The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland issued an opinion this week that serves as a reminder that a party’s simple failure to preserve evidence can sometimes snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The case (and link) is Cumberland Insurance Group v. Delmarva Power.
It’s no secret that the Court of Special Appeals has been increasingly overwhelmed with cases, nor is it a secret that the Court would like to see a lot of these cases resolved or otherwise cleaned up before having to spend time on them. Those concerns led to the creation of the Court’s ADR Division and accompanying procedures for steering the parties toward settlement or streamlining of the appellate process. After trying those out for a while, however, the Maryland Courts’ Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure identified some kinks, inefficiencies, and redundancies in the overall system, and proposed some related rules changes that were adopted by the Court of Appeals this month.
In its 2009 decision in Shenker v. Laureate Educ., Inc., 411 Md. 317, the Court of Appeals of Maryland inserted a caveat in the premise that shareholder lawsuits against corporate directors must be pursued as a derivative action on behalf of the corporation itself. By declaring that a corporation’s impending sale gave rise to common-law duties by directors that could be enforced directly by shareholders, the high court outlined an exception that risked swallowing the rule. Last month, however, the Court of Special Appeals gave a more thorough explanation about when Shenker applies — and, as to be expected, it’s not as broad as disgruntled shareholders might hope.
Have you obtained a judgment for recovery of money? Lucky you! Is that judgment unsecured? Ouch.
Well, at least you have some protection should your opponent decide to appeal: Under the Maryland Rules (and unless the parties agree otherwise), the appellant has to file a supersedeas bond covering the whole amount of the judgment that remains unsatisfied, plus interest. Of course, the court can always reduce the bond amount, but it can still be a pretty big deterrent to weak or frivolous appeals that just delay payment and increase the chance that some other creditor will snatch up the debtor’s funds in the meantime. As proposed in the 188th Report of the Maryland Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, however, the bond isn’t without limits.
Governments and businesses know – or at least they should – that there’s a difference between being vicariously liable and being directly negligent. Jurors may not, however, so how carefully should the distinction be explained come time for crafting jury questions? Perhaps not much – according to a new opinion of the Court of Special Appeals, provided the jury is otherwise instructed properly by the trial court and counsel, blurring the line between vicarious liability and negligence in a jury question can be excusable.
We all know the little tricks to stuffing the most content into the allotted number of pages of your appellate brief (currently 50 for the Court of Appeals and 35 for the Court of Special Appeals) – decreasing the line spacing, decreasing the margins, decreasing the kerning, decreasing the height of the text, etc. Well, you’re not fooling anybody: As noted by the Maryland Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure in its 187th Report, “Appellate judges, in Maryland and elsewhere, are regrettably familiar with those tactics and legitimately complain about them.” The Committee has finally had enough, and is urging the Court of Appeals to amend the Maryland Rules to combat the problem.
As the appellant in the Maryland appellate courts, when should you file your brief? Currently, it’s within 40 days after the clerk notifies you that the court has filed the record. Sounds easy enough, except the current Maryland Rules don’t actually require the clerk to send such a notice. In fixing that little problem, however, the Rules Committee is considering working in a smidge more time for practitioners to get their briefs in.
Limitation of Liability for Violation of Your Constitutional Rights: The Court of Appeals’ Decision in Espina v. Jackson
Maryland attorneys are eminently familiar with the State’s Local Government Tort Claims Act (LGTCA), which imposes a limitation on liability for the local government entity of $200,000 for each individual claim ($500,000 aggregate for claims that arise from the same occurrence). This limitation on liability operates to strictly limit damages recoverable from the local government entity regardless of the extent of harm experienced by the plaintiff. And now, with today’s Court of Appeals’ decision in Espina v. Jackson (No. 35, Sept. Term 2014), that damages cap applies even in the face of egregious constitutional violations because such “constitutional torts” fall within the LGTCA’s “tortious acts or omissions” terminology.
Silverman|Thompson|Slutkin|White real estate litigation attorneys succeeded in obtaining summary judgment on behalf of the private owner of a project-based Section 8 housing project in a breach of lease action pending in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. The case involved a determination of whether projects funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development may proceed with eviction upon a showing that drug-related criminal activity had occurred. Maryland law previously required that, after adducing evidence that a tenant had breached their lease by engaging in drug-related criminal activity, the landlord also prove that the breach was material, substantial and warranted eviction, thereby allowing a judge or jury to countermand the landlord’s decision to evict. The ruling by the Honorable Laurence P. Fletcher-Hill, which has wide implications for all federally-funded housing projects, held that Maryland law is preempted by federal law to the extent it would permit a judge or jury to review a HUD-assisted landlord’s decision to proceed with the eviction of a tenant who has committed drug-related criminal activity. As a result, if a federally-assisted landlord can prove by undisputed fact that a tenant has engaged in drug-related criminal activity in or near the leased premises, the landlord has established grounds for eviction as a matter of law and is entitled to terminate the lease.
Civil litigators know that the impending bankruptcy of an opponent is bad news for any lawsuit that’s ongoing or in the works: Bankruptcy operates as an automatic stay of any state-court litigation against the debtor until the bankruptcy gets resolved. Oddly, however, the precise effect of such a stay was an open question in Maryland up until last month. With Kochhar v. Bansal, Md. Ct. Spec. App., Sept. Term 2014, No. 435 (Feb. 27, 2015), the state now joins the majority of other jurisdictions in deeming any and all proceedings and filings after a bankruptcy stay as void, and not merely voidable.
The Maryland Insurance Administration, or the MIA, is charged with regulating the insurance industry in Maryland. Its responsibilities include issuing licenses to insurance professionals, developing policy, and drafting regulations.
Toward the end of last year, I attended a discovery conference in D.C. Throughout the panel discussions of the proposed changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and various electronic discovery resources, I found myself thinking about the practical application to my current cases and future client representation. In other words, I was wondering how it applied to my legal practice and my clients.