Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals reversing the circuit court's decision determining that it had personal jurisdiction over Defendant and entering a judgment in favor of Plaintiff, holding that the factors weighed against the constitutional reasonableness of causing Defendant to defend this suit in Maryland. This case was filed by Defendant's stepson, who was a North Carolina resident, against Defendant, who was also a North Carolina resident. Plaintiff ultimately obtained a default judgment against Defendant in the amount of $99,856.84. The court of special appeals reversed the circuit court's decision with respect to the finding of personal jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Defendant's act of filing a sole lawsuit through counsel did not rise to the level of a "persistent course of conduct" to justify the assertion of personal jurisdiction over her in this matter. View "Pinner v. Pinner" on Justia Law

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In this appeal concerning whether a school board was liable for a judgment against its employee when the board was dismissed from the case prior to trial the Court of Appeals held that, under Md. Cts. & Jud. Proc. 5-518, even if a board is entitled to substantive dismissal from a case the plaintiffs are required to maintain the board as a party or request that the board be brought back into the case to indemnify an employee. As a matter of trial strategy in a case against the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners, counsel for Plaintiffs decided to not appeal the dismissal, via summary judgment, of the Board from the case and to avoid joinder of the Board under after the conclusion of the trial. After the trial, Plaintiffs filed motions to enforce the judgments, arguing that the Board was obligated to satisfy the judgments pursuant to section 5-518. The circuit court granted Plaintiffs' motions. The court of special appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, in order to force a county school board to indemnify a judgment against a county board employee, the mandatory joinder requirement under section 5-518 requires that a county board be joined as a party throughout the entire litigation. View "Neal v. Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals denying a motion to dismiss an appeal, holding that, to constitute an effective judgment under Maryland Rule 2-601 and start the thirty-day appeal period set forth in Maryland Rule 8-202(a), the entry of judgment must satisfy both rule 2-601(b)(2) and (b)(3). Petitioner obtained a default judgment against Respondent and submitted a request to file notice of lien based on the federal judgment. More than a decade later, Petitioner filed a request to renew judgment. The clerk entered a notice of renewed judgment on the docket. Respondent filed a motion to vacate renewal of judgment. The circuit court denied the motion. However, the date of the entry of judgment was not entered in the docket entries. Respondent then noted an appeal. Petitioner moved to strike the notice of appeal as untimely. The Court of Appeals held that the notice of appeal, although initially premature, had become ripe and vacated the renewal of the judgment. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the initial docket entries concerning the denial of the motion to vacate failed to satisfy the requirements of rule 2-601(b) and that the trial court erred in denying the motion to vacate the renewal of the judgment. View "Lee v. Lee" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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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 that the Taneytown City Council violated some provisions of the Open Meetings Act (OMA), Md. Code, Title 3 of the General Provisions Article, but declining to impose sanctions, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in not imposing sanctions. Plaintiff alleged that the Council held a meeting that was closed to the public in violation of the OMA and asked the court to impose sanctions. The circuit court entered judgment for Defendant, concluding that the Council had violated certain provisions of the OMA but that those violations were technical, harmless, and not willful. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the use of "technicality" and harmless error as reasons to excuse violations of the OMA is rejected; (2) all sanctions under the OMA are discretionary with the trial court, and the court cannot impose such sanctions unless the violations were willful; and (3) although the trial court imposed used the wrong terms, the court did not abuse its discretion in determining that imposing civil penalties on the Council was not appropriate under the circumstances. View "Frazier v. McCarron" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgments of the Court of Special Appeals and circuit court dismissing D.L.'s petition for judicial review challenging her involuntary admission to a facility operated by Sheppard Pratt Health Systems, Inc. as moot based on her release from Sheppard Pratt, holding that D.L. faced collateral consequences as a result of her involuntary admission, and therefore, her appeal was not moot. An ALJ involuntarily admitted D.L. to Sheppard Pratt. After she was released, D.L. petitioned for judicial review. The circuit court granted Sheppard Pratt's motion to dismiss on grounds of mootness because D.L. had already been released from the facility. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that D.L. was subject to collateral consequences stemming from her involuntary admission, and therefore, the circuit court erred in dismissing the case as moot. View "D.L. v. Sheppard Pratt Health System Inc." on Justia Law

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In this class action lawsuit filed by individuals against whom Defendant, an unlicensed debt buyer, obtained judgments in the district court, the Court of Appeals vacated the decision of the Court of Special Appeals affirming the circuit court's rulings with respect to Defendant's liability under the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act, Md. Code Title 14, Subtitle 2 of the Commercial Law Article, but remanding the case for retrial on the issue of damages, holding that remand was necessary for a reassessment of damages. Because Defendant was unlicensed, Plaintiffs sought to have the judgments against them declared void and sought monetary damages. The circuit court dismissed the case, concluding that it was an impermissible collateral attack on enrolled judgments. The Court of Special Appeals remanded for trial, ruling that the enrolled judgments were void. On remand, the jury returned verdicts for Plaintiffs and the class. The Court of Special Appeals remanded for a new trial on damages after again holding that the district court judgments were void. The Court of Appeals held (1) the Court of Special Appeals erred in concluding that the judgments were void because the collateral attack on the enrolled judgments was not allowed; and (2) the licensing statute permits a private cause of action for acting as a collection agency without a license. View "LVNV Funding LLC v. Finch" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Court of Special Appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court concluding that Petitioners, Baltimore County taxpayers, lacked standing to challenge the County's operation of the Baltimore County Animal Shelter and alleged waste at the facility, holding that Petitioners demonstrated specific injury and thus possessed standing to pursue their claim against Baltimore County under the taxpayer standing doctrine. The circuit court granted the County's motion for summary judgment, holding that Petitioners' alleged pecuniary injury was not developed enough to survive summary judgment. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Petitioners possessed the requisite taxpayer standing to pursue their claim against the County because they established pecuniary harm derivative of waste and mismanagement, a nexus between that harm and the alleged illegal government act, and sufficiently quantified the alleged harm. View "George v. Baltimore County, Maryland" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting the motion to dismiss filed by Respondent, the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore, as to Taxpayers' complaint for declaratory judgment challenging a new comprehensive rezoning and a new zoning map, as enacted through two ordinances, holding that the circuit court properly determined that Petitioners failed to establish the requisite taxpayer standing to proceed with this case. Specifically, the Court held (1) Petitioners failed to show a special interest in the subject matter of this case distinct from that of the general public by failing to sufficiently allege illegal or ultra vires acts by Respondent that may result in a pecuniary loss or an increase in taxes; and (2) Petitioners failed to demonstrate a nexus between any alleged potential pecuniary harm and the allegedly illegal or ultra vires act. View "Floyd v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals dismissing an appeal, on its own initiative, as premature and remanded the case to that court with instructions to treat the notice of appeal as timely filed, holding that the appeal should proceed on the merits in the Court of Special Appeals. Petitioner petitioned for a writ of certiorari, arguing that he timely filed the notice of appeal and that the appeal should be reinstated. The Court of Appeals exercised its discretion to hold that, under the circumstances of this case and pursuant to Maryland Rule 8-602(g)(1)(D), Petitioner’s notice of appeal should be treated as if it were filed on the same day as but after the entry of the trial court’s final judgment. View "Carver v. RBS Citizens, N.A." on Justia Law

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At issue was what findings a court must make in order to require attorney’s fees to be paid to an adverse party who was subjected to proceedings that were brought in bad faith or lacked substantial justification and what the appropriate means are for calculating attorney’s fees when a court determines that a party’s complaint includes claims that have substantial justification and claims that lack substantial justification. Respondents prevailed in having the trial judge dispose of Petitioner’s claims after the close of the evidence. The hearing judge found no substantial justification for each of Petitioner’s claims against Respondents and awarded $300,000 in attorney’s fees to Respondents. The court of special appeals vacated the circuit court’s judgment, concluding that there was substantial justification as to some of Petitioner’s claims. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the hearing judge (1) did not commit clear error in finding no substantial justification for the claims brought by Petitioner; but (2) abused his discretion in assessing $300,000 in attorney’s fees against Petitioner without articulating how he calculated his fees. View "Christian v. Maternal-Fetal Medicine Associates of Maryland, LLC" on Justia Law