Justia Maryland Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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In this workers' compensation action, the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals reversing the judgment of the circuit court denying Uninsured Employers' Fund's (UEF) motion for judgment, holding that the Court of Special Appeals erred in concluding that the evidence was sufficient to establish that Tyson Farms, Inc. was Mauro Garcia's co-employer as a matter of law.Mauro Jimenez Garcia sustained an occupational disease of the lungs while working on a chicken farm. The chickens were raised for and owned by Tyson. The Uninsured Employers' Fund became involved in Garcia's workers' compensation claim, and Tyson was impleaded into the claim. The Commission issued an award of compensation, determination that Garcia was a covered employee that sustained an occupational disease arising of and in the course of his employment and that Tyson was Garcia's co-employer. On judicial review, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Tyson, finding that Tyson was not Garcia's co-employer. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that there was sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that Tyson was not a co-employer of Garcia. View "Tyson Farms, Inc. v. Uninsured Employers' Fund" on Justia Law

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In this workers' compensation action, the Court of Appeals held that the Workers' Compensation Commission did not err in calculating the deduction of decibels from Claimants' total average hearing losses under Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. (LE) 9-650(b)(3) by counting the number of years between each firefighter's fiftieth birthday and the dates that they each retired from employment with Montgomery County, Maryland.Anthony Cochran and Andrew Bowen, former firefighters, developed hearing loss, and Bowen also developed tinnitus. Both men filed a claim under LE 9-505. The Commission awarded compensation to both claimants, finding that each had sustained hearing loss arising in and out of the course of their employment and that Bowen had sustained tinnitus arising in and out of the course of his employment. The Court of Special Appeals held that the Commission correctly calculated the deduction set forth in LE 9-650(b)(3) but erred in awarding permanent partial disability benefits to Bowen for tinnitus. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the Commission properly calculated the deduction set forth in LE 9-650(b)(3) by counting the number of years between each man's fiftieth birthday and the date of retirement; and (2) the Court of Special Appeals erred in reversing the Commission's decision as to tinnitus. View "Montgomery County v. Cochran & Bowen" 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 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 agreed with the judgment of the hearing examiner granting line-of-duty (LOD) retirement benefits to Petitioner, a retired Baltimore City police officer, based on a finding of fact that Petitioner suffered from memory loss and attention deficits as a result of a mild traumatic brain injury, holding that the hearing examiner did not err.Police officers are potentially eligible for two different levels of disability benefits - a less substantial non-line-of-duty (NLOD) level of benefits or a more substantial LOD level of benefits. Benefits for NLOD disability may be awarded on the basis of a mental or physical incapacity, but benefits for LOD disability can only be awarded based on a physical incapacity. Petitioner suffered from memory loss and attention deficits as a result of a concussion in the course of his duties. The hearing examiner granted Petitioner LOD disability benefits, concluding that he was permanently physically incapacitated. The court of special appeals reversed, concluding that Petitioner's incapacities were mental rather than physical. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Petitioner was entitled to LOD benefits. View "Couret-Rios v. Fire & Police Employees' Retirement System of City of Baltimore" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that, under exhaustion of administrative remedies jurisprudence, a landowner may not withhold a claim alleging an unconstitutional taking arising from the application of a zoning regulation from the administrative agency's consideration and present the claim to a jury in a separate action invoking the court's original jurisdiction.This appeal arose out of litigation between Maryland Reclamation Associates, Inc. (MRA) and Harford County, Maryland (the County) in connection with MRA's efforts to construct and operate a rubble landfill on property located in Harford County. Earlier litigation concluded with a 2010 Supreme Court opinion upholding all the factual determinations and legal conclusions of the Harford County Board of Appeals (the Board). After losing on each substantive claim, MRA filed a separate inverse condemnation case alleging an unconstitutional taking. The jury found that MRA's inability to operate a rubble landfill was a regulatory taking and awarded MRA damages. The court of special appeals concluded that the takings claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The Court of Appeals affirmed but on other grounds, holding that MRA's takings claim should b dismissed based on MRA's failure to raise this constitutional issue in any administrative proceeding. View "Maryland Reclamation Associates, Inc. v. Harford County, Maryland" on Justia Law

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In this case involving application of Maryland's "implied consent" statute, Md. Code Ann., Trans. (TR) 16-205.1(b), the Court of Appeals held that Defendant was fully advised of his rights under TR 16-205.1(b)(1) despite two police officers speaking to him simultaneously, because he was not prevented from understanding his rights and the sanctions for refusing to submit to a blood alcohol concentration test, as outlined by the Motor Vehicle Administration's DR-15 "Advice of Rights" form.Defendant's driver's license was suspended because he refused to take a blood alcohol concentration test after being detained for suspicion of driving while under the influence of alcohol. An ALJ upheld the order of suspicion, finding that Defendant had been advised in conformity with the DR-15. The circuit court reversed, holding that Defendnat was not fully advised of his rights because he was distracted while trying to understand his rights. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the circuit court improperly substituted its judgment for that of the ALJ in determining that Defendant incur no sanctions for his violation of the implied consent statute. View "Motor Vehicle Administration v. Barrett" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the finding of the administrative law judge (ALJ) that Defendant did not drive under the influence of alcohol in violation of Md. Code Ann. Transp. 16-205.1 but instead used his vehicle as a "shelter," holding that the ALJ erred when she failed to consider the detaining officer's reasonable grounds.The detaining officer found Defendant in his vehicle after responding to a trespassing call, woke Defendant, and noticed his eyes were bloodshot and his speech was slurred. When Defendant refused to submit to a breathalyzer test, the detaining officer detained Defendant, confiscated his license, and issued an order of suspension. The ALJ concluded that the suspension was not warranted because the Motor Vehicle Administration did not prove that Defendant was in "actual physical control" of his vehicle. The circuit court upheld the ALJ's decision. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the ALJ must determine whether the detaining officer had reasonable grounds to believe that Defendant was driving or attempting to drive his vehicle while under the influence. View "Motor Vehicle Administration v. Pollard" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the circuit court affirming the decision of the administrative law judge (ALJ) concluding that an officer did not have reasonable grounds to believe that Respondent was driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle while impaired, holding that the ALJ erred in imposing his credibility determinations and inferences to make the legal determination at issue.Following a traffic infraction, the officer in this case approached the vehicle, observed Respondent sitting in the driver's seat, and smelled alcohol on her breath and person. The officer requested that Respondent take an alcohol concentration test. Respondent refused to submit to the breath test, and the officers confiscated her driver's license. The ALJ took "no action" on the order of suspension, and Respondent's driving privileges were reinstated. The circuit court affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the detaining officer had reasonable grounds to suspect Respondent was driving or attempting to drive while impaired or under the influence of alcohol. View "Motor Vehicle Administration v. Medvedeff" on Justia Law

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In this challenge to the action of the Prince George's County Council sitting as the District Council approving a special exception and variance sought by Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust regarding an existing store located in the Woodyard Crossing Shopping Center in Clinton, Maryland, the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the District Council has extensive authority to regulate and establish zoning laws and procedure, which includes special exception and variance application. The ZHE issued a decision denied an application for a special exception and variance sought by Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart filed exceptions to the Zoning Hearing Examiner's (ZHE) decision and requested that the District Council hear the case. Petitioners responded in opposition to Wal-Mart's exceptions. The District Council proceeded to approve Wal-Mart's application for a special exception and variance. The circuit court and Court of Special Appeals affirmed the District Council's decision. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the District Council is authorized to delegate the preparation of its opinion and order to its staff attorney; (2) the District Council rightfully exercises original jurisdiction when hearing zoning cases from the ZHE; and (3) Petitioners failed to present sufficient evidence that the District Council violated the Maryland Open Meetings Act. View "Grant v. County Council of Prince George's County" on Justia Law