Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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The Court of Appeals answered certified questions asking whether Maryland recognizes an independent cause of action for breach of fiduciary duty, holding that this Court recognizes an independent cause of action for breach of fiduciary duty and outlining its scope and parameters.The Court of Special appeals filed a certification pursuant to Maryland Rule 8-304 requesting that the Court of Appeals provide guidance concerning whether an independent cause of action exists for breach of fiduciary duty. The Court of Appeals answered (1) Maryland does recognize such a cause of action, and to establish a breach of fiduciary duty a plaintiff must demonstrate the existence of a fiduciary relationship, breach of the duty owed by the fiduciary to the beneficiary, and harm to the beneficiary; and (2) a court should consider the nature of the fiduciary relationship and possible remedies afforded for a breach on a case by case basis, and the remedy will depend upon the specific law applicable to the specific fiduciary relationship at issue. View "Plank v. Cherneski" on Justia Law

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In this case, the Court of Appeals chose to adopt Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), as the governing standard by which trial courts admit or exclude expert testimony, thus replacing Maryland's "Frye-Reed Plus" standard.The Frye-Reed standard, born of Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923), and Reed v. State, 283 Md. 374 (1978), started in Maryland and continued to be the standard for determining the reliability of expert testimony after the United States Supreme Court decided Daubert. The Frye-Reed standard eventually morphed into the Frye-Reed Plus standard, which adopted several Daubert principles. For that reason, Appellant argued that this Court should adopt the Daubert standard and apply it to this case. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed this matter for pretrial proceedings and a new trial consistent with this opinion, holding (1) this Court adopts the Daubert standard in Maryland because those factors are persuasive in interpreting Maryland Rule 5-702; and (2) this case is remanded for the circuit court to apply this new evidentiary standard. View "Rochkind v. Stevenson" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court vacating original development approvals by the Frederick Council Council so that the Council could proceed with a de novo reconsideration proceeding, holding that the circuit court did not err in vacating the development approvals after the Developers refused to participate in a de novo reconsideration proceeding.A local citizens group opposed the Developers' rezoning and development application and sought judicial review. The circuit court found that a former member of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners had violated the ethics statute by engaging in an ex parte communication and remanded the case for reconsideration. The Frederick County Council reconsidered the Developers' application in a de novo proceeding, but the Developers refused to participate. Thereafter, the circuit court vacated the original development approvals and remanded the matter. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the County Council had the discretion to determine the scope of the reconsideration proceeding; (2) the doctrine of zoning estoppel does not apply under the facts of this case; and (3) there is no ambiguity in the Ethics Statute. View "75-80 Properties v. RALE, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of circuit court judge upholding the order of the administrative law judge (ALJ) ordering Gregory Johnson's involuntary medication, holding that there was no error in the order authorizing Johnson's involuntary medication.Johnson was charged with attempted first-degree murder and related offenses. The circuit court found Johnson incompetent to stand trial and dangerous and committed him for treatment to a state-run forensic psychiatric hospital. After Johnson repeatedly refused to take prescribed antipsychotic medication the Maryland Department of Health began the process to administer the medication to Johnson involuntarily. An ALJ ordered Johnson's involuntary medication to restore him to competency, and the circuit court upheld the order. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Maryland law authorizes involuntary medication to restore an individual's competence to stand trial and does not violate separation of powers by entrusting an ALJ with the power to order such medication subject to judicial review; and (2) because the Department and the ALJ met due process requirements, there was no error in the order authorizing Johnson's involuntary medication. View "Johnson v. Department of Health" on Justia Law

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In this medical malpractice action, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court holding that Defendants had not breached the standard of care, holding that the trial court erred in allowing Defendants to raise and argue the issue of non-party negligence and to submit the issue to the jury.Defendant-physicians in this case denied liability but asserted, as an alternative causation theory, that the negligence of a non-party physician was a cause of Plaintiff's injuries. At issue was whether a jury may consider whether a non-party physician was negligence and caused injury to Plaintiff without the expert testimony necessary to establish medical negligence when medical negligence is raised as a defense. The Supreme Court held (1) expert testimony is required to establish medical negligence and causation when such matters are outside the common knowledge of jurors; (2) to the extent a defendant elects to raise non-party medical negligence as part of its defense, the defendant has the burden to produce admissible evidence to allow a jury to make a finding on that issue; and (3) the trial court erred in allowing Defendant to raise and argue the issue of non-party negligence under these circumstances. View "American Radiology Services, LLC v. Reiss" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals answered four questions of law concerning the application of the Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA), Chapter 515, Laws of Maryland 2016, specifically, a provision codified in Md. Code Ann. Crim. Law (CR) 5-609.1.The JRA eliminated mandatory minimum sentences of imprisonment without the possibility of parole required by existing law for defendants who were convicted of certain drug offenses and who were repeat offenders. CR 5-609.1 provides that a defendant who had received a mandatory minimum sentence prior to the elimination of such sentences can ask the court to reduce that sentence. A number of inmates currently serving mandatory minimum sentences invoked CR 5-609.1 and filed motions to modify or reduce their sentences. The Court of Special Appeals certified questions of law concerning CR 5-609.1 that pertained to pending appeals in that court. The Court of Appeals answered the certified questions as to the application of CR 5-609.1 when the mandatory minimum sentence relates to a conviction based on a court-approved plea agreement under which the parties agreed that the mandatory minimum sentence would be imposed and when the defendant waived the right to seek modification of that sentence as part of the plea agreement. View "Brown, Bottini & Wilson v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant's convictions for sexually abusing several female students while he was their elementary school teacher, holding that any error by the trial court in excluding character evidence of appropriateness with children in Defendant's custody or care was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial judge erred by excluding evidence from parents of students and from professional colleagues that, in their opinion, Defendant was the type of person who behaved appropriately with children in his custody or care. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals also affirmed, holding (1) character evidence of appropriateness with children in one's custody or care may be admissible in a criminal case where a defendant is accused of sexually abusing a child; (2) any error in excluding Defendant's proffered character evidence was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; and (3) Defendant's constitutional arguments were not preserved for appellate review or abandoned and, in any event, lacked merit. View "Vigna v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that the City of Baltimore's street vending ordinance that restricts a food truck from parking within 300 feet of a brick-and-mortar restaurant that primarily sells the same type of food (the Rule) is constitutional.The owners of two food trucks (the Food Trucks) filed suit against the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore claiming that the Rule violates Article 24 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights by restricting the Food Trucks' ability to practice their trade. The circuit court held that the Rule does not violate Article 24's requirements of equal protection and substantive due process but proceeded to enjoin the City from enforcing the Rule, concluding on its own initiative that the Rule is impermissibly vague. The Court of Appeals reversed the circuit court's grant of injunctive relief, concluding that the Food Trucks had not preserved a vagueness claim for appellate review and that, in any event, the claim failed on the merits. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the Rule does not deprive mobile vendors of their substantive due process and equal protection rights under Article 24 and that the Rule is not void for vagueness. View "Pizza di Joey 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 vacating the judgment of the circuit court finding that R.S. was a child in need of assistance (CINA), holding that the court of special appeals did not err in holding that the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) does not apply to out-of-state placements of a child in the care of a biological, non-custodial parent.Based on its determination that the ICPC applied to the placement of R.S. in the care of her biological father, the juvenile court awarded joint custody of R.S. to the non-custodial biological father and parental grandparents. The court of special appeals vacated the judgment, concluding that the plain language of the ICPC, codified in Md. Code, Fam. Law Art. 5-601-5-611, did not apply under the circumstances of this case. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the ICPC does not apply to out-of-state placements with non-custodial biological parents; and (2) because the ICPC did not apply under the circumstances of this case and the court never determined that the biological father was unfit, the CINA order was properly vacated. View "In re R.S." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the court of special appeals reversing the decision of the post-conviction court granting Petitioner post-conviction relief based on the court's finding that Petitioner received ineffective assistance of counsel, holding that Petitioner's counsel rendered ineffective assistance based on a conflict of interest.Petitioner pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because he was misadvised of the immigration consequences of his plea agreement and because his counsel failed to disclose a personal conflict of interest. The post-conviction court granted Petitioner relief based on the court's finding of an actual conflict of interest. The court of special appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that defense counsel's conflict of interest rendered his representation of Petitioner constitutionally deficient under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 21 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. View "Podieh v. State" on Justia Law