January 22, 2013

Ticketmaster Class Action in Maryland Gains Steam

You can't scalp tickets in Baltimore City. It is a goofy law in 2013 with StubHub and Ticketmaster. But it is the law.

So a guy, the lead plaintiff, pays $12 in Ticketmaster service fees when buying a Jackson Browne ticket at the Lyric and literally makes a federal case out of it. The federal court certifies some questions to the Maryland high court, most notably whether a Baltimore City ordinance banning the sale of tickets above face value applied in the case. Again, while the law is arguably dumb and old, the court said the law does apply.

I'm just not a big fan of these lawsuits, honestly. I'm a plaintiffs' lawyer so that should mean that I've never seen a lawsuit I don't like... but I don't like them.

You can find the court's opinion here.

January 15, 2013

New "Bank That Foreclosed on Me Was Bad" Opinion

The U.S. District Court issued an opinion in another "the bank was bad when it foreclosed on me when I wasn't, you know, paying my mortgage" case.

Plaintiffs, Pasadena, Maryland residents, sued Bank of America alleging that the bank's failure to process a mortgage modification, after the servicer informed them it would help them change their mortgage terms, was actionable. The big crime? Bank of America was only willing to lower the payment a little bit.

Judge Catherine C. Blake dismissed the case, finding that:

  • Plaintiffs cannot show they reasonably and detrimentally relied on any of bank's statements;
  • A bank being hard to deal with is annoying but not actionable (I'm paraphrasing!)
  • The absence of a “a clear and definite promise” make promissory estoppel inapplicable;
  • A letter that lacks bargained-for consideration and a definite manifestation of mutual assent cannot alone be a contract;
  • There are no tort claims in this case that would make claims for negligence or negligent misrepresentation under Maryland law.”

You can find the court's opinion in Goss v. Bank of America here.

April 30, 2012

Talbot County Mooring Referendum: New CSA Opinion

In Koste v. Town of Oxford, Judge Robert A. Zarnoch starts out the Maryland Court of Special Appeals opinion like this:

    Which comes first: a law's enactment or a referendum drive? In this case, we consider the classic chicken/egg casualty riddle in the legislative/political setting. And in the context of petitioning to referendum of a municipal annexation resolution, we conclude that the Legislature has required enactment to precede petitioning. We turn form the abstract to the concrete.

Honestly, I'm not sure what this means. In the bubble of personal injury cases in which I live, it is amazing to me how many other legal issues there are for judges to get there minds around.

In any event, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled in favor of the Town of Oxford in a this case regarding petition signatures stemming from a dispute over the regulation of mooring regulations for buoys adjacent to the town. This opinion reverses a Talbot County Circuit Court judge's summary judgment ruling in favor of a resident who had granted a judgment in favor of an Oxford resident who had challenged a town resolution on mooring.

You can read the opinion here. I tried to understand it and gave up.

January 26, 2012

Latex Allergy Discrimination

I defended latex glove allergy lawsuits in the late '90s/early '00s. They were just awful cases for plaintiffs. But that does not minimize the suffering of many who have latex allergies, a little talked about problem that really impacts the lives of a small number of people.

In Meade v. Shangri-La Partnership, the Plaintiff had a severe latex allergy. She got it in the '90s from latex gloves, as many healthcare providers did. She sent her child to preschool at the Children's Manor Montessori in Howard County (I'm not sure if it was Ellicott City or Columbia). She wanted the preschool to remove latex gloves from the school so she could visit and "be part of [her] son’s preschool experience."

To me, reading the case, while I sympathize with her injury, she sounds a little melodramatic. Anyway, the school made matters much worse by kicking the kid out because they feared a lawsuit. Seriously? Of course, a lawsuit is exactly what followed. What a mess.

Anyway, a Howard County jury agreed with the Plaintiff, finding that she had “a physical or mental impairment which substantially limit[ed] one or more of [her] major life activities,” and that the Plaintiff was denied the accommodations of the school because of discrimination, and further found that the school had retaliated against her. The jury awarded Meade $1,683 in economic damages, $5,000 in non-economic damages, and $22,800 in attorney’s fees.

Continue reading "Latex Allergy Discrimination" »

September 29, 2011

New Debt Collection Laws

Maryland Makes Debt Collection a Little Harder

The Maryland Court of Appeals has adopted new rules to make life harder for companies that buy up debt to obtain judgments against consumers. This does not take effect until January 1st, so expect a ton of activity in debt cases to clog up District Court dockets in the foreseeable future.

There is nothing wrong with buying "junk" debt. The problem is that to make money, these companies often have to run their business with a lot of upfront cash. They are not looking through the details of individual cases, they just run them through the assembly line. Imagine all of the home foreclosure short cuts on steroids. Do they know that the debtor has not contested the debt? Do they know the debtor's last known address? My guess? Pretty much not.

The court is trying to make these companies operate on a more level playing field and play fair in every individual case. Does this make debt collection harder? Absolutely.

Please keep in mind that I'm providing this information because it is interesting. Our lawyers do not handle debtor creditor cases of any kind.

August 18, 2011

Neighbor v. Church

The Maryland Court of Appeals published its opinion in Wietzke v. Chesapeake Conference Association, a Silver Spring, Montgomery County case dealing with the law of nuisance (which I know nothing about).

The nutshell is that the church - Seventh Day Adventists - built a new parking lot which causes “repeated and continu[ed] flooding” of the residents next door. The neighbors demanded $3 million in damages which, you know, is what you ask for when someone floods your property a bit. Neighbor loses at trial but gets another crack because Maryland high court reversed trial judge.

May 31, 2011

Motion for Her to Put Her Boobs Away

Above the Law has a wacky story on a motion filed by a defense lawyer to remove the woman showing her large boobs from counsels' table. Turns out it was the lawyer's wife who is his paralegal who tries every case with him.

Warning to all in 2011: file a wacky motion - particularly one with the slightest sex component to it - it is going to be posted all of the Internet and, most likely, you are going to get mocked.

October 5, 2010

Supreme Court's New Term

Yesterday was the first Monday in October which means the U.S. Supreme Court started its much ballyhooed new term in which many great issues of our day will be decided. The first case is a Chapter 13 debtor case addressing the issue of how much of a deduction a Chapter 13 debtor can take for a car the debtor owns.

Bankruptcy? Really? Someone wake me up when the Supreme Court moves past bankruptcy law.

August 12, 2010

Collection Letter on $0.00 Balance

I wrote last week about the insanity I experienced in my drive-by the world of collections. Here is an appropriate story: a utility company demanding payment on a bill of $0.00 with a threat of sending the outstanding balance to collections.

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?

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.

March 13, 2010

Do I Need an Expert? Maryland Law Update

A divided Maryland Court of Appeals took away a Baltimore County jury verdict against Bank of America on Thursday in a case relevant to personal injury lawyers to the extent that it underscores when expert testimony may be needed at trial.

This case appears to be the classic "money grubber woman takes advantage of old man" story. BOA allowed said money grubber to add her name on to the man's account. After his death, his son looked at the bank statements and brought a claim on behalf of the Estate against BOA for breach of contract and negligence for allowing the woman to be added onto the account in the first place.

The jury bought it, awarding $23,475 on the breach of contract claim and $7,600 on the negligence claim. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed, finding that expert testimony was necessary to establish BOA's standard of care when adding an individual’s name to a bank account.

The Maryland high court affirmed the CSA ruling, agreeing that expert testimony was required to establish the scope of the bank’s duty unless the alleged negligence so obviously deviated from the applicable standard of care that the jury could appreciate the deviation without expert testimony. In this case, the court felt that the negligence was not obvious because the process of fraud avoidance “may occur behind closed doors, out of the sight of the customer, and may involve numerous unknown procedures.”

The dissent says it does not matter how the sausage is made - if the system is flawed the system is flawed so it does not matter what happened behind closed doors. I don't have a big opinion on this case but I certainly agree that it seems like overkill to have to bring a banking expert in to state the obvious: you have to verify signatures and make sure people have the authority they claim to have.

The problem with this case for consumer lawyers is that it imposes a requirement of an expert witness to prove negligence in cases where the case is not going to have a large enough upside to justify an expert. Maryland accident lawyers have been using the 10-104 mechanism to get around the need for expert testimony in small car accident cases. But, under this ruling, a lot of valid small cases are not going to be brought because the lawyers and clients will not want to front the money for an expert.

February 18, 2010

Facebook Lawsuit

A class-action suit alleges that Facebook's new privacy settings exposes Facebook users to "identity theft, harassment, embarrassment, intrusion and all types of cyber crime."

I really can't think of a dumber lawsuit. Couldn't these victims just get off Facebook?

January 14, 2010

Little Guy 1, The Man 0

The Maryland Daily Record reports today that the little guy might get over on the man. Tens of thousands of Maryland debt-collection lawsuits may be dismissed because the collections firm that brought the claims, Mann Bracken LLP, is going under. The firm, which had office around the country, had an office here in Rockville. If these cases are dismissed, the firm faces a creditors legal malpractice action. I wonder if they have coverage.

I would think Maryland District Court judges everywhere are cracking champagne. These cases must be incredibly boring and time consuming.

I was amazed that there is actually a blog that is tracking the fall of this law firm. Can you imagine? I guess personal injury lawyers are beloved compared to collection lawyers. You can find this blog for yourself here.

I'm a big fan of the little guy but I cannot exactly rejoice when there are no consequences for not paying your bills.

July 22, 2009

Leo Hylan's Blog Post on Verizon Publishing 12,500 Unlisted Phone Numbers in Washington County

Leo Hylan has a series of blog posts about an issue I had not heard about. Apparently, Verizon put the names of 12,500 people in Washington County, Maryland who had unlisted numbers in their most recent yellow pages. These people actually paid to have their number unlisted. (Did you know that you have to pay to have your number unlisted? I had no idea?)

Our lawyers are not handling these cases (we only handle personal injury claims) but I think Leo may be. You can find his information at the bottom of this blog post.

July 22, 2009

Leo Hylan's Blog Post on Verizon Publishing 12,500 Unlisted Phone Numbers in Washington County

Leo Hylan has a series of blog posts about an issue I had not heard about. Apparently, Verizon put the names of 12,500 people in Washington County, Maryland who had unlisted numbers in their most recent yellow pages. These people actually paid to have their number unlisted. (Did you know that you have to pay to have your number unlisted? I had no idea?)

Our lawyers are not handling these cases (we only handle personal injury claims) but I think Leo may be. You can find his information at the bottom of this blog post.

January 6, 2009

Health Club Charged

The Severna Park Fitness and Health Blog reports that Harbor Nautilus in Westminster has been charged with a number of violations of Maryland’s Heath Club law. Many consumers have trepidations about health and fitness clubs taking money out of their accounts electronically every month. This is a reminder that it is worth it to look at your bank statements every month. This might be a statement of the obvious but I think an alarming number of consumers in Maryland do not.

The tough thing about a case like this is that a lawyer is not going to touch it with a ten foot pole because the economics involve such small amounts of money. Accordingly, the state of Maryland is really the first and last resource to protect consumers.

October 14, 2008

Why Are All of Those Lawyers Smiling?

Dear Maryland Daily Record Editor:

Unless they hail from Hollywood, I don’t expect lawyers to be savvy enough to have had enough foresight not to be all smiles on an article about bankruptcy, but I think your paper could have been more thoughtful. (Maryland Lawyer cover story, “The Business of Bankruptcy Law,” October 6, 2008)

In hindsight, I am sure these attorneys did not want to appear gleeful about the fact that the misfortune of others has caused their business to skyrocket.

If ever there was a cause for the photographer to tell their subjects to NOT to smile, it was for the picture that accompanied an article about bankruptcy.

This editorial was written by Mike Henderson with the Baltimore Metro Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors. Good for Mr. Henderson for writing this editorial. The Maryland Daily Record also deserves credit for publishing this editorial. Mike got it right; the Daily Record and these lawyers got it wrong. Everyone agrees, we can all move on.

A friend of mine was telling his much younger brother recently that it would help him stay out of trouble if he would get good grades. He told him "everything goes down better with good grades."

Right now, lawyers - most notably personal injury lawyers - are the kids with bad grades. Anything we do either individually or as a group that is questionable is immediately given scrutiny. Every lawyer should be keeping this in mind.

September 16, 2008

Maryland Athletic Club Lawsuit Settles

The Severna Park Fitness and Health Blog, published by Club One Fitness in Millersville, has a post today on a Maryland Daily Record article written by Danny Jacobs involving a woman who sued the Maryland Athletic Club ("MAC") over a theft that occurred at the club. The case was settled by the Maryland Athletic Club just before it went to trial in Baltimore City earlier this month.

I'm surprised the Maryland Athletic Club did not file a motion for summary judgment based on what I'm sure is a clause in their contract that says they are not responsible for thefts at their gym even if the theft is due to the Maryland Athletic Club's negligence. (I'm assuming, I have never read the MAC's contract.) Accordingly to Seigneur v. National Fitness Inst., Inc., 132 Md. App. 271(2000), this is permissible contract language.

Elsewhere, I have talked about how so many silly cases in Maryland find their way to Circuit Court which decreases average jury verdicts in Maryland well below the national average. This is yet another example.

August 12, 2008

Montgomery County Jury Verdict

A jury ordered Wells Fargo Bank to pay $1.25 million in damages for allegedly targeting low-income minority customers for loans they could not afford. One million dollars of the award was punitive damages.

I hate when people comment on verdicts when they really don’t know the evidence. Well, unless those “people” are me. I cannot imagine facts that would lead me to award punitive damages in a case like this. I’m not a huge fan of punitive damages anyway but, in this case, regardless of the facts, this woman took out a loan that she could not pay back. Maybe the facts are such that she deserves something. But not $1.25 million.