Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals

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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

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In this case involving a dispute over real property, the Court of Appeals held that Md. Code Ann. Real Prop. 14-601 to 14-621 and Maryland Rules 12-801 to 12-811 apply retroactively to all cases that were pending when the new statutes and Maryland Rules became effective, including this case, which was pending in the Court of Appeals when the statutes and Maryland Rules became effective. When applied to this case, the new statutes and Maryland Rules do not require dismissal for failure to join a deceased record owner who has no known personal representative. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals and remanded the case to that Court with instructions to vacate the judgment of the circuit court and remand this case to the circuit court for further proceedings, namely, the filing of an amended complaint to quiet title with the appropriate affidavit in accordance with the new statutes and Maryland Rules governing actions to quiet title. View "Estate of Charles Howard Zimmerman v. Blatter" on Justia Law

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At issue was the manner in which Md. Const. art. IV, 22, which provides for an in banc appeal from a “decision of determination of any point or question” by a circuit court judge, is intended to operate. The State in this criminal case filed a request for an in banc review of an order of the circuit court judge granting Defendant’s motion in limine to exclude certain documents and testimony under Reed v. State, 283 Md. 374 (1978). The State sought in banc review, but the request was untimely filed. After a hearing, an in banc court reversed the trial judge’s ruling. The Court of Special Appeals reversed, concluding that “a litigant may not appeal to an in banc panel when the litigant could not note an appeal to [the Court of Special Appeals] successfully.” The Court of Appeals affirmed after analyzing relevant case law and the current version of section 22 in conjunction with Maryland Rule 2-551. The court further outlined the proper procedures a party must follow to reserve the point, question, or judgment for review and held that a decision by the in banc court constitutes a final judgment of that court. View "State v. Phillips" on Justia Law

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The application of Georgia law concerning a pollution exclusion contained in an insurance policy as excluding coverage for bodily injuries resulting from the ingestion of lead-based paint under the principle of lex loci contractus does not violate Maryland public policy. Appellants were exposed to lead-based paint at a property owned by the Salvation Army. Appellants sued Defendants, alleging lead-based paint related tort claims. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company issued comprehensive general liability insurance policies to the Salvation Army. The policies, which were purchased in Georgia, did not include lead-based paint exclusion provisions but did include pollution exclusion provisions. Appellants sought affirmation that Liberty Mutual was obligated to indemnify the Salvation Army and defend against Appellants’ claims. Liberty Mutual moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that Maryland courts follow the doctrine of lex loci contracts in choosing the applicable law and that, under Georgia law, the insurance policy did not cover claims for lead-based paint poisoning. The Supreme Court held that application of Georgia law concerning the policy’s pollution exclusion under the principle of lex loci contracts does not violate Maryland public policy. View "Brownlee v. Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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The trial court in a second lawsuit against Defendants seeking reformation of a refinance deed of trust properly determined that the elements of res judicata and collateral estoppel were satisfied and thus barred Plaintiffs from bringing the claims. Financial Institution, the former owner of a note for a refinance mortgage loan, sued Defendants, a married couple, for reformation of the refinance deed of trust because the wife had not signed the refinance deed of trust, leaving Financial Institution unable to institute foreclose proceedings against Defendants’ property. The trial court ruled in favor of Defendants. Three years later, the current owner of the note and the title insurer of the refinance mortgage loan (collectively, Plaintiffs) sued Defendants for reformation of the refinance deed of trust. The trial court again in favor of Defendants, concluding that Plaintiffs were barred by res judicata and collateral estoppel from bringing and relitigating the claims in the second lawsuit. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the trial court in the second lawsuit (1) properly declined to apply judicial estoppel to bar Defendants’ argument that Plaintiffs were in privity with Financial Institution; and (2) correctly determined that res judicata and collateral estoppel barred Plaintiffs from relitigating their claims in the second lawsuit. View "Bank of New York Mellon v. Georg" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was the Circuit Court for Baltimore City’s grant of Defendant’s motion to transfer this case to Talbot County and the proper application of the standard of appellate review to the trial court’s order pursuant to Maryland Rule 2-327(c). The hearing judge granted the motion to transfer. The court of special appeals reversed, concluding that the moving party failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that the convenience of the parties and the interests of justice supported transfer of the case. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the facts of each case will dictate whether the plaintiff’s choice of venue will control the choice of forum; and (2) the hearing judge did not abuse his discretion in balancing the convenience of the parties and interests of justice and finding that the weight of the evidence favored transfer. View "University of Maryland Medical System Corp. v. Kerrigan" on Justia Law

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Alternative Medicine Maryland, LLC (AMM) sued the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Cannabis Commission, its members, and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene after AMM applied for, but did not receive, pre-approval for a medical cannabis grower license. AMM sought a declaratory judgment and preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, arguing that the Commission failed to follow applicable law with respect to the requirement to consider racial and ethnic diversity of potential medical cannabis grower licensees and requested that the Commission be required to reconnect the pre-approval process. Relevant to this appeal, the circuit court denied a motion to intervene filed by medical cannabis growers that had received pre-approvals for medical cannabis grower licenses, a coalition and trade association that advocate for the use of medical cannabis, and patients who would potentially receive medical cannabis as treatment for illnesses. The Supreme Court held (1) the growers were entitled to intervention as of right and permissive intervention; but (2) the circuit court did not err in denying intervention as of right or permissive intervention as to the patients and the trade association petitioners. View "Doe v. Alternative Medicine Maryland, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the suppression of certain evidence discovered upon detectives’ use of a cell site simulator - or an undercover cell tower - concluding that whether use of a cell site simulator is a search for purposes of the Fourth Amendment or whether a court order authorizing its use fell short of a search warrant, the detectives here acted in objectively reasonable good faith. The circuit court suppressed the evidence on the ground that the use of the cell site simulator to locate the phone was a search for purposes of the Fourth Amendment and that the court order authorizing them to use a “cellular tracking device” to locate the victim’s phone did not function as a search warrant. In reversing, the Court of Appeals held that, based on existing case law, it was objectively reasonable for detectives to believe that their use of a cell site simulator pursuant to the court order was permissible under the Fourth Amendment, and therefore, and evidence obtained as a result of the detectives’ use of the cell site simulator should not be suppressed because of use of that device. View "State v. Copes" on Justia Law

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Christian was born in 1990. Until October 1992, he resided on Spaulding Avenue in Baltimore. Christian and his mother then moved to Denmore. In September 1993, they moved back to Spaulding and lived there until September 1997. In 1991, Christian's blood test exhibited an elevated free erythrocyte protoporphyrin level. From 1992-1993, Christian displayed elevated blood lead levels five times. In 2011, Christian sued Levitas, the owner of Spaulding, alleging negligence and violations of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act. Arc Environmental tested Spaulding for lead; 31 interior surfaces and five exterior surfaces tested positive. Christian designated Howard Klein, M.D., a pediatrician with experience treating lead-poisoned children, as an expert witness to opine on the source of Christian’s lead exposure and his lead-caused injuries (medical causation). Levitas moved to exclude Klein's testimony. Levitas also moved, unsuccessfully, to exclude the Arc test results. The Circuit Court for Baltimore City excluded Klein’s testimony because he did not have adequate information concerning other sources of lead exposure and would not be able to explain the IQ test results because he does not use the test in his own practice. The court stated that Klein relied on information from another doctor and Christian’s attorney in developing his opinion, rather than examining Christian himself. The intermediate appellate court reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Klein is competent to testify about lead-source causation and medical causation. View "Levitas v. Christian" on Justia Law

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Stevenson was born in 1990. After 10 months, Stevenson and her mother moved to Fairview Avenue (owned by Rochkind), where they lived for 15 months. Fairview contained flaking paint on the windowsills, floors, and porch. In 1992-1993, Stevenson’s blood lead level was tested three times. When Stevenson was five years old, she was evaluated because she was struggling to pay attention in school. A psychologist found that Stevenson’s cognitive functioning was within the “low average to borderline range.” He diagnosed Stevenson with ADHD; she started medication. In 2004, at age 13, Stevenson attempted suicide., Stevenson had auditory hallucinations and was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Since graduating from high school in 2008, Stevenson has been sporadically employed. Stevenson sued Rochkind for negligence and violations of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act. Arc Environmental conducted testing at Fairview and detected lead-based paint on 22 interior surfaces and nine exterior surfaces. Cecilia Hall-Carrington, M.D., filed a report concluding to “a reasonable degree of medical probability” that Stevenson was poisoned by lead at Fairview, and that “her lead poisoning is a significant contributing factor” to her neuropsychological problems, including her ADHD. The court denied motions to exclude Hall-Carrington’s testimony, citing Maryland Rule 5-702. Due to the statutory cap on noneconomic damages, the court reduced the total jury award to $1,103,000. The intermediate court affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed. The trial court failed to determine whether Stevenson’s proffered sources logically supported Hall-Carrington’s opinion that lead exposure can cause ADHD. View "Rochkind v. Stevenson" on Justia Law