Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals, which affirmed the trial court’s judgment on Robert Roman’s negligence count against Sage Title, LLC but reversed the trial court’s grant of judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) with respect to Roman’s conversion count. Roman sought to hold Sage Title liable under a theory of respondent superior for the action’s of Sage Title’s employee who, along with two other individuals, were purportedly part of a fraud scheme to which Roman fell victim. Roman also sought to hold Sage Title liable under a theory of direct negligence. The trial court granted Sage Title’s motion for a judgment with respect to the negligence count. The jury then returned a verdict in favor of Roman on the conversion count and awarded him $2.42 million in damages. The trial court granted Sage Title’s JNOV motion on the court of appeals. On appeal from the court of special appeals, the Court of Appeals held (1) the conversion claim was properly before the jury, and the jury was correct in entering its verdict on that count in favor of Roman; and (2) the trial court correctly granted Sage Title’s motion for judgment as to the negligence count. View "Sage Title Group, LLC v. Roman" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the finding of the Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) that Employer and Insurer (collectively, Respondents) were entitled to offset the ordinary disability benefits already paid to Petitioner against the temporary total disability benefits paid to him by Respondents. Petitioner suffered injuries primarily to his back and neck while working for Employer. Employer received two different sets of disability benefits from Employer and Insurer, each awarded by a different state agency. Specifically, Petitioner was granted temporary total disability benefits by the WCC and ordinary disability benefits by the State Retirement Agency. The WCC found that Respondents were entitled to a credit for the ordinary disability benefits already paid to Petitioner. On judicial review, the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the WCC. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that because both sets of benefits compensated Petitioner for the same injury, pursuant to Md. Code Ann. Lab. & Empl. 9-610, the statutory offset properly applied to prevent a double recovery for the same injury. View "Reger v. Washington County Board of Education" on Justia Law

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Contractually-shortened limitations periods, such as the one at issue in this case, are valid only if there is no statute to the contrary, the provision is not the result of fraud, duress or misrepresentation, and the provision is reasonable in light of all relevant circumstances. Here a residential furnace maintenance agreement offered by Carroll Home Services, LLC (CHS) reduced the period for a consumer to bring a tort or contract claim against CHS from the statutory three years to one year. Petitioners, who had entered into a maintenance agreement with CHS, asserted tort and contract claims against CHS for damage to their residence allegedly caused by the company. Petitioners filed their complaint more than one year after their claims accrued but before the expiration of three years. The circuit court dismissed the complaint on the basis of the shortened limitations provision in the agreement. The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the circuit court and remanded the case for assessment as to whether the criteria for enforcement of the provision were met and whether the provision was reasonable. View "Ceccone v. Carroll Home Services, LLC" 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

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LaBonte worked for Electrical General, which had workers’ compensation insurance. LaBonte injured his back at work when he caught a ladder that was falling. The Workers’ Compensation Commission awarded him temporary total disability benefits and temporary partial disability benefits. Later, LaBonte was injured during a traffic stop of a vehicle that LaBonte was driving outside the course of his employment. According to LaBonte, the officer pushed him down onto the vehicle, causing his existing back pain to be aggravated. The Commission awarded LaBonte permanent partial disability benefits, finding that his disability was partly due to his work-related injury and partly due to “pre-existing and subsequent conditions[.]” Years later, LaBonte claimed that his back condition had worsened. The Commission reopened the case but found that a “subsequent intervening event” broke the “causal nexus” between LaBonte’s work-related injury and his existing condition. A jury found that LaBonte’s work injury was the cause of the recent worsening of LaBonte’s back condition. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed, holding that the later incident did not preclude Electrical General’s liability for the worsening of LaBonte’s back condition. The Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed, stating that liability for a temporary disability depends on the injury that occurred last, but liability for a permanent disability should be apportioned among all of the injuries that caused the permanent disability, not just the injury that occurred last. View "Electrical General Corp. v. LaBonte" on Justia Law

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Between 2011 and 2013, a labor union held demonstrations at Walmart stores throughout Maryland, protesting Walmart’s employment conditions. Consequently, Walmart sued the union for trespass and nuisance and sought an injunction against the union. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Walmart and issued a permanent injunction against UFCW. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Walmart’s claims for trespass and nuisance were not preempted by the National Labor Relations Act, and therefore, the circuit court properly denied the union’s motion to dismiss; and (2) the circuit court properly ruled that this case did not involve a labor dispute within the meaning of Maryland’s Anti-Injunction Act. View "United Food & Commercial Workers International Union v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc." on Justia Law

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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