Thursday, January 6, 2022

Congratulations to Benjamin Beasley on his promotion to Partner at RSRM!


Benjamin Beasley joined RSRM as a law clerk in 2013. He graduated from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 2014, where he served as Managing Editor of the University of Baltimore Law Forum, interned with the Honorable L. Robert Cooper and the Honorable Marcus Z. Shar, and was a co-captain and competing member on the National Trial Competition Team and the Phi Alpha Delta Mock Trial Team. 

After law school, Mr. Beasley clerked for the Honorable Mickey J. Norman and later served as a trial attorney with a litigation firm in Baltimore where he prosecuted personal injury matters. He returned to RSRM in 2016 where he has served as an Associate Attorney. 

Mr. Beasley has litigated hundreds of matters throughout Maryland District and Circuit Courts, as well as matters in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. He has been an asset to the firm in his dedication to his clients and the practice of law. We are proud to have him as a partner at RSRM. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Genuine disputes, material facts, and Maryland Court’s standard for granting Summary Judgment.

 Flats 8300 Owner, LLC v. The Donohoe Companies, Inc, case no.: 482617V.

    Recently, the Circuit Court for Montgomery County denied a Motion for Summary Judgment because there was a genuine dispute regarding a material fact. The court was required to examine whether the statute of limitations had expired in a breach of contract claim regarding construction litigation.

    In 2013, Stonebridge Associates, Inc. (“Stonebridge”) contracted with The Donohoe Companies, Inc. (“Defendant”) to construct a residential apartment complex. Defendant subcontracted the responsibility for purchasing and installing the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (“HVAC”) system to a third party. The HVAC was to be serviced by Havtech Solutions and Havtech, LLC. On March 31, 2016, Flats 8300 Owner, LLC (“Plaintiff”) purchased the residential apartment complex.

    On June 24, 2020, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Defendant and others, alleging the Defendants breached its contract and breached express warranties. On July 1, 2021, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, asserting that Plaintiff’s claims accrued on July 31, 2015, when Plaintiff was first put on notice of the defective HVAC system, thus Plaintiff’s claims were barred by the statute of limitations.

    Defendant’s argument was that Stonebridge was made aware of defects of the HVAC system in 2015, which was evidenced by the disapproval of Stonebridge regarding the installation of the HVAC system. In addition, Defendants pointed to its expert who concluded that had Plaintiff investigated the complaints from 2015, Plaintiff would have been made aware of the defective HVAC system.  

    The Circuit Court of Montgomery County was not persuaded by Defendant’s argument. The Court first reaffirmed the long standing holding that a Plaintiff’s claims begin to run when she knew or should have discovered the defect. Further, the Court held that in construction litigation cases, knowledge of a construction defect starts the statute of limitations.

    The Court also held that there was a genuine dispute regarding a material fact because Stonebridge asserted that it was not aware of any specific defect to the HVAC system. The HVAC was considered “defective” because of nitrogen brazing. Stonebridge alleged by affidavit that it had no knowledge of nitrogen blazing, but rather, general complaints regarding the process of the installation of the HVAC system. The Court relied heavily on Stonebridge’s affidavit and found there was a genuine dispute regarding whether Plaintiff had “notice” and if the statute of limitations had run.

    This Opinion is valuable because it should be a guide to practicing attorneys that Summary Judgment will typically only be granted when there is not a genuine dispute of material fact. This case illustrates what evidence Courts in Montgomery County, Maryland will rely upon when granting or denying summary judgment. A future litigator in this jurisdiction should only file a Motion for Summary Judgment when it is clear as day there is no genuine disputes regarding a material fact.

-Brandon James, Associate Attorney

Monday, December 27, 2021

Congratulations to RSRM’s 2022 Maryland Super Lawyers!

Congratulations to the five RSRM attorneys who were selected to Maryland’s 2022 Super Lawyers!

Managing Partner James Andersen was selected as a 2022 Super Lawyer in the area of Personal Injury.  Mr. Andersen has 30 years of litigation experience and has served as the Firm’s Managing Partner since 2014.  He handles a variety of litigation matters including transportation, products liability, premises liability, construction litigation, and insurance coverage and defense.  He has been selected to the Maryland Super Lawyers list in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022. 

Partner Paul Donoghue was selected as a 2022 Super Lawyer in Workers’ Compensation.  Mr. Donoghue has served as a Partner at RSRM since 1998 and handles workers’ compensation and general litigation/liability matters.  He has been selected as a Maryland Super Lawyer in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020, 2021, and 2022.

Associate Rima Kikani was selected as a 2022 Rising Star in the area of Civil Defense Litigation. Ms. Kikani will be an eighth-year associate in 2022 and works on premises liability, products liability, and insurance coverage and defense matters.  She has been named as a Maryland Rising Star Attorney in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022.

Associate Ashley Bond was selected as a 2022 Rising Star in the area of Civil Defense Litigation, Workers' Compensation, and Personal Injury.  Ms. Bond will be a sixth-year associate in 2022 and works on workers’ compensation, insurance coverage and defense, and family law matters.  She has been named as a Maryland Rising Star Attorney in 2021, and 2022.

Associate Benjamin Beasley was selected as a 2022 Rising Star in the area of Civil Defense Litigation, and Personal Injury.  Mr. Beasley will be an eighth-year associate in 2022 and works on premises liability, products liability, and insurance coverage and defense matters.  His 2022 recognition is Mr. Beasley’s first time being selected as a Maryland Rising Star Attorney.  

Each year, approximately five percent (5%) of Maryland attorneys are selected as "Super Lawyers" and two-and-a-half percent (2.5%) are selected as "Rising Stars.”

Monday, December 20, 2021

Fourth Circuit Analyzes Settlement Language and Parties Intent in Contract Dispute.

 East Coast Repair & Fabrication, LLC v. U.S., 16 F.4th 87 (2021).

    Recently the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued an opinion analyzing language in a settlement agreement to determine if the agreement allowed for any additional claims to be made by East Coast Repair and Fabrication (Appellees).

    The Court ultimately held that the agreement did not allow for any additional claims to be made and affirmed the ruling of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, at Norfolk. The decision dismissed the claim of East Coast Repair and Fabrication, LLC by granting summary judgement under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a).

    This case arose from a dispute between East Coast Repair and the United States over contracts for the repair of three United States Navy ships. The parties signed a settlement agreement that precluded East Coast from seeking any additional claims under this matter, yet East Coast still filed this suit to seek $437,000 in damages in which it claims the Government withheld from payment under one of the contracts.

    The three ships and contracts in which this case entails are the Tempest, Hurricane, and Thunderbolt. This case stems from the Hurricane contract, but a brief history must be noted regarding the Tempest contract. In 2013, the U.S. Navy claimed $474,600 in liquidated damages under the Tempest contract due to a later delivery. At the time, the Navy had already paid all but $1,000 for the work on the Tempest, so it withheld a $473,600 set-off from payment to East Coast under the Hurricane ship contract.

    Appellees claimed that the Navy caused the delay and requested additional compensation for work on the Tempest as well as the liquidated damages. In 2014, the request was denied and East Coast filed suit in the Federal District Court under the Tempest contract. It claimed that the $473,600 setoff in which was withheld was assessed on the Tempest, not the Hurricane. Both parties then settled the Tempest suit in 2017. In the settlement agreement, each party released the other from liability in broad, but not identical terms. The Appellees then filed suit now claiming the $473,600 as breach to the Hurricane contract. The parties both filed motions for Summary Judgment, the Court granted the respondent’s motion on the grounds of Res Judicata.

    The Court analyzed the wording of the settlement agreement and states that if a claim is resolved in a settlement agreement, we then look to the intent of the parties.  The Court found that the Appellees released the U.S. from liability for any and all claims arising out of or in any way relating to the Tempest and that in the suit regarding the Tempest, the Appellees stated the $473,600 setoff as being damages assessed on the Tempest. The Appellees were unable to offer any evidence showing that the parties’ intent to intentionally omit a release of a claim for the setoff in drafting the two releases; the absence of any reservation in the settlement agreement thus bars the ship repair companies’ claims that these damages were outside of the scope of the settlement.

-Kari Gallagher, Law Clerk.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Congratulations to Associate Brandon James on his Recent Win!

Congratulations to Associate Brandon James on his recent win! Mr. James successfully defended an insurance company in a case involving uninsured motorist benefits. Plaintiff initially alleged Co-Defendant was liable for Plaintiff's injuries. After exchanging discovery and learning of Co-Defendant's version of events, Plaintiff amended their Complaint, adding Mr. James' client to the lawsuit. Co-Defendant claimed that a "phantom" vehicle struck his vehicle, causing it to collide with the Plaintiff's vehicle. Thus, Plaintiff claimed that Mr. James' client breached their contract for uninsured motorist benefits. 

At trial, after Plaintiff rested their case, Mr. James moved for judgment in favor of his client, arguing that even in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, Plaintiff failed to prove the existence of a "phantom" vehicle. After lengthy argument on the matter, the Court agreed with Mr. James, and granted judgment in favor of his client. Congratulations Mr. James! 

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Claimants’ Ability to Obtain a Permanent Partial Disability Award Affected by Prior Total Disability Retirement

Patrick Spevak v. Montgomery County, Maryland, No. 893, September Term 2020. Opinion by Beachley, J.

    Recently, the Court of Special Appeals held that when an employee who is subject to the provisions of Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 9-610(a)(1) receives a service-connected total disability retirement from his or her employer, the LE § 9-610 offset applies to any permanent total or permanent partial workers’ compensation benefits the employee is awarded for injuries or diseases related to that same employment.

    The Claimant in that case, Patrick Spevak, was employed as a firefighter for Montgomery County.  While employed, he sustained a back injury.  This caused him to retire after being granted a service-connected total disability retirement.  Since his retirement, he received service-connected total disability retirement benefits amounting to approximately 70% of his income. 

    Subsequently, Claimant’s hearing deteriorated, causing him to file a workers’ compensation claim for his occupational hearing loss.  After a hearing on the matter, the Workers’ Compensation Commission found Claimant to have a 21% permanent partial disability due to his hearing loss.  The Commission, however, also found that those benefits were completely offset under LE § 9-610(a), due to his prior service-connected total disability award which exceeded the permanent partial disability benefits awarded by the Commission. 

    Claimant appealed the matter to the Circuit Court for Montgomery County.  Both parties moved for summary judgment, and, after a hearing, the Circuit Court found in favor of Montgomery County.  Claimant appealed the matter again, this time to the Court of Special Appeals.

    Md. Code Ann., LE § 9-610(a)(1) provides that if a statute, charter, ordinance, resolution, regulation, or policy, provides a benefit to a covered employee of a governmental unit or a quasi-public corporation that is subject to this title under LE § 9-201(2) of this title, payment of the benefit by the employers satisfies, to the extent of the payment, the liability of the employer and Subsequent Injury Fund for payment of similar benefits under this title. 

    Claimant argued that in order for the two types of benefits to be considered “similar”, they must result from the same injury.  Montgomery County argued that the two types of benefits were “similar” because they both resulted from work-related injuries.  Montgomery County further argued that it made no difference whether Claimant had one or multiple work-related conditions, as the 70% payment from the service-connected total disability encompassed all work-related injuries. 

    The Court of Special Appeals, in making their decision, determined that a service-connected total disability retirement and a permanent total disability award under workers’ compensation law arising from the same employment are “similar benefits” under LE § 9-610, as the benefits paid under the service-connected disability retirement and a workers’ compensation permanent total disability award are the same whether the total disability is traceable to one body part or multiple body parts.  Furthermore, because the service-connected total disability retirement was intended to compensate an employee for any and all work-related injuries, the allowance of a permanent partial disability award would act as a double recovery.  Thus, Claimant’s permanent partial disability benefits are subject to the offset.

    This case highlights the importance of looking for other work-related benefits which may be used to offset any Awards issued by the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission.  Keep in mind that this only applies when claimant is employed by a governmental entity or quasi-public corporation. 

-Ashley M. Bond, Associate Attorney

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Courts are still figuring out how COVID-19 fits into the legal scheme in Maryland

 Estate of Madden v. Southwest Airlines, Co., Civil Action No. 1:21-cv-00672-SAG, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 117266 (D. Md. June 23, 2021)             

With the world still being in the throes of a global pandemic, the question has now turned to how courts are deciding cases that have been impacted by COVID-19. Recently, the United States District Court for Maryland decided that it would not make employers liable for alleged negligence because of a lack of safe COVID protocols.

In this case, the plaintiff, Ms. Madden, was a flight attendant for Southwest and was required to attend mandatory in-person training to remain compliant with the Federal Aviation Administration requirements. The training involved groups of at least ten flight attendants at a time and Ms. Madden was required to attend her training in Baltimore Washington International Airport at the height of COVID. Ms. Madden alleges that Southwest failed to implement reasonable health protocols to prevent the spread of COVID, and as a result of Southwest’s negligence, Ms. Madden was exposed to COVID and passed it on to her husband who also contracted COVID and passed away.

For there to be a negligence claim in Maryland, the plaintiff must successfully allege four elements: (1) a duty was owed by the defendant to the injured individual; (2) there was a breach to that duty; (3) there was an actual injury; and (4) that the injury was a direct result of the breach. The Court in its decision considered the first element of whether Southwest owed a duty to Plaintiff’s husband.

The Court also noted that there is a general rule in Maryland that there is no special duty owed for the actions of a third party. Even though there are exceptions to this rule, the Court held that none of the exceptions apply to this case. Therefore, the Court continued to determine whether or not there was a duty owed to the Plaintiff’s husband by the Plaintiff’s employer.

Ultimately the Court held that there was no duty owed to the Plaintiff’s husband even though the Court determined that the facts of the case indicated satisfied more factors in favor of there being a duty owed by Southwest to Mr. Madden. This is because the Court determined that there is no concrete evidence indicating that Southwest’s training was the reason why Mr. and Ms. Madden contracted COVID. There were too many other factors to consider, and the Plaintiff’s assurance is not enough to convince the Court that Southwest’s training was the sole reason Ms. Madden contracted COVID.

Therefore, despite it being foreseeable that the failure to implement health and safety protocols could lead to the exposure of COVID to employees and their families, the Court could not hold that Southwest owed a duty to its employees’ family members. It will be interesting to see if and how this will change as Courts delve into COVID and its impacts.

-Jocelyn Wang, Law Clerk