Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals
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The Court of Appeals held that where a waiver of subrogation precludes liability to an injured party, a third-party defendant does not fall within the definition of a "joint tortfeasor" under the Maryland Uniform Contribution Among Joint TortFeasors Act (UCATA), Md. Code Cts. & Jud. Proc. 3-1401, and there is no statutory right of contribution. After a fire damaged a building, the owner, Upper Rock II, LLC, sued Red Coats, Inc. Red Coats filed a third-party claim against Gables Construction, Inc. (GCI) seeking contribution under the UCATA. Prior to construction, Upper Rock and GCI entered into a contract, which included a waiver of subrogation, requiring Upper Rock to transfer all risk of loss for fire-related claims to the insurer rather than holding GCI liable. Upper Rock and Red Coats settled. GCI moved for summary judgment, arguing that because it was not liable to Upper Rock, it was not a joint tortfeasor under the UCATA. The motion was denied. A jury concluded that Red Coats was entitled to contribution from GCI. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that GCI could not be liable to Upper Rock because the waiver of subrogation prevented liability, and without liability to the injured party, the UCATA does not provide for a right to contribution. View "Gables Construction v. Red CoatsGables Construction, Inc. v. Red Coats, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the circuit court invalidating, on due process grounds, an order ratifying the sale of Prime Realty's vacant property, holding that Maryland Rule 3-124(o), which allows for substituted service of process on an LLC by service on the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT), satisfies a litigant's due process rights. The Mayor and City Council of Baltimore (the City) initiated a receivership action against Prime Realty Associates, LLC when property owned by Prime Realty fell into disrepair. The City attempted to serve Prime Realty's resident agent at the address on file with SDAT. When those attempts proved unsuccessful, the City made substitute service on SDAT pursuant to Maryland Rule 3-124(o). The property was subsequently sold, and the district court ratified the sale. Thereafter, Prime Realty moved to vacate the sale, arguing that its due process rights were violated because the City did not adequately serve Prime Realty. The district court denied the motion. On appeal, the circuit court vacated the sale of the property, holding that Prime Realty's due process were violated. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the method of substituted service upon SDAT prescribed by Maryland Rule 3-124(o) satisfies a litigant's due process rights. View "Mayor & City Council of Baltimore v. Prime Realty Associates, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that, under exhaustion of administrative remedies jurisprudence, a landowner may not withhold a claim alleging an unconstitutional taking arising from the application of a zoning regulation from the administrative agency's consideration and present the claim to a jury in a separate action invoking the court's original jurisdiction. This appeal arose out of litigation between Maryland Reclamation Associates, Inc. (MRA) and Harford County, Maryland (the County) in connection with MRA's efforts to construct and operate a rubble landfill on property located in Harford County. Earlier litigation concluded with a 2010 Supreme Court opinion upholding all the factual determinations and legal conclusions of the Harford County Board of Appeals (the Board). After losing on each substantive claim, MRA filed a separate inverse condemnation case alleging an unconstitutional taking. The jury found that MRA's inability to operate a rubble landfill was a regulatory taking and awarded MRA damages. The court of special appeals concluded that the takings claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The Court of Appeals affirmed but on other grounds, holding that MRA's takings claim should b dismissed based on MRA's failure to raise this constitutional issue in any administrative proceeding. View "Maryland Reclamation Associates, Inc. v. Harford County, Maryland" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the circuit court, holding that a confessed judgment is not an enforcement tool that an homeowners association (HOA) has at its disposal when seeking to collect delinquent HOA assessments, costs, and attorney's fees. Defendant became delinquent in her HOA assessment payments and signed a promissory note for the repayment. The document included a mortgage secured by Defendant's property and contained a confession of judgment provision. The HOA later filed a confessed judgment complaint attempting to recover the debt memorialized in Defendant's promissory note. The circuit court found that the payments and collection of homeowners association dues constituted a consumer transaction under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) and that the use of a confessed judgment promissory note to collect the payments was prohibited. The Court of Appeals held (1) the collection of HOA assessments falls within the purview of the CPA; (2) the promissory note containing the confessed judgment clause constituted an extension of credit to Defendant to pay delinquent HOA assessments;" and (3) because the HOA lacked the legal authority to file a confessed judgment complaint the appropriate remedy under Maryland Rule 3-611(b) was dismissal of the case without prejudice to file a separate breach of contract action. View "Goshen Run Homeowners Ass'n v. Cisneros" on Justia Law

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In this challenge to the action of the Prince George's County Council sitting as the District Council approving a special exception and variance sought by Wal-Mart Real Estate Business Trust regarding an existing store located in the Woodyard Crossing Shopping Center in Clinton, Maryland, the Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the District Council has extensive authority to regulate and establish zoning laws and procedure, which includes special exception and variance application. The ZHE issued a decision denied an application for a special exception and variance sought by Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart filed exceptions to the Zoning Hearing Examiner's (ZHE) decision and requested that the District Council hear the case. Petitioners responded in opposition to Wal-Mart's exceptions. The District Council proceeded to approve Wal-Mart's application for a special exception and variance. The circuit court and Court of Special Appeals affirmed the District Council's decision. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the District Council is authorized to delegate the preparation of its opinion and order to its staff attorney; (2) the District Council rightfully exercises original jurisdiction when hearing zoning cases from the ZHE; and (3) Petitioners failed to present sufficient evidence that the District Council violated the Maryland Open Meetings Act. View "Grant v. County Council of Prince George's County" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgments of the circuit courts in this consolidated appeal concerning judicial review of the most recent permits issued to Carroll County and Frederick County under the Clean Water Act and a parallel Maryland regulatory scheme, holding that the Maryland Department of the Environment did not exceed its authority when it issued the permits and did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in including the challenged terms in the merits. Specifically, the Court of Appeals held (1) the Department may lawfully include an impervious surface restoration requirement in a municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) discharge permit without reference to the maximum extent practicable standard; (2) the Department may lawfully include an impervious surface restoration requirement in an MS4 permit; (3) the Department had authority to treat Frederick County and Carroll County as phase I jurisdictions for purposes of their MS4 permits; (4) it was not arbitrary or capricious for the Department to refrain from including "water quality trading" as a compliance method for MS4 permittees; and (5) an ambiguous provision in the Carroll County MS4 permit did not transfer the responsibilities of other agencies to the County. View "Department of Environment v. County Commissioners of Carroll County" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court determining that state law preempted a local zoning authority with respect to solar energy generating systems (SEGS) that require a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) issued by the Maryland Public Service Commission and that the Commission had exclusive jurisdiction to approve the type of SEGS proposed by Perennial Solar, LLC in this case. Perennial applied to the Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals (Board) for a special exception and variance to construct a SEGS. The Board granted the variance and special exception. Aggrieved landowners sought judicial review, and Washington County intervened. While the petition for judicial review was pending, Perennial moved for pre-appeal determination challenging the subject matter jurisdiction of the circuit court. The circuit court granted the motion, determining that Md. Code Ann. Pub. Util. (PU) 7-207 preempted the Washington County zoning ordinance. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that PU 7-207 preempts by implication local zoning authority approval for the siting and location of generating stations that require a CPCN. View "Washington County v. Perennial Solar, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the circuit court ruling in favor of a homeowner's association (Association) on its lawsuit against Diane Steele for unpaid assessments, holding that Steele owed the Association dues in the amount of $1,257.60. Steele owned a home in the Diamond Farm development of Montgomery County, which was managed by the Association. While in accordance with the Association's declaration of covenants, conditions and restrictions, the Association must obtain at least two-thirds of the members' total votes to increase annual assessments, assessment increases in 2007, 2011, and 2014 did not receive the requisite two-thirds vote for approval. Consequently, Steele ceased making payments. The Association subsequently brought suit seeking unpaid assessments and attorney's fees. The district court entered judgment in Steele's favor because the Association failed to establish the amount of dues owed. On de novo appeal, the circuit court ruled in favor of the Association. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the ultra vires statute, Md. Code Ann. Corps. & Ass'ns. 1-403, and the doctrine of equitable estoppel operated as a bar to Steele's defense that the Association's fee increase were invalid; and (2) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in awarding $1,257.60 in attorney's fees. View "Steele v. Diamond Farm Homes Corp." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that a proposed municipal annexation that encompassed an area consisting entirely of tax-exempt properties did not require consent from the owners of such properties pursuant to Md. Code Ann. Loc. Gov't (LG) 4-403(b)(2) and that an proposed annexation plan did not attempt to usurp law enforcement jurisdiction over certain lands contained within the proposed annexation area that were owned and managed by Maryland—National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC). The circuit court invalidated two resolutions of the Town of Forest Heights that, collectively, annexed into the Town 737 acres of land. All of the annexed lands were tax-exempt, and the owners of the lands were not required to provide their consents to the annexation. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the twenty-five percent property owner consent requirement of LG 4-403(b)(2) does not encompass tax-exempt property owners; and (2) the language contained within the annexation plan was appropriately conditioned so as to avoid any usurpation of law enforcement jurisdiction over properties owned and managed by MNCPPC. View "Town of Forest Heights v. Maryland National Capital Park & Planning Commission" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals dismissing an appeal, on its own initiative, as premature and remanded the case to that court with instructions to treat the notice of appeal as timely filed, holding that the appeal should proceed on the merits in the Court of Special Appeals. Petitioner petitioned for a writ of certiorari, arguing that he timely filed the notice of appeal and that the appeal should be reinstated. The Court of Appeals exercised its discretion to hold that, under the circumstances of this case and pursuant to Maryland Rule 8-602(g)(1)(D), Petitioner’s notice of appeal should be treated as if it were filed on the same day as but after the entry of the trial court’s final judgment. View "Carver v. RBS Citizens, N.A." on Justia Law