MARTINSBURG – The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission is asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a Martinsburg woman who claims to have a picture of President Abraham Lincoln on his deathbed.
Ernestine Deloris Glessner sued the Surratt House Museum and director Laurie Verge over a comment made on the museum’s website in 2012. Filed in June, the lawsuit alleged Glessner was defamed by the statement.
Glessner has been working for year to verify that it is Lincoln in the picture, which she says she found at a Harpers Ferry flea market.
Charles Town attorney Stephen Skinner, also a member of the House of Delegates, submitted a motion to dismiss on behalf of the defendants on Aug. 20. It says Glessner failed to provide notice of her claim.
The complaint said the Surratt House is owned by the State Parks Commission, while the motion to dismiss says it is owned and operated by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, a government agency created to regulate and administer land-use, planning and zoning in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
Maryland’s Local Government Tort Claims Act requires Glessner to provide notice within 180 days of her alleged injury, the motion says.
“Here, relief cannot be granted on the Plaintiff’s claim unless and until she pleads and proves that she satisfied the condition precedent by filing the proper statutory notice within the statutory time period,” the motion says.
“Plaintiff has failed to plead statutory compliance and cannot prove otherwise.
Glessner is representing herself. Her gripe with Verge began after Glessner claimed new information proved the man in the picture is Lincoln, which she says she uncovered on July 12. Glessner sent an email to individuals in the news, historical and scientific communities to inform them, she says.
She says Verge wrote on the museum’s official website: “I have dealt with Ernestine in the past. This is no more a photo of Abe Lincoln than it is of me. Ignore her.”
The house of Mary Surratt is located in Clinton, Md. Surratt was hanged in 1865 as a co-conspirator in the assassination of Lincoln.
The lawsuit seeks $100,000 in damages.
“Plaintiff was subjected to embarrassment, extreme loss of credibility and ridicule as a result of her statement, and based on the fact that Plaintiff believes there is no credible proof, based on fact, not (hearsay) to back this statement, Plaintiff requests this court to compel Defendant to show documented and forensic evidence to prove her statement that this photo is not authentic that are based on facts and not hearsay and opinion,” the complaint says.
The motion to dismiss also says the complaint was filed in the wrong venue.
“(T)here is nothing to suggest that a substantial part of the alleged events giving rise to this litigation occurred in this district,” it says.
“There is no contention in the complaint that the Defendants ever did business in the State of West Virginia or that they ever dealt personally with the Plaintiff in the State of West Virginia.
“The complaint merely alleges that the Defendants posted a single comment on an internet website. The complaint contains no allegation regarding the location from which the alleged comment was posted.”
U.S. District Judge Gina Groh, of the Northern District of West Virginia, is presiding over the case.
From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org.