Articles Posted in Consumer Law

If you are overwhelmed by debt, filing bankruptcy is often the best possible solution. A successful bankruptcy can wipe out all of your unsecured debt and give you a fresh start financially. Unfortunately, the process of filing for bankruptcy is not free. Between attorney’s fees and court filing fees bankruptcy can be pretty expensive, which is a major concern for people who are already under financial stress.

In this post, we will look at how much it can cost to file for bankruptcy in Maryland. We will look at the going rate currently charged by Maryland bankruptcy attorneys and the filing fees for both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

Court Filing Fees for Bankruptcy

This week, the Maryland Appellate Court issued an unreported opinion in Montgomery Mall Condo, LLC vs. Peking Palace Corp.  We usually do not summarize unreported opinions because you technically cannot cite unreported opinions.  But that line is getting more blurred in 2023. This case addresses the application of res judicata and collateral estoppel doctrines in a case, which are issues of interest to Maryland personal injury lawyers.  This case involves a breach of lease and a breach of guaranty claim but the doctrines are applied with equal force in injury cases. This case also underscores that while many people did well economically during the COVID pandemic, some businesses were destroyed.

Facts of Montgomery Mall Condo, LLC vs. Peking Palace Corp

Montgomery Mall, a really great mall back in the day, entered into a lease agreement with Peking Palace, a restaurant business owned by Liu. As part of the agreement, Liu personally guaranteed the full payment and performance of Peking Palace’s obligations under the lease.

The Maryland Appellate Court decided in the Matter of Mark McCloy, a handgun permit case.

In 1999, Mark McCloy pleaded guilty to witness tampering in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. He was sentenced to six months of home detention and five years of probation.

In 2015, McCloy applied for a Maryland Handgun Qualification License (HQL). The Maryland State Police (MSP) approved his application. McCloy used this license to purchase several firearms. When he applied for a renewal of his HQL in 2021, police did another background check and discovered his 1999 conviction. The MSP sent McCloy a letter informing him of the permit denial and his right to appeal the decision.

Last month, the Maryland Appellate Court involved an interesting landlord-tenant dispute involving the Maryland Security Deposit Act.

Security Deposit Law in Maryland

Before we get to the case, let’s talk about security deposits in Maryland. Security deposit laws in the state of Maryland play a crucial role in protecting the rights and interests of both landlords and tenants.

Financial difficulties can be overwhelming. Considering bankruptcy is a challenging decision. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the available bankruptcy options in Maryland, the processes involved, and the implications of each choice. Our goal is to equip you with the knowledge necessary to make an informed decision about your financial future to find a path to get back to where you should be.

Bankruptcy in Maryland

As a personal injury lawyer, I get questions from people wanting to know if they can sue in various situations.  All of our attorneys do.  One of the questions we get most often is, “can I sue if my dog gets attacked and injured by another dog?”

The emotional motivation is easy to understand, right? People love their dogs and view them as full family members. If your beloved dog gets viciously attacked and injured or even killed by another dog right in front of you, it’s only natural to want justice.

Our lawyers get this question so often because dog-on-dog attacks are widespread. According to the VCA, attacks by other dogs are the most common reason for emergency veterinarian care.

Last, week, the Maryland Appellate Court decided Patriot Construction, LLC v. VK Electrical Services, LLC. The case involved a subcontract between Patriot and VKES for electrical work on an NSA project, including an important notice, pay-when-paid provision, and additional ticket work that Patriot did not authorize in writing. So the opinion raises some intersteting issues about whether a part will be bound to a contract when it makes agreements outside of the written language of a pay-when-paid contract.

Facts of Patriot Construction, LLC v. VK Electrical Services, LLC

Patriot had a contract with the Maryland Procurement Office of the National Security Agency to provide general contractor services for a project at Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County. Patriot subcontracted VKES to perform electrical work for $495,000. The subcontract stated that no changes could be made without written approval from Patriot. The subcontract also included a “pay-when-paid provision.”   I’ll explain what a pay-when-paid provision is in a moment.

This post will explain the applicable statute of limitations on the collection of debt under Maryland law. Throughout this post, we will refer to the person who borrowed money as the “debtor,” and the lender of that money will be the “creditor.” The statute of limitations is basically like a legal time limit or deadline. If the statute of limitations has expired, the creditor no longer has the legal right to enforce the debt against you in court.

The applicable statute of limitations in Maryland will depend on the type of debt involved.

Credit Card Debt: 3-Year Statute of Limitations

Under Maryland law, a legally binding contract must be supported by consideration provided by both parties.  Consideration is something of value that is bargained for and received by a promisor from a promise. In practical terms, this means both parties have to be giving up something for there to be a valid contract. Let’s do a quick example to make sure we are reading off the same page.  You say you like my shirt.  I say I’ll give it to you if you like it that much.  Let me just wash it for you.  I change my mind.  We do not have a valid contract because you did not give or promise to give me anything of value. Let’s change it.  You say you like my shirt.  I say I’ll give it to you if you promise to drive me to the store to get myself a new one.  That offer to drive me to the store is valid consideration because you now have a bargained-for exchange, albeit maybe an unfair one.

Maryland Law on Contract Consideration

Under Maryland Commercial Law Article, Section 3-303(b), consideration is defined as any consideration sufficient to support a simple contract. Like many states, Maryland courts will not get bogged down in how valuable the consideration was or whether the deal is fair.  So unless there if foul play, Maryland courts will not inquire into the adequacy of value exacted for a promise so long as it has some value. Blumenthal v. Heron, 261 Md. 234, 274 A.2d 636 (1971).  Even $1 in consideration may be sufficient to form a contract under Maryland law.

With hundreds of thousands of confirmed cases and increasing deaths worldwide, COVID-19 has quickly become the only topic of conversation.  I can no longer remember what we used to talk about. If you own a business, you have probably felt the effects of the pandemic more substantively.  We have. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) will hear oral arguments in late July, about whether to consolidate and centralize lawsuits involving COVID-19 insurance coverage. After the SARS outbreak in 2003, many insurance carriers created policies made to include a vague virus exclusion as a reason for them not to cover businesses who have been paying insurance for years. Unfortunately, in most cases, insurance companies did not offer policies without this exclusion or the ability to buy virus coverage. On April 20, plaintiffs’ lawyers filed a motion to form an MDL. The motion filed in the Northern District of Illinois (and another was filed in Pennsylvania) alleges that there are two key issues that need to be decided in this litigation: business interruption cases turn on two questions: (1) whether COVID-19 causes “physical damage or loss to property” and, (2) whether the COVID was “present” on the insured property.  Those issues should be decided in one litigation for efficiency and for consistent rulings. The court has yet to decide whether to grant plaintiffs’ motion for an MDL class action. business interruption insurance

What Is the Benefit of Centralizing Claims and What Can I Expect?

The JPML will consider whether to consolidate both individual and class action lawsuits. The majority of these lawsuits surround the effect of the pandemic on business and insurance carriers. As a result of the pandemic, businesses have been outraged to find that their insurance refused to cover their losses, regardless of the policy. Most business owners who have filed a suit were under the impression that they were covered for the pandemic, because of their business interruption insurance. However, business interruption insurance policies typically only trigger if there’s a direct physical loss to property; they do not cover virus and bacteria. Insurance carriers in response have denied many claims, claiming that the virus was an exclusion in the coverage, written in the fine print of the policy. Various states have proposed legislation to resolve the situation. However, in the near future, there’s no immediate clarity for business owners or insurers.

With a growing number of complaints being filed in U.S. District Courts nationwide, several parties filed a motion to transfer, asking the JPML to centralize the claims before one judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Centralizing the claims would promote a more efficient and universal process, while also avoiding duplicative discovery into similar issues presented by each case. Somewhat predictably, insurance carriers have filed an opposition to the establishment of consolidated proceedings altogether. On July 30, arguments will be presented through a videoconference due to the ongoing pandemic. It is likely that in the time leading up to the hearing, thousands of businesses who have suffered similar effects will likely look to file lawsuits as well. In complex litigation, where numerous claims regarding similar situations and similar injuries have occurred as a result of the same circumstance, it is common to centralize the litigation for pretrial proceedings.

What Should You Do if You Have Lost Income as a Result of COVID-19?

The most important first step for any person or business owner is to collect evidence that will allow you to file a business interruption claim. You want to talk to a lawyer quick. There could be notice provisions and other technicalities that could bar a future claim.

Gathering as much information as possible and contacting your insurance carrier will allow them to determine whether your claims are covered.  Most insurance carriers are not covering losses due to the pandemic which is why there will be litigation for years seeking coverage.  However, if a policyholder files a claim within the deadline requirements for first notice of losses, it allows you to still dispute the insurance carrier’s decision. Before the July hearing, there hasn’t been a binding decision from any court in the country that makes provisions and exclusions in the insurance contract enforceable, at least concerning COVID-19 claims. By following the strict deadline requirements, it may allow you to dispute the claim decision at a later date when there has been regulations or court precedent passed universally. Sample-Business-Interruption-2   Regardless of any virus exclusion policy, you may still recover some damages. It’s not clear whether the virus exclusion will be enforceable and there is currently nothing to make a clear distinction. Making sure that you’ve followed the requisite steps will all you to not be precluded from recovery in the future.

What Else Should I Do?

What started as a judicial question has moved to both the legislative and executive branches. Legislative bills that would require insurers to pay COVID-19 business interruption claims have been introduced in eight states so far. President Trump also pronounced his support for claims made by business owners who purchased insurance policies without any virus exclusions during an April 10 press briefing. It is an election year so politicians will be pandering to business owners. That is good for you.

These are certainly unprecedented times we are living in. Moving forward in the coming weeks business owners can expect more clarity. For now, you should stay safe and healthy and take some additional steps to help yourself later down the road.

  • Stay up to date – Following the latest consolidation hearings, regulations, and restrictions from state and federal governments. This will help you stay in compliance. Doing so, will not preclude you from recovery and allow you to plan for the future.
  • Review your policies –You should take some time to familiarize yourself with the remainder of your policy, as well as other exclusions that may apply to you or your business. Doing so, will keep you up to date and acutely aware of how your policy affects your circumstances.