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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Petitioner pled guilty to theft in exchange for the State’s recommendation that she receive no executed jail time. The district court did not follow the State’s recommendation and instead imposed a sentence of thirty days’ incarceration. Petitioner filed a de novo appeal to the circuit court and entered a plea of not guilty. The State subsequently offered a new plea agreement whereby, in exchange for Petitioner’s guilty plea, the State would recommend Petitioner receive thirty days’ incarceration. Petitioner filed a motion to enforce the plea agreement in the circuit court, contending that the state violated the terms of the district court plea agreement by altering its sentencing recommendation. The circuit court denied the motion, concluding that on de novo appeal, the district court plea agreement was no longer enforceable. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the district court plea agreement did not extend to the de novo circuit court proceeding. View "Hartman v. State" on Justia Law

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Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (the Commission) contracted with Fort Myer Construction Corporation to build a pedestrian bridge. After disputes arose, Fort Myer sued the Commission. The Commission impleaded URS Corporation (URS), the engineering firm that created the design documents. The circuit court eventually dismissed Fort Myer’s original complaint, but the claims between URS and the Commission went to trial. Both parties asked the court to award monetary sanctions against Fort Myer on the basis that Fort Myer had litigated its original complaint “without substantial justification.” The circuit court did so. All three parties appealed. The Court of Special Appeals reversed the circuit court’s sanctions awards. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the intermediate appellate court properly exercised its jurisdiction to decide Fort Myer’s appeal; and (2) as for the sanctions awards against Fort Myer, the circuit court’s explanation of its reasoning did not support a finding that Fort Myer’s pursuit of its claim was “without substantial justification.” View "URS Corp. v. Fort Myer Construction Corp." on Justia Law

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This suit arose from the actions of iStar’s Board of Directors in modifying performance-based executive compensation awards, which were granted in the form of stock. Petitioners filed suit against current and former members of iStar’s Board and senior management, alleging breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, waste of corporate assets, breach of contract, and promissory estoppel. The circuit court dismissed all of Petitioners’ claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Petitioners’ claims were properly dismissed by the circuit court for failure to overcome the business judgment rule presumption; and (2) furthermore, Petitioners’ claims for breach of contract and promissory estoppel are derivative claims that are subject to the business judgment rule. View "Oliveira v. Sugarman" on Justia Law

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The parties in this dispute were a city and a design engineer. The city and the design engineer settled their dispute pursuant to an agreement that contained a non-disparagement clause. After the city released the design engineer from all claims relating to the earlier litigation, the city pursued a claim against the engineer’s construction manager for breach of contract. When the design engineer heard of the city’s disparaging statements made during the current lawsuit, it filed a complaint against the city for injunctive and monetary relief, alleging that the city breached the non-disparagement agreement during the current litigation. The circuit court denied injunctive relief and then granted the city’s amended motion to dismiss. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed, holding that no claim can stand for a deliberate and voluntary breach of a non-disparagement agreement when the disparaging statements are made in legal proceedings. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the litigation privilege can immunize a party from a claim for breach of a non-disparagement clause; and (2) the city did not waive the litigation privilege in this case. View "O'Brien & Gere Eng'rs, Inc. v. City of Salisbury" on Justia Law

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Petitioner was terminated from her position as the Clerk-Treasurer of the Town of Hurlock two and one-half years after she entered into a written employment agreement with the Mayor-elect. Under the employment agreement, Petitioner was to serve a four-year term. Petitioner brought this action against Respondent, the Town, alleging breach of contract and seeking damages and other relief. The circuit court dismissed the complaint, concluding that the four-year term of employment in the agreement was inconsistent with the Town Charter and therefore ineffective. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the language of the Town Charter means that an official like the Clerk-Treasurer is an at-will employee; and (2) the Mayor and Council of Hurlock lacked authority under the Town Charter to enter into an agreement conferring a fixed term of employment in this case. View "Clough v. Mayor & Council of Hurlock" on Justia Law

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In 2011, the Montgomery County Council adopted Resolution No. 17-149 (Resolution), which “changed” three contract provisions for fiscal year 2012 in the pre-existing collectively-bargained agreement (CBA) with members of the County’s police force. Specifically, the Resolution changed certain employment benefits of the CBA. The Fraternal Order of the Police, Montgomery County Lodge 35 filed suit against the County and the Council, challenging the legality of the Council’s actions in adopting the Resolution and the actions of the Council and the County in implementing the changes in the resolution. The circuit court declared that the Council’s actions were permissible under the Police Labor Relations Act (PLRA), the Maryland Declaration of Rights, and the CBA. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the Council acted within its authority under the PLRA in deciding not to fund fully - and thereby, to change - certain benefits in the CBA, where the changes were fiscal in nature and the County Executive and the FOP did not submit a re-negotiated agreement to the Council. View "Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 35 v. Montgomery County" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the State Center Project, a $1.5 billion redevelopment project intended to revitalize property owned by the State in Baltimore. In 2005, the State issued a public request for qualifications to solicit a master developer for the project. The State Center, LLC was chosen as the master developer. The Maryland Department of General Services (“DGS”), the Maryland Department of Transportation (“MDOT”) and the State Center, LLC negotiated for the Project, entering a series of agreements between 2007 and 2010 to complete the Project in a timely manner. In 2010, Plaintiffs, property owners in downtown Baltimore and taxpayers, filed suit against the DGS, MDOT, and the State Center and its subsidiaries, seeking a declaratory judgment that the formative contracts for the Project were void and seeking an injunction to halt the Project. The trial court voided the formative contracts, concluding that they violated the State Procurement Law. The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the circuit court and remanded with directions to dismiss Plaintiffs’ complaint with prejudice, holding that Plaintiffs’ claims were barred by the doctrine of laches due to an unreasonable delay in bringing their claims, causing prejudice to the defendants. View "State Ctr., LLC v. Lexington Charles Ltd. P'ship" on Justia Law

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Ember Buckley was a passenger in a motor vehicle driven by Harvey Betts when the vehicle was involved in an accident. Buckley, who sustained injuries in the accident, settled with GEICO, Betts’ insurer, for the full policy limits and signed a full release of all claims against Betts and a hold harmless agreement in favor of GEICO. Buckley then attempted to recover for the remainder of her outstanding medical bills under her uninsured/underinsured motorist (“UM”) policy with The Brethren Mutual Insurance Company (“Brethren”), which denied coverage. Buckley filed suit, alleging breach of contract and seeking the policy limit in compensatory damages. The circuit court entered summary judgment for Brethren, concluding that the release was a general release, and thus released all entities from future claims, regardless of whether they were a party to the release. The court of special appeals reversed, holding that the general release did not prejudice Buckley’s claim against Brethren. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the broad, all-inclusive language of the release must be read with an eye toward the parties’ overall intent; and (2) that the court of special appeals correctly held that the release did not waive Buckley’s UM claim against Brethren. View "Brethren Mut. Ins. Co. v. Buckley" on Justia Law

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This case concerned a dispute over the paving of a parking lot located on park land leased to a restaurant. A formal agreement between the restaurant and a community organization restricted the paving of the property, and the restriction was incorporated in administrative zoning orders. Still, the lot was paved. Baltimore County was, in this case, landlord of the property, code enforcer, and final administrative adjudicator of disputes arising under local land use laws. As administrative adjudicator, the County forbade the paving. As landlord, the County directed its tenant, Oregon, LLC, to pave the lot. As code enforcer, it refrained from taking action in response to the apparent violation of a final administrative order issued by the Board of Appeals. Plaintiffs brought suit against the County and Oregon seeking declaratory and mandamus relief. The circuit court ruled against Plaintiffs. The court of special appeals affirmed, concluding that Plaintiffs had failed to exhaust administrative remedies. The Court of Appeals largely affirmed, albeit on different grounds, holding (1) Plaintiffs need not initiate an administrative proceeding to pursue enforcement of the Board’s orders; (2) the circuit court properly granted summary judgment with respect to the mandamus counts of the complaint; and (3) the circuit court has authority to issue a declaratory judgment as to whether the Board’s orders were violated. Remanded. View "Falls Road Cmty. Ass'n, Inc. v. Baltimore County" on Justia Law