Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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In this case involving the method for determining an apartment tenant's utility bill, the Court of Appeals held that the approval requirements stated in Md. Code Pub. Util. (PU) 7-304 are applicable to all energy allocation systems in apartment houses, regardless of the construction date of the building.A federal district court issued a certified question of law in the context of a putative class action lawsuit brought by Plaintiff, on behalf of residential apartment tenants, against a residential utility billing services company working on behalf of Maryland landlords. The federal district court asked the Court of Appeals to determine whether, for apartment houses built prior to 1978, methods of energy allocation determining the billable amount of electricity or gas by means other that by the actual measurement of consumption of the individual unit are subject to the approval of the Public Service Commission, as set forth in PU 7-304. The Court of Appeals held that allocation of energy costs solely computed on the basis of square footage computations and pro rata assessments, as well as added rental components, are exempt from the approval requirements set forth PU 7-304. View "Moore v. RealPage Utility Management" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court determined that the Legislature, through its enactment of a comprehensive statutory framework governing residential landlord and tenant relations, achieved an appropriate balance between a landlord's right to recover a landlord's property interest at the conclusion of a tenancy and a tenant's right to safe and habitable housing conditions during the pregnancy.After Plaintiff provided Defendants, who resided in Plaintiff's building as a month-to-month tenants, with a sixty-day written notice to quit and Defendants refused to vacate the premises, Plaintiff filed tenant holding over actions under N.Y. Real Prop. 8-402. In both cases, the circuit ordered that possession of the property be returned to Plaintiff. Defendants filed a petition for writ of certiorari asking the Supreme Court to hold that the tenants holding over statute is unavailable to an unlicensed landlord seeking a writ of possession of the landlord's property after the expiration of a tenancy. The Supreme Court declined to adopt such a holding and affirmed. View "Velicky v. CopyCat Building LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of appeals issued one opinion to address two petitions for writ of certiorari filed by Clifford Cain, Jr. and Tasha Gambrell challenging the outcome of their putative class actions against Midland Funding, LLC, holding that the court of special appeals erred in part in the case of Cain and did not err in the case of Gambrell.Cain and Gambrell (together, Petitioners) filed two putative class action cases against Midland, alleging improper debt collection activities in connection with money judgments that Midland obtained against Plaintiffs during a period when Midland was not licensed as a collection agency under Maryland law. In Cain's case, the circuit court entered an order granting summary judgment to each party in part and a separate declaratory judgment declaring the rights of the parties. In Gambrell's case, the circuit court granted Midland's motion to dismiss. The court of appeals concluded that Petitioners were not entitled to relief. The Court of Appeals reversed in part, holding (1) Maryland recognizes cross-jurisdictional class action tolling; (2) in Gambrell's case, the lower courts did not err; and (3) as to Cain's individual claims, the court of special appeals erred in part. View "Cain v. Midland Funding, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law
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In this case questioning whether the addition of a definition of "lender" to the Maryland Usury Law during code revision effected a significant change in that law that lay latent for four decades before this case arose, the Court of Appeals held that code revision did not change Maryland law applicable to assignees of mortgage loans.Donna Kemp entered into a mortgage loan secured by a deed of trust on her home. The loan was later assigned to Fannie Mae, which contracted with the predecessor of Nationstar Mortgage, LLC to service the loan. Nationstar later declared Kemp to be in default. Kemp, Fannie Mae, and Nationstar entered into a loan modification agreement to resolve the default, but Kemp objected to the assessment of property inspection fees. Kemp filed a complaint, which the circuit court dismissed for failure to state a cause of action. The Court of Appeals held (1) the prohibition on property inspection fees applied to Nationstar as the agent of Fannie Mae; and (2) Kemp's complaint adequately stated a claim under the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act. View "Nationstar Mortgage v. Kemp" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Maryland State Board of Contract Appeals (MSBCA) granting summary disposition as to the Maryland State Highway Administration's (SHA) claims against Brawner Builders, Inc. and Faddis Concrete Products, Inc., holding that there was no error in the MSBCA's decision to grant SHA's motion for summary decision.SHA and Brawner entered into a contract for the construction of noise barriers along a section of interstate. Faddis manufactured noise wall panels for Brawner's use in connection with the project. SHA subsequently suspended approval of Faddis-produced noise panels. Faddis filed a procurement contract claim. The MSBCA issued summary disposition to the SHA, concluding that Faddis had no standing to file such a claim. At issue on appeal was whether Faddis's status as a "pre-approved supplier" of concrete panels on construction projects administered by the SHA constituted a "procurement contract" with the State under the State Finance and Procurement Article. The circuit court reversed. The court of special appeals reversed the circuit court. The court of Special Appeals affirmed, holding that the MSBCA properly dismissed Faddis's claims and entered judgment in SHA's favor. View "Brawner Builders, Inc. v. Maryland State Highway Administration" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the court of special appeals reversing the ruling of the circuit court that Baltimore City police detective Adam Lewellen had acted within the scope of his employment and that the Baltimore City Police Department was liable for the judgment against him, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law.Plaintiff sued Lewellen for several torts, and the circuit court found Lewellen liable for negligence, violations of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, and civil conspiracy. The court awarded damages in favor of Plaintiff in the amount of $167,008. The court did not make any finding as to whether Lewellen was acting within the scope of his employment for purposes of the Local Government Tort Claims Act (LGTCA), Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc 5-301 et seq. Plaintiff later filed a motion seeking to collect from the Police Department, pursuant to the LGTCA, the damages he had been awarded against Lewellen. The circuit court granted the motion. The court of special appeals reversed, concluding that Plaintiff failed to establish that Lewellen's actions were motivated at least in part to further the Police Department's interests. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the court of special appeals' opinion was unassailable in its analysis and conclusions. View "Esteppe v. Baltimore City Police Department" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court ruling that Baltimore City had breached its contract with two out of three sub-classes of police officers and firefighters and finding that Ordinance 10-306 retrospectively divested the members of those sub-classes of benefits they had earned, holding that there were no factual or legal errors in the circuit court's rulings.Baltimore City maintained a Fire and Police Employees' Retirement System (the Plan) to provide pension benefits to members of the City's police and fire departments. In 2010, the City enacted Ordinance 10-306, under which the City changed some of the key terms of the Plan. Plaintiffs commenced a class action lawsuit alleging claims for declaratory relief and breach of contract. The circuit court certified a class of plaintiffs and three sub-classes: a retired sub-class, a retirement-eligible sub-class, and an active sub-class. The circuit court granted judgment for all but the active sub-class, ruling that, as to currently employed members who had not yet reached retirement eligibility, Ordinance 10-306 did not affect vested benefits. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the Ordinance retrospectively divested retired and retirement-eligible members of the benefits they had earned. View "Cherry v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals reversing the order of the post-conviction court awarding Petitioner a new trial on all counts and instead remanding the case for a new trial solely on an attempted second-degree murder charge, holding that the court of special appeals did not err.Petitioner was convicted of attempted second-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault, use of a handgun in the commission of a crime of violence, and other charges. Petitioner later petitioned for post-conviction relief, asserting ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court granted the petition and awarded a new trial on all counts based on the cumulative effect of trial counsel's errors. The court of special appeals remanded for a new trial on the attempted second-degree murder charge only, concluding that the limited cumulative effect theory did not warrant a reversal of all of Petitioner's convictions. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the deficient performance of Petitioner's counsel warranted a new trial on the attempted second-degree murder charge only. View "Wallace v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming Defendant's convictions and sentences for home invasion, first-degree assault and reckless endangerment, holding that the trial judge abused his discretion by denying Defendant's request to postpone sentencing.Following the jury's verdict, Defendant requested a postponement of the trial court's move to sentencing in order to prepare mitigating information for the court's consideration. Defendant specifically requested an order for a long-form presentencing investigation report, indicating that additional time would allow his mother to testify on his behalf. The trial court denied Defendant's request and imposed a sentence in his mother's absence. The court of criminal appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case with directions to vacate Defendant's sentence, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the trial judge abused his discretion by refusing to postpone Defendant's sentencing process. View "Mainor v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals held that the holding in Lee v. State, 311 Md. 642 (1988), in which the Court held that the predecessor statute to Md. Code Crim. Law (CR) 4-203(a)(1)(I) imposed strict liability for wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun on or about the person, was still good law and that CR 4-203(a)(1)(I) sets forth a strict liability offense.Defendant was convicted of wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun on or about the person. Defendant moved for a new trial, arguing that the trial court improperly ignored the mens rea element of wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun. The court of special appeals affirmed, holding that "knowledge" was not an element of wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun on or about the person. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that "knowledge" is not an element of the crime charged. View "Lawrence v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law