Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals reversing in part Defendant's convictions for involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and neglect of a minor stemming from the death of her infant, holding that the evidence was insufficient to support Defendant's convictions for involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment. Defendant's four-month-old infant died as a result from asphyxia after Defendant slept on top of her infant after a virtual "Moms' night out" drinking beer with her friends via Facebook livestream. Defendant as convicted of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and neglect of a minor. The Court of Special Appeals concluded that Defendant's conduct was insufficient to support a finding of "gross negligence," which was required for the involuntary manslaughter conviction and that the evidence was insufficient to support the reckless endangerment conviction. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that the evidence was insufficient to support Defendant's convictions for involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment because the conduct neither rose to the level of gross negligence more constituted a "gross departure from the conduct of a reasonably prudent person" such that it could be deemed reckless. View "State v. Morrison" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals held that the odor of marijuana on or about a person, without more, does not provide law enforcement officers with probable cause to arrest and perform a warrantless search of that person incident to the arrest. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that he was unlawfully seized and subjected to a search incident to arrest. In denying Defendant's motion to suppress, the suppression court ruled that the odor of marijuana gave police probable cause to arrest Defendant and, incident to the arrest, conduct a full search of Defendant's person. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the mere odor of marijuana emanating from a person, without more, does not provide the police with probable cause to support an arrest and a search of the arrestee; and (2) because the search of Petitioner was based solely on the odor of marijuana emanating from his person, the officer lacked the requisite probable cause to conduct that search. View "Lewis v. State" 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 trial court in favor of Plaintiffs - a property owner, its insurers, and the subrogee of another property owner - and against Steamfitters Local Union No. 602 after a fire started on Steamfitters' property caused damage to neighboring properties, holding the the trial court did not err. The fire started on a mulched strip of common area where Steamfitters' apprentices regularly congregated and discarded hundreds of cigarette butts. Plaintiffs filed a negligence complaint against Steamfitters. Steamfitters filed a third-party complaint against the Heating, Piping and Refrigeration Training Fund (Training Fund) alleging contractual indemnification, common law indemnification, and contribution. As to the issue of contractual indemnification, the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the Training Fund. As to the case against Steamfitters, the jury returned verdicts in favor of Plaintiffs. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Steamfitters had a duty to exercise reasonable care to maintain its property in a manner that would not cause an unreasonable risk of the spread of fire from cigarette butts habitually discarded in combustible material; and (2) Steamfitters was not entitled to relief on its remaining allegations of error. View "Steamfitter's Local Union No. 602 v. Erie Insurance Exchange" on Justia Law

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In two cases involving similar underlying facts and an identical legal issue the Court of Appeals held that the phrase "damage to property," incorporated by reference in the uninsured motorist statute, requires an insurer to reimburse loss of use damages, such as rental car costs, to an insured. At issue was whether the Maryland Uninsured Motorist statutory provision of Md. Code Ann., Ins. 19-509(e)(1) and the provisions of Title 17 of the Transportation Article and Title 20 Subtitle 6 of the Insurance Article require an insurer to pay benefits for loss of use of a vehicle damaged by an uninsured driver. The Court of Appeals held that the phrase "damage to property," as incorporated by reference in the uninsured motorist statute, embraces loss of use damages caused by an uninsured driver, regardless of any limitations or omissions that may exist in the applicable policy of insurance. View "Berry v. Queen" on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The Court of Appeals dismissed this appeal concerning compliance with the law governing Maryland LLCs, holding that this appeal was not properly before the Court. Petitioner 7222 Ambassador Road, LLC initiated this action against Respondent National Center for Institutions and Alternatives, Inc. Respondent prevailed in the circuit court and the court of special appeals. Before Petitioner filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals it forfeited its right to do business in Maryland and failed to reverse that forfeiture. Respondent filed a motion to dismiss the appeal based on the forfeiture. The Court of Appeals granted the motion to dismiss, holding that, as a result of Petitioner's forfeiture of its right to do business in Maryland, it lost the ability to prosecute this action during the period of forfeiture, including the filing of a timely petition for a writ of certiorari. View "7222 Ambassador Road, LLC v. National Center on Institutions & Alternatives, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law
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The Court of Appeals held that a circuit court asked to enforce an administrative order based on a final administrative decision under the State Administrative Procedure Act (APA) is not precluded from considering whether the relief ordered would violate the law on which the administrative decision is based. The Motor Vehicle Administration denied Karl Geppert's application for a learner's permit because he did not have a social security number. Geppert, however, was eligible for a social security number. An administrative law judge (ALJ) ordered that a learner's permit be issued to Geppert. Geppert requested a writ of mandamus to enforce the ALJ's ruling. The circuit court concluded that the ALJ's decision was based on an incorrect legal premise and denied the writ. The Court of Special Appeals reversed, holding that the circuit court was barred from considering the legal soundness of the ALJ's decision. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the circuit court did not err in declining to afford binding effect to the ALJ's erroneous legal conclusions. View "Motor Vehicle Administration v. Geppert" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that, under the merger rule articulated in State v. Lancaster, 631 A.2d 453 (Md. 1993), offenses and their sentences merge for purposes of sentencing, and therefore, Defendant's convictions for fourth-degree sexual offense and second-degree assault merge, leaving the only permissible punishment the sentence for fourth-degree sexual offense. Defendant was convicted of second-degree assault and fourth-degree sexual offense and sentenced to ten years' incarceration for the assault count and one year for the sexual offense charge, to run consecutively. The court of special appeals reversed and remanded the case to the circuit court for resentencing, holding that the convictions merged. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the offenses of second-degree assault and fourth-degree sexual offense and their sentences merge; and (2) there is no reason to overturn Lancaster. View "State v. Frazier" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals held that an independent cause of action exists for breach of fiduciary duty and that, 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. William Plank and Sanford Fisher, both minority members of Trusox, LLC, filed an action alleging direct and derivative claims against James Cherneski, Trusox's president and majority member. Among other relief, Plank and Fischer (together, Minority Members), sought an order dissolving the LLC or appointing a receiver to take over its management. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of Cherneski on most of the Minority Members' claims and in favor of the Minority Members on certain other claims and awarded attorneys' fees in favor of Cherneski and Trusox. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the circuit court (1) did not err in entering judgment in favor of Cherneski on the breach of fiduciary duty count; (2) did not err in interpreting the contractual language of the fee-shifting provision and concluding that Cherneski and Trusox were the substantially prevailing parties; and (3) did not abuse its discretion by awarding Cherneski and Trusox all of their attorneys' fees. View "Plank v. Cherneski" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law
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The Court of Appeals remanded this case, without affirming or reversing, to the court of special appeals with instruction to explain the basis of its order reversing the circuit court's judgment denying postconviction relief and remanding and granting permission for the filing of a belated motion for modification of sentence, holding the Court was unable to determine the basis underlying the court of special appeals' order. Defendant was convicted of first-degree robbery, robbery, and conspiracy to commit robbery. Defendant later petitioned for postconviction relief, alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The circuit court denied postconviction relief. The court of special appeals summarily reversed and remanded with instruction to permit Defendant to file a belated motion for modification of sentence. At issue on appeal was whether trial counsel's failure to timely file a motion for modification of sentence pursuant to Maryland Rule 4-345(e) constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court remanded the case without reaching the merits, holding that the order of the court of special appeals was unclear and the case must be remanded for clarification. View "State v. Day" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Court of Appeals recognized the tort of intentional interference with a prospective gift or inheritance and adopted the standards set forth in Section 19 of the Third Restatement of Torts. Petitioner, the residuary beneficiary of the Estate of Peter A. Castruccio, alleged that Respondent, Peter's widow, maliciously depleted her inheritance by forcing the Estate's expenditure of attorneys' fees to defend against Respondent's groundless lawsuits and efforts to initiate criminal charges. Petitioner alleged, as relevant to this appeal, intentional interference with an expectancy. The circuit court granted Respondent's motion to dismiss, ruling that the cause of action for intentional interference with an inheritance is not a cause of action under Maryland law. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) this Court recognizes the tort of intentional interference with an inheritance or gift; but (2) the allegations in Petitioner's complaint were insufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. View "Barclay v. Castruccio" on Justia Law