Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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In this insurance dispute brought by Insured seeking declarations that the policies issued by Insurer covered the losses it had suffered from repairing and remediating its physical space to accommodate the health necessities brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, holding that the allegations did not trigger the primary coverage provided by the relevant policies.Insured asserted that it suffered hundreds of millions of dollars for health and safety protocols and modifications to its stores due to the presence of COVID-19. After Insurer denied coverage Insured brought this lawsuit. Insurer moved to dismiss the complaint, after which Insured filed a motion to certify a question of law to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals answered that when a first-party, all-risk property insurance policy covers "all risks of physical loss or damage" to insured property from any cause unless excluded, coverage is not triggered when a toxic, noxious, or hazardous substance such as COVID-19 is physical present in the indoor air of that property, is also present on and can later be dislodged from physical items on the property, and causes a loss of the functional use of the property. View "Tapestry, Inc. v. Factory Mutual Insurance" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting the motion for summary judgment brought by Calvert County, Maryland and dismissing the claims brought by Petitioners, four Calvert County residents, against the Board of County Commissioners of Calvert, holding that there was no error.Petitioners brought an action against the County Commissioners and County seeking a declaratory judgment that the Calvert County Comprehensive Plan was illegally passed because one of the Commissioners had a conflict of interest in the legislation and did not recuse himself and requesting that the circuit court void the plan in light of the conflict. The circuit court granted the County's motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court correctly entered summary judgment in favor of the County. View "Dzurec v. Bd. of County Commissioners Calvert County" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the appellate court affirming the circuit court's denial of Petitioner's petition for writ of actual innocence, holding that there was no abuse of discretion.After a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of first-degree murder, use of a handgun in a crime of violence, and wearing or carrying a handgun. Petitioner was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for the murder charge and an additional twenty years' imprisonment for the handgun offenses. In his petition for writ of actual innocence, Petitioner claimed that three categories of new evidence created a substantial possibility of a different outcome at trial. The circuit court denied the petition, and the appellate court affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Petitioner failed to show that the circuit court abused it discretion in denying his petition for actual innocence. View "Carver v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the reversal of the decision of the Comptroller of Maryland denying a pass-through entity's claim for a refund of estimated tax payments it made during the 2012 tax year when the pass-through entity determined that it had no tax liability, holding that there was no error.Under Maryland laws, FC-GEN Operations Investments, LLC (FC-GEN) met the definition of "pass-through entity." Based on its projected 2012 income, FC-GEN made quarterly estimated tax payments. FC-GEN sought a refund of its estimated payments after determining that it had a taxable loss attributable to Maryland for the 2012 tax year. The Comptroller denied the refund request, concluding that the statute of limitations had expired. The Tax Court reversed. The appellate court affirmed. The Court of Appeals granted certiorari and held (1) in connection with judicial review of a Tax Court decision in which a party alleges an error of law, where the reviewing court determines that it is appropriate to give a degree of deference to an agency’s interpretation of tax laws, the agency to whom deference is owed is the Comptroller, as the agency responsible for administering the tax laws and promulgating regulations for that purpose, not the Tax Court; and (2) FC-GEN was a claimant that was entitled to a refund. View "Comptroller v. FC-GEN Operations Investments LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Tax Law
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In this case considering whether unprovoked flight in a high-crime area should no longer be considered a factor that gives rise to rebate articulable suspicion for a Terry stop, the Court of Appeals held that, under the totality of the circumstances, Defendant's rights under either the Fourth Amendment or Article 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights were not violated.Defendant, who was standing in an high-crime area in Baltimore City, fled when he saw an unmarked vehicle. Ultimately, detectives stopped Defendant and found a gun in his waistband. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the detectives lacked reasonable suspicion to stop him based solely on his unprovoked flight in a high-crime area. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of the motion, holding that, under under the totality of the circumstances analysis, a court may consider whether unprovoked flight is an indication of criminal activity that, together with evidence of a high-crime area and any other relevant factors, establishes reasonable suspicion for a stop, or whether unprovoked flight, under the circumstances of the case, is a factor consistent with innocence that adds little or nothing to the reasonable suspicion analysis. View "Washington v. State" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that when a first-party, all-risk property insurance policy covers "all risks of physical loss or damage" to insured property from any cause unless excluded, coverage is not triggered when a toxic, noxious, or hazardous substance is physically present in the indoor air of that property, adheres to and can later be dislodged from physical items on the property, and causes a loss of the functional use of the property provided that the substance causes neither tangible, concrete, and material harm to the property nor deprivation of possession of the property.Insurer issued insurance policies to Insured covering policy periods in which Insured's stores were closed in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. Insured submitted claims to Insurer under the policies for "physical loss or damage" to its covered property exceeding $700 million. Insurer denied the bulk of the claim, leading to this lawsuit. The Court of Appeals held the presence of Coronavirus in the air and on surfaces at Insured's properties did not cause "physical loss or damage" as that phrase is used in the policies. View "Tapestry, Inc. v. Factory Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the circuit court's judgment affirming the decision of the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission granting Respondent's request for compensation for his hernia, holding that the court of special appeals did not err.In granting Respondent's request for compensation, the Commission found that Respondent sustained an accidental injury during employment, that his current hernia was the result of the accidental injury, and that, as a result of the hernia, Respondent was totally disabled for several months. The circuit court and court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the court of special appeals did not err when it (1) held that "definite proof" under L&E 9-504(a)(1) applies to the quality of evidence presented and not the standard of proof a claimant must meet; and (2) concluded that Respondent met his burden of persuasion when producing medical evidence to a preponderance of the evidence standard. View "United Parcel Service v. Strothers" on Justia Law

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In this case arising from a dispute over the purchase of residential real property in Charles County, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the court of special appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court granting Sellers' motion to dismiss Purchaser's lawsuit alleging that Seller violated Md. Code Ann. Real. Prop. 14-117(a)(3)(ii) by imposing an amortized water and sewer charge longer than twenty years after the initial date of the sale of the property, holding that there was no error.In moving to dismiss this lawsuit, Seller argued that section 14-117(a)(3)(ii) applies only to real property located in Prince George's County. The Court of Appeals agreed and dismissed the case. The court of special appeals affirmed, thus declining to extend the geographic application of the statute beyond Prince George's County. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the plain text of section 14-117(a)(3)(ii) indicates that the twenty-year amortization limit on deferred water and sewage costs only applies to Prince George's County; and (2) the legislative history of the statute confirms that the amortization provision only applies to Prince George's County. View "Elsberry v. Stanley Martin Companies" on Justia Law

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In this appeal centering on the existence of a valid arbitration agreement the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court, holding that the circuit court erred in compelling arbitration of the question of whether the arbitration clause in the agreements at issue was valid.The arbitration clause in this case stemmed from transactions between lead paint tort plaintiffs who received structured settlements and affiliated factoring companies that specialize in purchasing structured settlement rights. Defendants filed motions to compel arbitration and stay the case, but Plaintiffs challenged the existence of a valid agreement to arbitrate. The trial court granted the motion to compel arbitration, finding that the arbitrator was to determine the issue of arbitrability. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the circuit court erroneously compelled arbitration and that the issue of whether a valid arbitration agreement exists is an issue for the court to determine. View "Access Funding, LLC v. Linton" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals reversing the decision of the post-conviction court determining that Appellant's trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to object to certain incomplete or missing jury instructions, holding that defense counsel's failure to object to a "CSI effect" voir dire question did not render her performance constitutionally deficient.In 2007, Appellant was convicted by a jury of murder. In 2010 and 2011, the Court of Appeals held in three cases that a CSI effect message from the bench constituted reversible error. In 2014, Appellant filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel based on his counsel's failure to object to the trial court's CSI effect voir dire question. In 2020, the post-conviction court granted the petition for post-conviction relief and ordered a new trial. The court of special appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that under the professional norms that existed at the time of Appellant's trial, defense counsel's failure to object to a CSI-effect voir dire question did not render her performance constitutionally deficient. View "McGhee v. State" on Justia Law