Posted On: July 30, 2010

Fighting HOA Lawsuits

One thing to point out before I even begin this post: our law firm does not handle collection cases involving HOAs (or any other kind of collection cases - just serious personal injury claim). The purpose of the Maryland Lawyer Blog is to allow me to muse on topics outside of Maryland personal injury cases. So I feel compelled to put in this caveat so that we get calls on a collections issue. (Honestly, I don't know anyone who defends HOA collection cases.)

Anyway, with that unnecessarily long prelude, a Maryland homeowners' association in Prince George's County is suing P.G. County Executive Jack Johnson for failure to pay his homeowner's association dues. In an article I read on this case a few minutes ago, his lawyer defending the case is quoted as saying: "It's a racket. There is no oversight or regulation."

Exactly. It is absolutely ridiculous how these HOAs run amok going after essentially their own clients. I'm in full support of requiring people to pay their bills and charging them a penalty in the process for not paying their debt. I recently handled one of these types of cases for an employee who made a really honest mistake, thinking she had prepaid for the year. It is absolutely torture dealing with these HOAs that have the agreements with homeowners so rigged that they can extort ridiculous fees that are so out-of-line with the crime of missing a few payments. I also think many deliberately avoid advising the homeowner of the debt so the penalties accumulate.

Then there is dealing with the HOA collection lawyer which is an ordeal in and of itself. In our employee's case, the guy was impossible to get on the phone. Most HOA collection lawyers are essentially running a factory. Get a live person on the phone? It virtually takes an act of Congress.

These HOA documents are the ultimate adhesion contracts: if you are buying a house, you would confess to murder in the HOA language before you would let it hold up the purchase of the home. Something should be done to put tighter screws to these HOAs. How about just a clause that says that the HOA agrees that the penalties should be reasonable and in line with what the finder of fact believes is the true cost of the debt collection?

Posted On: July 29, 2010

Lawsuit for Every Injustice Week

Fired but possibly rehired Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod says she will pursue a lawsuit against conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart.

What happened was incredibly unfair to Sherrod and Breitbart should be publicly excoriated for what he did. But I don't understand why a lawsuit should come from this. Her reputation is fully intact and then some. She was offered her job back. She is going to write a book and make a fortune (you know it is coming). Things are great. The only way to blow it is to come off looking petty by filing a lawsuit.

The CNN story is here.

Posted On: July 28, 2010

Arizona's Immigration Law Ruling

A federal judge in Arizona has issued an injunction blocking key provisions of Arizona's new immigration law.

This is big news. A long battle lies ahead that eventually end in the United States Supreme Court.

Posted On: July 27, 2010

iPad Lawsuit

Apple faces a lawsuit over an allegation that its iPad easily overheats and turns off.

"The iPad does not live up to the reasonable consumer's expectations created by Apple insofar as the iPad overheats so quickly under common weather conditions that it does not function for prolonged use outdoors, or in many other warm conditions," according to the lawsuit filed in federal court in Oakland last week.

It seems to me if your iPad does not work, Apple should get you a new one. But that really should not be a federal case since no one I know that has an iPad has this problem.

I like that lawyers can file lawsuits to protect consumers from bad products even when the damage to the individual consumer is low and merely economic because it discourages companies that are willing to allow bad products on the market. What I don't like is that most of the cases that I read about seem ridiculous.

Posted On: July 27, 2010

Court of Appeal of Maryland on Contract Interpretation

The Maryland Court of Appeals agrees with the CSA, reversing a Calvert Court trial court's finding on no ambiguity in a waivers (yes, with an "s") of subrogation clause in a form contract governing the construction of a restaurant.

You can find the opinion here.

Posted On: July 27, 2010

2010 Maryland Bar Exam

Today is the first day of the Maryland 2010 July Bar Exam. The format of the exam is unchanged from back in the day: Tuesday is the written portion of the exam – 10 essays and an MPT; tomorrow is the 200 multiple question multi-state.

For Maryland's February exam, 67.6% passed. You can expect the pass rate to be much higher for this exam. Last July, 81% of the applicants passed the Maryland bar.

Posted On: July 26, 2010

Maryland Constitutional Law Trivia

Did you know that Maryland's Constitution requires that every 20 years the state’s voters must decide whether the Maryland General Assembly must call for a Constitutional Convention?

I think we need a Constitutional Convention to pick more things on which we don't get a chance to vote. Like whether we should have a rule requiring voters to vote to have a Constitutional Convention and whether the general public should decide who will be our judges.

It is not that the public could not make a good call as to who should be our judges. And if we lived in Mayberry, it might not be a bad idea. The problem is, I would estimate less than 1% of us - and less than 5% of lawyers - are really in a position to make the call as to who would make the best judge amongst the candidates. Why? Because we all have many other things to do. We have a hard enough time making informed choices in presidential elections and for governor and the general public does not have the information or the interest to make informed calls on judges.

One more thought. I have no problem with lawyers who chose to run for election. The game is the game, as Omar Little would say. There is nothing wrong with availing yourself to the existing process and I have been in front of many elected judges that were extremely good judges. I just think we should change the process.

Posted On: July 26, 2010

New Judges

Governor O'Malley announced Friday the appointment of the Honorable Michele D. Hotten to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland. The Governor also announced the appointment of eight more judges:

  • Master Yolanda A. Tanner (Baltimore City Circuit Court) (Juvenile Court Master in Baltimore)
  • Marsha L. Russell (Baltimore County District Court) (prosecutor in the Baltimore County)
  • Leo Ryan, Jr. (Baltimore County District Court) (Deputy State's Attorney for Baltimore County
  • Steven D. Wyman (Baltimore County District Court) (private practice, former prosecutor)
  • Shannon Avery (Baltimore City District Court) (Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services)
  • Judge Karen Friedman (Baltimore City District Court) (Orphans' Court Judge in Baltimore City)
  • Ricardo D. Zwaig (Howard County District Court) (private practice)
  • Audrey A. Creighton (Montgomery County District Court (public defender)
Posted On: July 23, 2010

Smith v. State

When a Court of Appeals of Maryland opinion starts off with, "Reminiscent of a scene from a Cheech & Chong movie...", you know the opinion will be interesting. Particularly when the dissent responds by quoting Mr. Mackey from South Park.

You can find the full Smith v. State opinion here.

Posted On: July 15, 2010

Celebrity Lawsuits

As I have written before, I think celebrities completely screw up the perception of lawyers and, by extension, personal injury clients. Why? Because people in the spotlight have a lot of access to lawyers who want to represent a celebrity and see their names in the papers so they will take the case, no matter how ridiculous. With cash, celebrities can afford to hire a lawyer in non injury cases. Celebrities also often have the mentality that they can get what they want if they keep demanding it, leading to the litigation process. I'm overgeneralizing but certainly there is something that drives these cases.

Pop Crunch (via Overlawyered) provides a list of the 15 worst celebrity lawsuits of all time.

Posted On: July 15, 2010

DWI/DUI Laws in Maryland

Maryland needs tougher DWI/DUI laws if we are going to reduce the number of drunk driving accidents. Two things come to mind.

First, tougher laws. The Drunk Driving Elimination Act rejected by the Maryland legislature this Spring would have been huge. The bill would have required all DUI offenders to use an ignition interlock. The bill lost after heavy pressure from the Alcohol Beverage Institute. Honestly, I cannot figure out why they would not line up against drivers who do not use alcohol responsibly - DWIs and the number of dead people that result are not exactly a PR boon for the sellers of alcohol. I'm sure there is a self-serving wisdom to it. Or something. But I can't figure it out.

Another law would have removed the right of repeat DWI offenders to refuse a breathalyzer. Personally, I think that repeat offenders should absolutely be able to refuse a breathalyzer test. But, ah, you lose your license for 5 years if you do.

Second, why can't we increase the fines? I realize if we ruin the lives of defendants, we run the risk of making their problems worse. How about $100 a month for 60 months for a first time conviction? The state of Maryland needs money. We need less drunk drivers killing our people. Isn't there a good marriage out there somewhere?

Posted On: July 14, 2010

Thought of the Day

The Washington Post has an editorial today that sums up the concerns of many over what is perceived as a politically charged Supreme Court:

Why does the supposedly nonpartisan Supreme Court split so often along ideological lines, with the four conservatives locked in combat against the four liberals and the eclectic Justice Anthony Kennedy determining which faction wins?

And why do all of the justices so often find in the Constitution a mirror image of their own political and policy views on issues as diverse as abortion, race, religion, gay rights, campaign finance, the death penalty and national security?

The justices strenuously deny voting their own policy preferences. So, are they insincere?

I think the answer to this question is no. I think the justices truly believe that they are largely calling 'balls and strikes" as Justice Roberts famously put it. The problem with the Supreme Court justices is the same problem you and I have when trying to be objective: we tend to construe facts most favorably to the way we want things to turn out.

Posted On: July 13, 2010

Silly Lawsuit #6839

An Illinois man has filed a lawsuit on behalf of his son claiming that Southwest Airlines failed to protect his teenage son from an older female passenger who made sexual advances and offered him illegal drugs during a flight to Orlando in 2008. Apparently, the boy was so frightened by the experience that he refused to return home by himself.

I was 14 once. (True story.) I don't remember a single 14 year-old who would be so freaked out by such an encounter that he would be emotionally harmed. Some 14 year-olds would be thrilled out of their minds; others would be a little disgusted. But I don't remember any who would be traumatized by the whole thing.

But let's just say he was. Then why on earth would the father exacerbate the son's trauma by filing a lawsuit.

How do the lawyers who file these cases feed their families? If Southwest has any guts at all, the settlement offer in this case will remain at zero.

Posted On: July 13, 2010

Maryland Benzene Lawsuit

The Baltimore Sun reports that a lawsuit by Maryland residents and a few nonprofits against the owners of a steelmaking plant I've never heard of. The lawsuit claims Severstal North America failed to clean up benzene they are producing that has contaminated local properties. According to the lawsuit, "samples have revealed benzene contamination that is 100,000 times greater than what is considered safe." The lawsuit seeks enforcement of a 13-year-old court order that requires a meaningful cleanup of the facility.

Posted On: July 13, 2010

Montgomery County Practice

Montgomery County continues to search for ways to improve the administration of cases, setting a new case management system in civil, criminal, juvenile and family law cases.

Posted On: July 13, 2010

Maryland Law on Permissive Use

The Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog provides summary of Agency Insurance v. State Farm, a brother against brother (insurance company v. insurance company) squabble that may change permissive use law in Maryland (hopefully the CoA grants cert).

Posted On: July 12, 2010

Family Squabble CSA Opinion

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals today decided Meyer v. Meyer, a dispute between a father and his son and daughter over the equitable division of the proceeds from the sale of real property. Mom's involved in this disaster too.

On my list of lifetime goals: never get involved in a lawsuit with my wife and kids.

Posted On: July 9, 2010

LeBron James Complaint

Guy files a bizarro-world reverse paternity complaint against LeBron James. Normally, you chalk this up to "there are a lot of crazy people in the big city" and just move on. But this guy is a lawyer in Washington who graduated from Princeton.

Obviously, he wants to be LeBron James' father. Let's say he is the father. Is it worth admitting you committed statutory rape and that you were basically a deadbeat dad until your kid became an NBA mega star?

You can find the complaint against LeBron James here. It is unbelievable... and pathetic.

Posted On: July 6, 2010

Computing Time Under the Federal Rules

This is a great article that sets out the changes in the Federal Rules on computing time. The new rules make more sense. You just have to know what they are.