Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals

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The Maryland Condominium Act allows access to communally-held property to be restricted as a means to enforce payment of condominium fees, but such restrictions must first be authorized by the unit owners through agreement in the condominium’s declaration. In this case, a condominium association and its management firm (collectively, Elvaton) claimed that unit owners William and Dawn Rose were delinquent in paying their condominium fees. The association thus prohibited the Roses from parking in the parking lot overnight or using the pool until they paid their allegedly delinquent fees. The circuit court ruled that Elvaton did not have the authority to restrict the Roses’ use of the parkings lots and the pool as a means of collecting on the debt. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because Elvaton did not include a restriction to the general common elements of the condominium as a means to enforce payment of condominium fees in the condominium’s declaration, the restriction was invalid. View "Elvaton Towne Condominium Regime II, Inc. v. Rose" on Justia Law

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The circuit court and Court of Special Appeals affirmed the decision of the Howard County Board of Appeals approving a conditional use application for a funeral home in Howard County’s Rural Residential-Density Exchange Option zone. The Howard County Board of Appeals hearing examiner initially denied the proposed conditional use plan, but after public hearings and two revisions, the Board approved the conditional use application subject to several conditions. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the Board properly analyzed the revised plan pursuant to the relevant statutory requirements; (2) the Board did not err in concluding that the revised plan would not create an adverse cultural impact on vicinal properties or that such impact will be beyond those ordinarily associated with funeral home and mortuary uses; and (3) substantial evidence supported the Board’s conclusion that the revised plan contemplated a 100-foot stream buffer in compliance with state requirements. View "Clarksville Residents Against Mortuary Defense Fund, Inc. v. Donaldson Properties" on Justia Law

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In order to recover attorney’s fees against a negligent title searcher using the collateral litigation doctrine, the plaintiff must show that the title searcher’s negligence proximately caused the plaintiff to file a necessary collateral action, resulting in the plaintiff incurring reasonable litigation costs necessarily and in good faith, and that the plaintiff has not otherwise received compensation for those costs. The Ochses purchased property from the Henrys. The Ochses later learned that a encumbrance bisecting their lot was part of a strip of land that had been granted to Dorchester County. Prior to this discovery, the Ochses filed a lawsuit against the Henrys to quiet title. The Ochses later filed a lawsuit against Chicago Title Insurance Company and Eastern Shore Title Company (ESTC), the title examiner, alleging breach of contract and negligence. The trial court found in favor of the Ochses and awarded a $215,710 against ESTC and Chicago Title, which was the amount of the attorney’s fees awarded to the Ochses in the Henry litigation. The trial court subsequently reduced its judgment against ESTC and Chicago Title by $215,710. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err by reducing the damages awarded to the Ochses by the amount previously satisfied by the Henrys. View "Eastern Shore Title Co. v. Ochse" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Court of Appeals was whether - without ruling out other possible causes of exposure - the fact that property tested positive for lead-based paint throughout its interior in 1976, combined with other circumstantial evidence, was sufficient for Plaintiff to establish that the subject property was a “reasonably probable source” of his lead poisoning. Plaintiff claimed that he was poisoned by lead-based paint as a toddler when he lived in a row house owned by Respondent during 1996 and 1997. The trial court granted Respondent’s motion for summary judgment on source and source causation. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Plaintiff presented sufficient circumstantial evidence to demonstrate that the subject property was a reasonably probable source of his elevated blood lead levels, and therefore, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on the issues of source and source causation. View "Rogers v. Home Equity USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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Jayson Master sought access to a lease between Calvert Tract, LLC and Whole Foods. Calvert Tract had earlier voluntarily provided a redacted version of the lease to Prince George’s County while its zoning application was pending. The County denied Master’s request seeking access to the lease, explaining that the lease was not subject to disclosure under the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA). Master then filed a complaint seeking access to the lease. The trial court granted summary judgment to Calvert Tract and the County, concluding that the lease was confidential commercial information and therefore was exempt under the MPIA. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals, holding that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on the grounds that the lease was protected from disclosure under the MPIA’s confidential commercial information exemption. View "Amster v. Baker" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a Delaware limited liability company, owned and managed an apartment building in the City of Annapolis, Maryland that was within the designated historic district under the City’s zoning ordinance. The Annapolis Historic Preservation Commission issued two historic preservation municipal infraction citations to Petitioner. Petitioner requested a trial, and the district court found in favor of the City. In a de novo appeal, the circuit court entered summary judgment in favor the City after Petitioner admitted to replacing historic wood windows with vinyl windows without the Commission’s approval. Thereafter, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, alleging several claims of error. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) historic preservation municipal citations are civil and, in this case, were not barred by laches or the relevant statute of limitations; (2) the citations in this case were sufficient to give Petitioner adequate notice of its violations, and the circuit court’s judgment was not clearly erroneous; and (3) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by denying Petitioner’s motion for a new trial or, in the alternative, to amend the judgment. View "Spaw, LLC v. City of Annapolis" on Justia Law

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Applicants applied for a petition for a special exception in the Baltimore County Zoning Regulations to operate a fuel service station with a convenience store. At a hearing conducted by the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), several petitioners (collectively, Protestants) attended in opposition of the grant of the special exception. The OAH granted the petition with conditions. After a de novo evidentiary hearing, the Board of Appeals for Baltimore County approved the conditions for the special exception. The circuit court affirmed the Board’s decision. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the Board’s description of the neighborhood impacted by the special exception was precise enough to enable a party or appellate court to comprehend the area that the Board considered; and (2) the Board correctly determined that the Protestants failed sufficiently to rebut the presumption of validity of a special exception. View "Attar v. DMS Tollgate, LLC" on Justia Law

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Baltimore County zoning regulations provide for a planned unit development (PUD) approval process that is partly legislative and partly quasi-judicial or adjudicative. Whalen Properties, LLC, the developer of a proposed PUD, submitted a PUD application to First District Councilman Thomas Quirk of Baltimore County. Thereafter, Stephen Whalen, the owner and principal of Whalen Properties, distributed $8,500 of the company’s money to several individuals with instructions that they deposit the sums into their own accounts and to donate those amounts to Councilman Quirk’s campaign committee. An adjacent landowner challenged the subsequent approval of the PUD, alleging that the appearance of impropriety generated by the donations invalidated the approval process. The circuit court and Court of Special Appeals affirmed the decision. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) because the introduction and passage of a resolution is a legislative action, the legislative intent is subject to limited judicial review; and (2) an alleged appearance of impropriety generated by illegal campaign contributions does not negate the presumption of validity of the legislative act. View "Kenwood Gardens Condos., Inc. v. Whalen Props., LLC" on Justia Law

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The Maryland Critical Area law establishes a cooperative program with local jurisdictions to ensure that land near Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic coastal bays has special protection against development that might cause environmental damage. Although the law allows a property owner to seek a variance, it places the burden of proof on the applicant to demonstrate that the applicant would suffer an “unwarranted hardship” without the variance and that granting the variance will not have an adverse environmental impact. Schwalbach sought a variance from a Worcester County ordinance that limits piers to 100 feet in length, in order to access navigable water from his waterfront property in a community where piers and boating are common. Schwalbach obtained necessary federal, state, and local environmental agency approvals. The County Board of Zoning Appeals granted the variance. The Circuit Court, the Court of Special Appeals, and the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld the approval.Schwalbach was not required to show that he would be denied all reasonable and significant use of his land without the variance, but rather that he would be denied a reasonable and significant use throughout the entire property. There was sufficient evidence to conclude that Schwalbach satisfied that standard and the standard that there be no adverse environmental impact from granting the variance. View "Assateague Coastal Trust v. Schwalbach" on Justia Law

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The Fangmans sought to represent a class of approximately 4,000 to 5,000 individuals who, from 2009 to 2014, retained Genuine Title for settlement and title services and utilized various lenders for the purchase and/or refinancing of their residences, allegedly as a result of referrals from the lenders. All of the lenders are servicers of federally related mortgage loans. The complaint alleges an illegal kickback scheme and that “sham companies” that were created by Genuine Title to conceal the kickbacks, which were not disclosed on the HUD-1 form. After dismissing most of the federal claims, the federal court certified to the Maryland Court of Appeals the question of law: Does Md. Code , Real Prop. [(1974, 2015 Repl. Vol.) 14-127 imply a private right of action?” The statute prohibits certain consideration in real estate transactions. That court responded “no” and held that RP 14-127 does not contain an express or implied private right of action, as neither its plain language, legislative history, nor legislative purpose demonstrates any intent on the General Assembly’s part to create a private right of action. View "Fangman v. Genuine Title, LLC" on Justia Law