Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals

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In order to recover attorney’s fees against a negligent title searcher using the collateral litigation doctrine, the plaintiff must show that the title searcher’s negligence proximately caused the plaintiff to file a necessary collateral action, resulting in the plaintiff incurring reasonable litigation costs necessarily and in good faith, and that the plaintiff has not otherwise received compensation for those costs. The Ochses purchased property from the Henrys. The Ochses later learned that a encumbrance bisecting their lot was part of a strip of land that had been granted to Dorchester County. Prior to this discovery, the Ochses filed a lawsuit against the Henrys to quiet title. The Ochses later filed a lawsuit against Chicago Title Insurance Company and Eastern Shore Title Company (ESTC), the title examiner, alleging breach of contract and negligence. The trial court found in favor of the Ochses and awarded a $215,710 against ESTC and Chicago Title, which was the amount of the attorney’s fees awarded to the Ochses in the Henry litigation. The trial court subsequently reduced its judgment against ESTC and Chicago Title by $215,710. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err by reducing the damages awarded to the Ochses by the amount previously satisfied by the Henrys. View "Eastern Shore Title Co. v. Ochse" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Court of Appeals was whether - without ruling out other possible causes of exposure - the fact that property tested positive for lead-based paint throughout its interior in 1976, combined with other circumstantial evidence, was sufficient for Plaintiff to establish that the subject property was a “reasonably probable source” of his lead poisoning. Plaintiff claimed that he was poisoned by lead-based paint as a toddler when he lived in a row house owned by Respondent during 1996 and 1997. The trial court granted Respondent’s motion for summary judgment on source and source causation. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Plaintiff presented sufficient circumstantial evidence to demonstrate that the subject property was a reasonably probable source of his elevated blood lead levels, and therefore, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on the issues of source and source causation. View "Rogers v. Home Equity USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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The circuit court erred in dismissing the minor Appellant’s wrongful death claims as untimely and erred in failing to consider that the time limitation to file a wrongful death action is tolled when the defendant engages in fraudulent conduct that prevents the plaintiffs from bringing a wrongful death action within three years from the date of death, pursuant to Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc. 5-203. Cassandra Parker, Craig Parker’s mother, and Craig’s five-year-old child filed a complaint against William Hamilton alleging that Hamilton killed Craig and buried Craig’s remains in order to conceal his wrongdoing. The circuit court granted Hamilton’s motion to dismiss as to the wrongful death claims, concluding that they were time-barred under Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc. 3-904. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that both Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc. 5-201, which operates to toll a minor plaintiff’s wrongful death claims during the period of his or her minority, and section 5-203. View "Parker v. Hamilton" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a former researcher employed by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (JHU), filed suit against JHU alleging (1) he was wrongfully terminated in retaliation for his repeated protests of research misconduct in violation of 42 U.S.C. 289b and 42 C.F.R. 93; and (2) conversion because after the termination of his employment, he was denied access to stored research materials he had collected. The circuit court granted JHU’s motion to dismiss because Petitioner failed to identify a public policy exception to the at-will employment doctrine and because JHU “could not have converted what it in fact had ownership of.” The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff was not wrongfully terminated, and his at-will employment came to an end due to the expiration of his employment contract; and (2) Plaintiff’s claim of conversion must fail because JHU owned the research materials pursuant to its stated policies. View "Yuan v. Johns Hopkins University" on Justia Law

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The City of Baltimore contracted with Engineer to design upgrades to a wastewater treatment plant. Contractor successfully bid for work on the construction project. During construction, Contractor encountered leaking and other problems, resulting in delays and cost overruns. Contractor subsequently filed a complaint against Engineer, arguing that Engineer owed it a tort duty of care because Engineer knew that Contractor would rely on its designs in bidding and constructing the project. The circuit court granted Engineer’s motion to dismiss due to lack of privity between Contractor and Engineer. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the economic loss doctrine barred Contractor’s negligence and negligent misrepresentation claims; and (2) privity equivalent concepts of extra-contractual duty did not apply in Contractor’s case. View "Balfour Beatty Infrastructure, Inc. v. Rummel Klepper & Kahl, LLP" on Justia Law

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Dr. Mark Geier, David Geier, and Anne Geier (collectively, Respondents) filed a complaint against the Maryland Board of Physicians and related individuals (collectively, Petitioners), alleging that Petitioners invaded their privacy by publicizing their private medical information in a cease and desist order that was issued during disciplinary proceedings. During discovery, the circuit court entered three separate orders challenged by Petitioners. The Court of Appeals (1) granted Respondents’ motion to dismiss as it related to the orders denying Petitioners’ motions for reconsideration of a default order on liability for a series of discovery failures and for a protective order from Respondents’ sixth motion to compel documents, holding that the Court did not have appellate jurisdiction of Petitioners’ appeal regarding these interlocutory orders; and (2) reversed and vacated the order granting Respondents’ sixth motion for sanctions against Petitioner regarding the disclosure audiotapes of Petitioner’s disclosures, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in granting the motion for sanctions. Remanded. View "Maryland Board of Physicians v. Geier" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendant seeking damages for defamation and false light invasion of privacy. During trial, the circuit court ruled, as a matter of law, that Defendant was entitled to a conditional privilege for the allegedly defamatory statements. The circuit court then instructed the jury that the applicable standard of proof to overcome the conditional privilege was clear and convincing evidence. The jury found in favor of Defendant. The Court of Special Appeals reversed, concluding that the circuit court erred in instructing the jury that the standard of proof in overcoming the conditional privilege was clear and convincing evidence rather than a preponderance of the evidence. Defendant filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, which the Court of Appeals granted. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, in a purely private defamation action, an individual asserting a defamation claim must overcome a common law conditional privilege by a preponderance of the evidence. View "Seley-Radtke v. Hosmane" on Justia Law

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Almost three years after her involvement in a motor vehicle accident with Petitioner, Respondent brought a personal injury action against Petitioner and his employer (together, Petitioners). Between the time of the accident and the filing of this action, Respondent filed personal bankruptcy and was discharged from her debts. By operation of bankruptcy law, Respondent’s claim became the property of her bankruptcy estate. Issues regarding the claim were litigated in both the circuit court and the bankruptcy court. Eventually, the bankruptcy court granted Respondent’s request to re-open and re-vested her with the claim as of the filing of the bankruptcy petition. Meanwhile, the circuit court awarded summary judgment to Petitioners, ruling that Respondent lacked standing. The court of special appeals reversed, concluding that, because of the bankruptcy court’s ruling, Respondent was an appropriate plaintiff on a timely-filed complaint. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) summary judgment was inappropriate where the circuit court failed to take into account the legal effect of the bankruptcy court’s decision to re-vest Respondent with her claim against Petitioners; and (2) as a result of the bankruptcy court’s decision, Respondent had standing to prosecute the complaint. View "Morton v. Schlotzhauer" on Justia Law

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Respondents, on behalf of their minor child, Dylan, sued Petitioners after Dylan received severe injuries during his birth. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Dylan. Ultimately the court reduced the judgment to approximately $5 million. Petitioners satisfied the judgment. After Dylan died, Respondents filed a wrongful death action against Petitioners based on the same underlying facts in the personal injury action. The circuit court dismissed Respondents’ wrongful death action, concluding that the action was barred by a judgment in Dylan’s personal injury action. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Maryland’s wrongful death statute creates a new and independent cause of action for a decedent’s beneficiaries, and therefore, a judgment on the merits in a decedent’s personal injury action during his lifetime does not bar a subsequent wrongful death action by the beneficiaries; and (2) a release by the injured person of one joint tortfeasor, whether before or after the judgment, does not discharge the other tortfeasors unless the release so provides. View "Spangler v. McQuitty" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, individuals with lung cancer, attempted to join in one action claims against Defendants, asbestos and tobacco companies, alleging that their cancers were caused by their exposure to asbestos and smoking cigarettes. Specifically, Plaintiffs claimed claimed that “the combination of asbestos exposure and cigarette smoking acted in ‘synergy’ and multiplied the risk of developing lung cancer[.]” The trial court refused to permit joinder of the two sets of defendants on the special asbestos docket maintained by the court. The appellate issues dealt with how the trial implemented its decision to deny joinder, and the issues before the Supreme Court were largely procedural. The Court held (1) there was a final judgment in the case; (2) Plaintiff’s appeal, in any event, was moot and should be dismissed on that ground; and (3) the Court of Special Appeals did not err addressing the joinder argument made by Plaintiff for guidance of the lower court in other pending cases. View "R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Stidham" on Justia Law