Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Congratulations to Associate Ben Beasley for prevailing on a motion for summary judgment in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City!


Congratulations to Associate Ben Beasley for prevailing on a motion for summary judgment in Circuit Court! Mr. Beasley represented one of two insurance companies named as defendants.  The plaintiff sought uninsured motorist benefits from both after an auto accident.  Mr. Beasley’s client insured the vehicle the plaintiff operated at the time of the accident, which was registered out-of-state, was owned by an out-of-state resident, and was insured by an out-of-state insurance policy that excluded the plaintiff from coverage.  The other defendant insured the plaintiff’s personal vehicle, which was not involved in the accident.  Mr. Beasley argued that the court should apply the law of the state where the insurance policy was purchased and uphold the exclusion.  The court agreed and awarded summary judgment in Mr. Beasley’s client’s favor.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Clarity for the Statute of Limitations for Maryland Workers’ Compensation Modification Cases

 Montgomery County, Maryland v. Fernando Rios, No. 2642, September Term 2018.

In February of 2020, the Workers’ Compensation Commission (hereinafter “WCC”), announced that when filing for a modification, the statute only requires that the modification be applied for within the statute of limitations. This holding came out of the Montgomery County, Maryland v. Fernando Rios matter.

            Mr. Rios had filed a request to modify his workers’ compensation award, alleging a permanent partial disability. His filing took place less than one month before the statute of limitations expired. Mr. Rios submitted his filing without yet having obtained a medical evaluation for permanent impairment which is required by COMAR He did eventually complete the evaluation, but it was after the statute of limitations had expired on the matter.

            Montgomery County claimed that Mr. Rios claim was barred by the statute of limitations due to his failure to complete the medical evaluation, but the WCC disagreed and awarded the modification. Montgomery County then noted a record appeal to the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, once again alleging that the statute of limitations was violated due to Mr. Rios having not completed the medical evaluation. The Circuit Court affirmed the decision of the Commission, an appeal was then filed by the County.

            The Maryland Court of Special Appeals opinion, delivered by Judge J. Beachley, was issued on February 28, 2020. The Court reaffirmed the Circuit Court and the Commissioners position and held that the statute of limitations was not violated. The Court stated that in accordance with Section 9-736 (b)(3) of the Labor and Employment Article, it is only required that a modification of the award be “applied for” within the statute of limitations. The Court cites to the Maryland Court of Appeal’s recent decision in Gang v. Montgomery County, 464 Md. 270 (2019), which held that a failure to file a Motion for Modification form as required under the COMAR regulation, within the statute of limitations, does not bar an otherwise timely claim. The Court cites to this decision, as it sets the precedent that COMAR does not impose an additional requirement in order to satisfy the requirements of LE 9-736(b)(3). The County argued in the alternative that without the medical evaluation, Mr. Rios has no “basis in fact” as to his modification request, but the Court once again rejected this argument.

            This decision affects Maryland Workers’ Compensation Law due to it emphasizing the separation of COMAR requirements from statute of limitation requirements for modification requests. The Court has now clearly stated that it is only required that the modification be “applied for” within the statute of limitations.

-Kari Gallagher, Law Clerk.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

RSRM Welcomes Associate Brandon James!

Brandon C. James is a 2020 graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law and a 2017 graduate of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. While attending UMBC, Mr. James majored in English and competed in the American Mock Trial Association, where he was named an All-American Attorney. In law school, Mr. James was inducted into the Royal Graham Shannonhouse III Honor Society, a staff editor of the University of Baltimore Law Forum, and a competing member of the National Trial Competition Team. He also completed internships with the Maryland Office of the Attorney General, Civil Division, and a mid-sized law firm, where he worked on matters including products liability, mass tort, and environmental law. 

Upon graduating from law school, Mr. James completed a judicial clerkship for the Honorable Kendra Y. Ausby at the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. While clerking for Judge Ausby, Mr. James conducted research on issues including business litigation, labor and employment litigation, and administrative law.

In his spare time, Mr. James enjoys traveling, watching Ravens football, and spending time with his family. Mr. James is originally from Baltimore City, so he also spends time volunteering in the community. 

Monday, July 19, 2021

Maryland Courts Refuse to Allow Non-Economic Damages for Pets

 Anne Arundel Cty. v. Reeves, No. 68, 2021 Md. LEXIS 259 (June 7, 2021)

    Recently, the Court of Appeals of Maryland held that an owner of a beloved pet may not recover for non-economic damages such as mental anguish or the loss of companionship.

    In 2014, Officer Rodney Price was investigating a string of burglaries in Anne Arundel County when he was allegedly attacked by Michael Reeves’ dog, Vern. As a result, Officer Price shot Vern and caused his death.

    The Reeves’ ("dog owners") filed suit against Anne Arundel County and Officer Price for trespass to chattel, violation of Reeves’ constitutional rights for the unlawful shooting and seizure of Vern, and gross negligence. The jury in trial court decided that Officer Price did commit trespass to chattel, violated both constitutional rights regarding the unlawful shooting and unlawful seizure of Vern, and was grossly negligent. However, the jury decided not to award any damages for the violations of constitutional rights but did award a total of $1,250,000 in economic and non-economic damages for gross negligence. Additionally, the jury awarded $10,000 in economic damages for the claim of trespass to chattel.

    The circuit court decided to amend the amount in damages by reducing the award for trespass to chattel to $7,500 due to the limit set by Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 11-110 and decided to reduce the gross negligence award to $200,000. Afterward, the Court of Special Appeals held that CJP § 11-110 does not limit the amount of Reeves’ damages.

    The Court of Appeals decided damages are limited to $7,500 after reviewing the plain meaning and legislative history of CJP § 11-110. Because the statute defines compensatory damages as the fair market value of the pet and the reasonable and necessary cost of veterinary care, the Court of Appeals decided that meant damages were limited to these costs. Furthermore, the Court determined that the use of the word “means” indicates the list provided was complete and not illustrative.

    Additionally, the refusal to pass bills that amended the statute to allow for recovery of non-economic damages also indicated the General Assembly’s desire to limit compensatory damages. Therefore, the Court of Appeals decided to reverse the decision by the Court of Special Appeals.

    On the other hand, the dissenting opinion by Judge Hotten indicates that the majority erred in its decision to limit damages for the loss/injury of pets. Judge Hotten recognized the connection between pets and humans and how other states have protected this relationship by allowing non-economic damages for the loss/injury of pets. Judge Hotten points out the idiosyncrasy of no limit on compensatory damages on all other types of property except pets. As Judge Hotten states, a person can kill “a beloved family dog…and pay no more than $10,000 in damages” while a liar who “tricks a family into selling a painting…would face uncapped…damages.”

    This decision shows how Maryland courts still limit the amount in damages that can be recovered for the loss/injury of a pet, but Judge Hotten indicates how the value of pets in society has changed and how the courts should follow suit.

-Jocelyn Wang, Summer Associate

Monday, July 12, 2021

RSRM Welcomes Associate Towanda Luckett!

Mrs. Luckett graduated from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 2016, and graduated from University of Maryland Global Campus, formally University of Maryland University College, in 2011 with an MBA degree. 

While attending law school, Mrs. Luckett completed a summer semester abroad, studying Comparative Civil Liberties in Haifa, Israel. She was also a Rule 16, Student Attorney with the Juvenile Justice Project where she assisted juvenile offenders serving life prison sentences in preparing for parole hearings. Mrs. Luckett was employed as a paralegal by the University of Baltimore Innocence Project Clinic, while earning her Juris Doctorate as an evening student. 

Following law school, Mrs. Luckett worked as an Honors law clerk for the Office of the State's Attorney for Baltimore City in the Homicide Division. After being promoted, Mrs. Luckett served as an Assistant State's Attorney, prosecuting a variety of cases in the Juvenile, District and Circuit Courts, and concluded her tenure in the Special Victims Unit. 

In her leisure, Mrs. Luckett enjoys traveling with her husband, cooking, watching crime dramas, reading, cheering on the Baltimore Ravens, and spending time with her nieces and nephews. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Governor Hogan Appoints New Judges to Baltimore, and Carroll Counties

 Governor Larry Hogan recently announced multiple new judicial appointments to the Baltimore County District Court as well as the Circuit Court for Carroll County.

Judge Krystin Richardson was appointed to the Baltimore County District Court. Prior to her appointment, she served as an administrative law judge with the Office of Administrative Hearings since 2018, and prior to working as an ALJ, she served as an Assistant State’s Attorney in Baltimore County. Judge Richardson obtained her B.A. from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and her J.D. from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.

Judge Susan Zellweger, also appointed to the Baltimore County District Court, received her B.A. from the University of Delaware and her J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law. She served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Alfred L. Brennan in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, and has worked as a public defender in Baltimore County since 1998.

Governor Hogan appointed Brian DeLeonardo to the Circuit Court for Carroll County. He obtained his B.S. from Towson University and his J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law. He began his career serving as a law clerk for the Honorable Charles E. Moylan, Jr. in the Court of Special Appeals, followed by working as an Assistant State’s Attorney in Carroll County. Judge DeLeonardo also worked with the Office of the Attorney General and served as managing partner of DeLeonardo, Smith & Associates handling criminal and civil matters. Since 2014 until his appointment, he served as the State’s Attorney for Carroll County.


Congratulations to Maryland’s new judges!

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

A Preliminary Decision from the Maryland Insurance Administration Does Not Constitute A “Final Decision” For the Purposes of Collateral Estoppel

 David Boyd, et ux. v. The Goodman-Gable-Gould Company, No. 2139, September Term 2019. Opinion by Eyler, James R., J.

    After a fire destroyed the home of David Boyd and Penny Coco-Boyd (collectively “the Boyds”) in 2016, they gave notice of their loss to their homeowners’ insurer, State Farm Fire and Casualty Company (“State Farm”). The Boyds subsequently engaged the services of Goodman-Gable-Gould Co. (“GGG”), a public adjuster, to adjust their claim with State Farm. A public adjuster is an independent insurance professional that a policyholder may hire to help settle an insurance claim in exchange for a percentage of any proceeds collected on the policyholder’s behalf.

    The Boyds eventually became dissatisfied with GGG’s services and filed a complaint against GGG with the Maryland Insurance Administration (“MIA”), alleging that GGG engaged in fraudulent and dishonest practices, displayed incompetence, and wrongfully withheld monies. The MIA ultimately issued a preliminary decision in favor of GGG. Although the Boyds were entitled to challenge the Commissioner’s preliminary decision under Maryland Code Ann., Insurance § 2-210, the Boyds elected not to request an administrative hearing to contest that determination.

    While the MIA complaint was pending, the Boyds initiated a declaratory judgment action in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, seeking a declaration that they had a right to terminate their contract. In response, GGG moved for summary judgment on the basis that, since the Boyds did not file an administrative appeal within thirty (30) days, the preliminary decision issued by the MIA became a “final decision.” According to GGG, the Boyds were collaterally estopped from pursuing their claims in the circuit court since they pursued claims premised on the same core facts before the MIA. The court agreed with GGG and held that, since the Boyds chose not to contest the MIA’s preliminary decision in favor of GGG, the Boyds had been afforded “every opportunity to pursue their claims” administratively and were estopped from doing so in the circuit court.

    In reviewing the circuit court’s ruling on appeal, the Court of Special Appeals cited to Baston v. Shiflett, 325 Md. 684, 705 (1992), which held that “the decision of an administrative agency may have preclusive effect if the agency decision was the product of a quasi-judicial proceeding.” In making that determination, the Court employed a three-part test for deciding the preclusive effect of agency decisions. An agency decision can have preclusive effect if: (1) the agency acted in a judicial capacity; (2) the issue presented to the fact finder in the second proceeding was fully litigated before the agency; and (3) resolution of the issue was necessary for the agency’s decision. Exxon Corp. v. Fischer, 807 F.2d 842, 845-46 (9th Cir. 1987) (citing Batson, 325 Md. at 701).

    The Court next looked to Md. Code Ann., Ins. § 2-214(a), which provides that the MIA Commissioner acts in a quasi-judicial manner when holding a hearing on a challenge to its preliminary decision. In this case, since the Boyds never requested a hearing pursuant to Md. Code Ann., Ins. § 2-210, the Boyds action before the MIA never amounted to a quasi-judicial proceeding.

    Since the MIA Commissioner’s preliminary determination in favor of GGG was not deemed to be a “judicial proceeding,” the three-part Baston test was not satisfied, and the Court held that the Boyds were not collaterally estopped from pursuing concurrent relief in the circuit court.

-John Thompson, Associate Attorney