Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Class Action
Cherry v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore
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
Cain v. Midland Funding, LLC
In this two putative class action cases concerning the applicable statute of limitations for claims filed by consumer debtors against a consumer debt buyer, Midland Funding, LLC, the Court of Appeals held that Petitioners' claims for unjust enrichment and statutory claims for money damages were subject to the three-year statute of limitations established by Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc. 5-101.Petitioner Clifford Cain and Petitioner Tasha Gambrell each filed a putative class action complaint against Midland, alleging improper debt collection activities in connection with money judgments that Midland obtained against the plaintiffs during a time when Midland was not licensed as a collection agency under Maryland law. In Cain's case, the circuit court granted 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 held (1) Petitioners were not entitled to injunctive relief, and (2) Petitioners' claims seeking restitution under an unjust enrichment theory and money damages for statutory claims were barred by CJ 5-101's three-year statute of limitations. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment as to Gambrell in its entirety and reversed the judgment in part as to Cain, holding that Cain's individual claims were timely filed. View "Cain v. Midland Funding, LLC" on Justia Law
Linton v. Consumer Protection Division
The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the court of special appeals and remanded with directions to reverse the judgment of the circuit court certifying a settlement class and approving a settlement reached by the parties with respect to that class, holding that the circuit court erred in approving the proposed settlement.The class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of 100 individuals who had assigned structured settlement annuity benefits they were entitled to receive from certain tortfeasors to Petitioner or its affiliates or designees based on allegations that the assignments were the product of fraud. Ultimately, the circuit court approved the proposed settlement. The court of special appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment below and concluded that the circuit court erred in approving the proposed settlement under the facts and circumstances of this case. View "Linton v. Consumer Protection Division" on Justia Law
Posted in: Class Action
Deer Automotive Group, LLC v. Brown
The circuit court’s order denying Appellant’s petition to compel arbitration was not a final, appealable judgment under Md. Code Ann. Cts. & Jud. Proc. 12-301.Appellees were individuals who each purchased vehicles from the automobile dealership operated by Appellant. Appellees filed a class action lawsuit against Appellant, challenging Appellant’s practice of providing customers with an alleged free lifetime limited warranty for their vehicles conditioned on the consumer’s continued use of and payment for other services provided by Appellant. Appellant filed an independent action seeking to compel arbitration in the class action case. The circuit court concluded that Appellees’ claims were not subject to binding arbitration. Appellant appealed. Appellees filed a motion to dismiss on the basis that the order denying arbitration was not an appealable final judgment. The court of special appeals denied the motion. The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the court of special appeals and remanded to that court with instructions to dismiss the appeal, holding that the circuit court’s order denying Appellant’s petition to compel arbitration was not a final, appealable judgment, depriving the court of special appeals of jurisdiction to hear an appeal of that order. View "Deer Automotive Group, LLC v. Brown" on Justia Law
Fangman v. Genuine Title, LLC
The Fangmans sought to represent a class of approximately 4,000 to 5,000 individuals who, from 2009 to 2014, retained Genuine Title for settlement and title services and utilized various lenders for the purchase and/or refinancing of their residences, allegedly as a result of referrals from the lenders. All of the lenders are servicers of federally related mortgage loans. The complaint alleges an illegal kickback scheme and that “sham companies” that were created by Genuine Title to conceal the kickbacks, which were not disclosed on the HUD-1 form. After dismissing most of the federal claims, the federal court certified to the Maryland Court of Appeals the question of law: Does Md. Code , Real Prop. [(1974, 2015 Repl. Vol.) 14-127 imply a private right of action?” The statute prohibits certain consideration in real estate transactions. That court responded “no” and held that RP 14-127 does not contain an express or implied private right of action, as neither its plain language, legislative history, nor legislative purpose demonstrates any intent on the General Assembly’s part to create a private right of action. View "Fangman v. Genuine Title, LLC" on Justia Law
Windesheim v. Larocca
Respondents, three married couples, obtained home equity lines of credit from Petitioners, a bank and its loan officer. Approximately four years later, Petitioners filed a putative class action alleging that these transactions were part of an elaborate “buy-first-sell-later” mortgage fraud arrangement carried out by Petitioners and other defendants. Petitioners alleged numerous causes of action, including fraud, conspiracy, and violations of Maryland consumer protection statutes. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Petitioners, concluding that the statute of limitations barred several of Respondents’ claims and that no Petitioner violated the Maryland Secondary Mortgage Loan Law as a matter of law. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Court of Special Appeals (1) erred in concluding that Respondents stated a claim upon which relief could be granted under the Maryland Secondary Mortgage Loan Law; and (2) erred in concluding that it was a question of fact to be decided by the jury as to whether Respondents’ claims against Petitioners were barred by the relevant statute of limitations. View "Windesheim v. Larocca" on Justia Law
Marshall v. Safeway, Inc.
Plaintiff was an hourly employee of Safeway, Inc. In 2010, in response to two writs of garnishment issued by the district court, Safeway deducted an excess of $29.64 from Plaintiff’s wages. Plaintiff subsequently filed a lawsuit against Safeway on behalf of herself and all other persons similarly situated, arguing that Safeway’s garnishment practice resulted in wrongfully excessive deductions. Ten days after the class action suit was filed, Safeway changed its payroll garnishment system to conform with the correct garnishment exemptions standards and tendered to Plaintiff the amounts that would have been paid to her had those standards been applied at the time. The circuit declined to certify the class and entered judgment in favor of Safeway. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) employees have a right of direct private action against their employer under Md. Code Ann. Lab. & Empl. 3-507.2 for deducting from the employee’s wage more than is lawfully allowed; and (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion under the circumstances of this case in denying class certification and in entering judgment for Safeway. View "Marshall v. Safeway, Inc." on Justia Law
Frazier v. Castle Ford, Ltd.
Petitioner filed a complaint against Respondent for unfair and deceptive trade practices and for common law fraud. Petitioner's complaint was based on an automobile warranty he purchased from Respondent that expired more than two years earlier than he had been led to believe. Petitioner purported to bring his action on behalf of others similarly situated. Before Petitioner filed a motion to certify the class, however, Respondent paid to extend Petitioner's warranty. The circuit court (1) denied Petitioner's motion for class certification, finding that because he had been made whole, Petitioner was no longer a member of any class; (2) granted in part Respondent's motion for summary judgment, finding Petitioner's claim moot; and (3) granted Petitioner attorney's fees for the period before and after Respondent tendered Petitioner individual relief. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Respondent's tender of individual compensatory relief to Petitioner did not require the court to deny class certification; (2) an award of punitive damages is not foreclosed by the tender of individual compensatory damages; and (3) an award of attorney's fees to Petitioner under a fee-shifting provision of the Consumer Protection Act is not limited to fees incurred before the tender. View "Frazier v. Castle Ford, Ltd." on Justia Law
Bourgeois v. Live Nation Entm’t, Inc.
On behalf of himself and a proposed class of others similarly situated, Plaintiff filed an action challenging the legality of Ticketmaster's collection of a service charge on a concert ticket he purchased for a concert in the city. The complaint was based on provisions of the Baltimore City Code. The Supreme Court accepted certification to answer questions of law and held (1) if a ticket agency is authorized in writing by a licensed exhibitor to sell tickets as an agent of the exhibitor, the ticket agency is not required to be licensed; (2) the Code prohibits the collection of a service charge, in addition to the established price printed on the ticket, in connection with the original sale of the ticket by the exhibitor, and is not limited to ticket resales; (3) the Code does not permit anyone other than a ticket agency licensed under the Code to collect anything more for a ticket than the established price printed on the ticket plus taxes; and (4) a common law action for money had and received will lie to recover money paid in excess of that allowed by statute if the agreement pursuant to which it has been paid has not been fully consummated. View "Bourgeois v. Live Nation Entm't, Inc." on Justia Law