Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals concluding that prejudgment interest on defense costs where a party breaches its duty to defend does not fall within the exception to the "modified discretionary approach" and is within the discretion of the fact-finder.The modified discretionary approach used by Maryland courts in awarding prejudgment interest generally places the award of prejudgment interest within the discretion of the trier of fact but also recognizes exceptions where a plaintiff is entitled to prejudgment interest as a matter of right. At issue was whether prejudgment interest should be awarded as a matter of right. The Court of Appeals held (1) prejudgment interest on defense costs is left to the discretion of the fact-finder; and (2) where the jury in this case was not presented with a claim of prejudgment interest, was not instructed on the issue, and did not separately state an award of prejudgment interest in the verdict, the circuit court was not authorized to award prejudgment interest. View "Nationwide Property & Casualty Insurance Co. v. Selective Way Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals answered a certified question of law by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland by holding that the Maryland Contract Lien Act (MCLA), Md. Code Ann. Real Prop. 14-201 - 206, does not permit liens that secure unpaid damages, costs, charges, and fees that accrue after the recordation of the lien.According to Appellant, if a lien complies with the procedural requirements for creation under the MCLA, the lien can secure unpaid damages arising after the recordation of the lien, and therefore, the MCLA permits continuing liens. Appellee, in turn, argued that continuing liens are prohibited by the plain language of the statute, its legislative history, and due process requirements. Specifically, Appellee argued that the MCLA prohibits any sum from being secured by a statutory lien before the property owner has the opportunity to contest the sum prior to attachment. The Court of Appeals held that the plain text, legislative history, and case law relevant to the MCLA collectively demonstrate the Legislature's intent to prohibit continuing liens. View "In re Walker" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court for $500,000 in economic damages to Petitioner under the Wrongful Death Act, Md. Code Ann. Cts. & Jud. Proc. 3-901 to 3-904, holding that the evidence was insufficient to support a pecuniary damage award to compensate for loss of household services from an adult child, now deceased.The circuit court vacated the award against Respondent, a medical doctor, for loss of household services Petitioner alleged she would have received from her adult daughter who died after receiving medical treatment by Respondent. The court of special appeals affirmed, holding that Petitioner had not produced sufficient evidence to have the claim submitted to the jury pursuant to Maryland Rule 2-519. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the evidence adduced by Petitioner was insufficient to meet her burden of proof. View "Fowlkes v. Choudhry" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the court of special appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court finding Appellant in violation of his probation and sentencing him to serve ten years, holding that there was no error.Appellant pled guilty in five cases involving theft charges and violations of probation. As a condition of probation, the circuit court ordered Appellant to enroll in, comply with the conditions of, and successfully complete the Drug Court program. The State later alleged that Appellant violated his probation by failing to comply with the requirements of Drug Court. Appellant was found in violation of his probation. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that a trial judge assigned to a drug court program is not required to recuse him or herself from presiding over a violation of probation proceeding for a current drug court participant. View "Conner v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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In this grievance proceeding, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals vacating the judgment of the circuit court affirming in part and reversing in part the decision of the ALJ and remanding with instructions to dismiss the proceeding, holding that the complaint did not present a grievable issue.Keith Merryman, a police officer employed by the University of Baltimore and the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 146 (the Union), initiated a grievance proceeding complaining about holiday leave. The ALJ ruled in favor of the Union. The circuit court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court of special appeals held that the ALJ lacked jurisdiction over the complaint because the dispute was not a grievable issue. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, under the memorandum of understanding in this case, which incorporated the grievance procedures set forth in Md. Code Ann., Educ. 13-201 to 13-206, the complaint did not constitute a grievable issue. View "Merryman v. University of Baltimore" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc.'s request for a refund of the taxes that it paid pursuant to a Baltimore City ordinance for the privilege of selling advertising on billboards that are not located on the premises where the goods or services being advertised were offered or sold, holding that the ordinance is constitutional.Clear Channel, which was in the business of selling advertising on its billboards in Baltimore City, sought a refund from the City Director of Finances of the taxes it paid pursuant to the city ordinance at issue. Clear Channel claimed that the ordinance was unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments and Article 40 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. The City denied a refund, and the Maryland Tax Court affirmed. The circuit court and court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ordinance survives the application of a rational basis test and, accordingly, is constitutional. View "Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc. v. Department of Finance of Baltimore City" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that a change in life insurance beneficiary constitutes a conveyance under the Maryland Uniform Fraudulent Conveyance Act (MUFCA), Md. Code Comm. Law 15-201(c), and that a guardian of property is not granted the authority to change a life insurance beneficiary on a policy of the ward under section 15-102(t) of the Estates and Trusts Article (ET).In a case arising from a decade-long dispute between the adult children of the Buckingham family and United Bank, the United States District Court for the District of Maryland certified two questions of law to the Court of Appeals regarding whether the children intentionally defrauded the Bank when they successfully diverted significant amounts of life insurance proceeds away from the declining family business and to their personal use. The Court of Appeals answered the questions as follows: (1) a change of the beneficiary designation of a life insurance policy constitutes a conveyance under MUFCA; and (2) the guardian of property does not have the authority to change the beneficiary on a life insurance policy of a ward under ET 15-102(t). View "United Bank v. Buckingham" on Justia Law

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In this family dispute regarding a family business the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the decision of the trial court entering judgment in favor of Valley Mill Camp, Inc., holding that a person claiming the right to possession against a person in actual peaceable possession of real property can bring an action in circuit court for common law trespass to recover possession of the property.In 2017, after some escalating family disagreements, Valley Mill terminated the employment of Bruce Uthus and requested that he vacate the campground residence, where he had been living for approximately twenty years. Uthus refused to leave, and Valley Mill brought this trespass action. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of Valley Mills. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Valley Mill had the choice to take legal action to remove Uthus from the campgrounds either by filing a trespass action in circuit court or a wrongful detainer action in district court; and (2) Valley Mill met all the elements of trespass. View "Uthus v. Valley Mill Camp" on Justia Law

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In this case stemming from a lawsuit brought by Respondent against the State and the law enforcement officers and prosecutors who were responsible for charging her with assault and juror intimidation, the Court of Appeals held that the circuit court was correct in granting summary judgment in favor of the State and the two prosecutors as to any action in the complaint alleged to have been taken by the prosecutors.Specifically, the Court of Appeals held (1) there was no genuine dispute of material fact as to the prosecutors' entitlement to absolute common law immunity in the form of prosecutorial immunity; (2) the two officers were not entitled to absolute common law immunity in the form of prosecutorial immunity or absolute common law immunity in the form of judicial immunity; (3) state personnel statutory immunity under the MTCA barred Plaintiff's claims against the officers and the prosecutors in their individual capacities and, as such, the State does not have immunity under the MTCA; and (4) whether the State was liable for any actions taken by the officers was a matter to be resolved by further proceedings in the circuit court. View "State v. Rovin" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the court of special appeals concluding that it had jurisdiction to consider this appeal, holding that, under the circumstances, there was no right to appeal arising under statute or local law.ProVen Management, Inc. filed a petition for judicial review of the Baltimore City Department of Public Works Director's final decision in favor of the City as to ProVen Management, Inc.'s action seeking additional sums under the parties' contract. The circuit court affirmed, and ProVen appealed. The City filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the court of special appeals lacked jurisdiction under Md. Cts. & Jud. Proc. art. 12-302(a). The court of special appeals denied the motion to dismiss. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) ProVen's petition for judicial review was, in both form and substance, a petition for judicial review of an administrative agency decision arising under pertinent provisions of the Baltimore City Charter; and (2) because the Charter provided no right to appeal, the court of special appeals was required to dismiss the matter. View "Mayor & City Council of Baltimore v. ProVen Management, Inc." on Justia Law