $5 million in punitive damages and $1.05 million in compensatory damages.

The two employees were seeking $600,000 in compensatory damages and $3 million in punitive damages, according to a Courthouse News Service account . Richard Walsh, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said the verdict is unusually high for Anne Arundel County.

Although the compensatory damages are covered by insurance, Sandy Spring said it is reserving money to cover this punitive damages this quarter. It plans to appeal.
Sandy Spring President Dan Schrider said there is no way for the bank or its holding company, which had $4.2 billion in assets last year, to offset the financial blow: It will negatively effect second quarter earnings.

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