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Articles Posted in Consumer 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.

Blood v. Stoneridge at Fountain Green Homeowners is an interesting case not only because the opinion begins with an Elton John verse from “Don’t Let the Sun Come Down on Me.”

Facts of Blood v. Stoneridge

In Blood, two Harford County (Bel Air) homeowners installed solar panels on their roofs. Big solar fans apparently, they installed fifteen solar panels on the front roof and thirty-three solar panels on the rear roof.

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 applies.

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.

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 bit.

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

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 a referendum of a municipal annexation resolution, we conclude that the Legislature has required enactment to precede petitioning. We turn from 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 their minds around.

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 affects the lives of a few 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.

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 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? Probably 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.

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 the Maryland high court reversed the trial judge’s decision.

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 will be posted all over the Internet and, most likely, you will get mocked.

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.