Justia Real Estate & Property Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals
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In this case questioning whether the addition of a definition of "lender" to the Maryland Usury Law during code revision effected a significant change in that law that lay latent for four decades before this case arose, the Court of Appeals held that code revision did not change Maryland law applicable to assignees of mortgage loans.Donna Kemp entered into a mortgage loan secured by a deed of trust on her home. The loan was later assigned to Fannie Mae, which contracted with the predecessor of Nationstar Mortgage, LLC to service the loan. Nationstar later declared Kemp to be in default. Kemp, Fannie Mae, and Nationstar entered into a loan modification agreement to resolve the default, but Kemp objected to the assessment of property inspection fees. Kemp filed a complaint, which the circuit court dismissed for failure to state a cause of action. The Court of Appeals held (1) the prohibition on property inspection fees applied to Nationstar as the agent of Fannie Mae; and (2) Kemp's complaint adequately stated a claim under the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act. View "Nationstar Mortgage v. Kemp" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the circuit court's declaratory judgment concluding that Homeowners' amended restrictive covenant validly prohibited the construction of a commercial driving range on a lot within a residential subdivision and that a restrictive covenant permitted the realignment of the lot's property boundaries, holding that the circuit court did not err.Petitioner applied for zoning variances and exceptions from the Talbot County Board of Appeals to modify the boundaries of the sixth of five lots in the Swan Point Subdivision and to construct a driving range. Respondents, property owners in Swan Point, opposed the variance and amended the restrictive covenant specifically to prohibit a driving range on any lot within Swan Point. The Board granted the zoning variance for Petitioner. After the circuit court affirmed, Respondents brought this declaratory judgment action. The circuit court declared that Respondents' restrictive covenant validly prohibited the construction of a driving range on the lot at issue and that the original Swan Point restrictive covenant permitted the realignment of the lot's property boundaries. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the circuit court reached the correct result. View "RDC Melanie Drive v. Eppard" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that Md. Code Ts. & Jud. Proc. (CJP) 11-1110 limits the recovery for compensatory damages to the amount specified by that statute and does not allow for recovery of noneconomic compensatory damages stemming from the tortious injury or death of a pet.A police officer shot and killed Respondent's dog in the front yard of Respondent's home. Respondent brought suit, alleging that the officer committed a trespass to Respondent's chattel, acted with gross negligence, and violated Respondent's rights under Articles 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Respondent. The court of appeals reversed in part, holding (1) CJP 11-110 did not bar Respondent from recovering noneconomic damages related to the death of his dog, and (2) there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict that the officer acted with gross negligence. The Court of Appeals reversed in part, holding (1) CJP 11-110 defines and caps the recovery of compensatory damages in the case of the tortious death or injury of a pet; and (2) under the single recovery rule, Respondent may not recover any damages under the gross negligence claim. View "Anne Arundel County v. Reeves" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the circuit court's grant of summary judgment to the Bank of New York Mellon (BNYM) in this negligence complaint, holding that Ashley Hector and Alyaa Hector alleged sufficient facts for their claim against BNYM in its individual capacity to go to the jury.The Hectors lived as children in a row house that contained lead-based paint. The Hectors' landlord had taken out a mortgage on her interest in the property that became part of a residential mortgage backed securitization trust. When the landlord's interest in the property was sold at foreclosure BNYM as trustee as the purchaser. The Hectors filed a negligence complaint against BNYM. The circuit court granted summary judgment to BNYM, concluding that the Hectors erroneously named BNYM in its individual capacity as opposed to its fiduciary capacity. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) a trustee may be held individually liable for a tort committed in the course of trust administration if the trustee is personally at fault; and (2) the Hectors produced facts from which a jury could find that BNYM breached a duty it owed to the Hectors as the "owner" of the property. View "Hector v. Bank of New York Mellon" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment of the court of special appeals dismissing an amended complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, holding that Petitioners' amended complaint adequately set forth a cause of action under Md. Code Real Prop. (RP) 7-113.Petitioners, occupants of residential property that they owned or leased, brought this action against Respondents, a mortgage servicer and a real estate broker, after Respondents posted eviction notices on Petitioners' properties in an attempt to gain possession of the properties without a court order. Petitioners claimed that Respondents violated RP 7-113 and the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (MCPA), Md. Code Comm. Law 13-101 et seq. The circuit court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed in part, holding (1) Petitioners set forth a cause of action under RP 7-113; and (2) this Court has not established a more demanding standard for pleading damages in private actions brought under the MCPA. View "Wheeling v. Selene Finance LP" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals answered a certified question of law by the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland by holding that the Maryland Contract Lien Act (MCLA), Md. Code Ann. Real Prop. 14-201 - 206, does not permit liens that secure unpaid damages, costs, charges, and fees that accrue after the recordation of the lien.According to Appellant, if a lien complies with the procedural requirements for creation under the MCLA, the lien can secure unpaid damages arising after the recordation of the lien, and therefore, the MCLA permits continuing liens. Appellee, in turn, argued that continuing liens are prohibited by the plain language of the statute, its legislative history, and due process requirements. Specifically, Appellee argued that the MCLA prohibits any sum from being secured by a statutory lien before the property owner has the opportunity to contest the sum prior to attachment. The Court of Appeals held that the plain text, legislative history, and case law relevant to the MCLA collectively demonstrate the Legislature's intent to prohibit continuing liens. View "In re Walker" on Justia Law

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In this family dispute regarding a family business the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the court of special appeals affirming the decision of the trial court entering judgment in favor of Valley Mill Camp, Inc., holding that a person claiming the right to possession against a person in actual peaceable possession of real property can bring an action in circuit court for common law trespass to recover possession of the property.In 2017, after some escalating family disagreements, Valley Mill terminated the employment of Bruce Uthus and requested that he vacate the campground residence, where he had been living for approximately twenty years. Uthus refused to leave, and Valley Mill brought this trespass action. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of Valley Mills. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Valley Mill had the choice to take legal action to remove Uthus from the campgrounds either by filing a trespass action in circuit court or a wrongful detainer action in district court; and (2) Valley Mill met all the elements of trespass. View "Uthus v. Valley Mill Camp" 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 vacating original development approvals by the Frederick Council Council so that the Council could proceed with a de novo reconsideration proceeding, holding that the circuit court did not err in vacating the development approvals after the Developers refused to participate in a de novo reconsideration proceeding.A local citizens group opposed the Developers' rezoning and development application and sought judicial review. The circuit court found that a former member of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners had violated the ethics statute by engaging in an ex parte communication and remanded the case for reconsideration. The Frederick County Council reconsidered the Developers' application in a de novo proceeding, but the Developers refused to participate. Thereafter, the circuit court vacated the original development approvals and remanded the matter. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the County Council had the discretion to determine the scope of the reconsideration proceeding; (2) the doctrine of zoning estoppel does not apply under the facts of this case; and (3) there is no ambiguity in the Ethics Statute. View "75-80 Properties v. RALE, Inc." 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 trial court in favor of Plaintiffs - a property owner, its insurers, and the subrogee of another property owner - and against Steamfitters Local Union No. 602 after a fire started on Steamfitters' property caused damage to neighboring properties, holding the the trial court did not err.The fire started on a mulched strip of common area where Steamfitters' apprentices regularly congregated and discarded hundreds of cigarette butts. Plaintiffs filed a negligence complaint against Steamfitters. Steamfitters filed a third-party complaint against the Heating, Piping and Refrigeration Training Fund (Training Fund) alleging contractual indemnification, common law indemnification, and contribution. As to the issue of contractual indemnification, the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the Training Fund. As to the case against Steamfitters, the jury returned verdicts in favor of Plaintiffs. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Steamfitters had a duty to exercise reasonable care to maintain its property in a manner that would not cause an unreasonable risk of the spread of fire from cigarette butts habitually discarded in combustible material; and (2) Steamfitters was not entitled to relief on its remaining allegations of error. View "Steamfitter's Local Union No. 602 v. Erie Insurance Exchange" on Justia Law

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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