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I frequently get an email that is some version of this one on the diminished value of cars after a crash:

Hello Professor Miller,

It’s [name withheld], and I took Sports Law from you (really learned a lot by the way). Anyway, the reason, for my [voicemail], and why I’m writing is because I have a friend who has a problem. He purchased what I believed was an SUV, brand new in 2006. A few months ago it was stolen and vandalized. The police were eventually able to recover it, but it was totaled. According to my friend the blue book values the car at a certain amount, but the insurance company is not willing to pay him anything near the blue book value of the car. The more time passes the more the value decreases. My friend would like to recover the fair value of his vehicle and would like to know what his recovery rights are. I am sure you are incredibly busy, but my friend also wanted me to refer him to someone I trusted and was an expert in insurance law.

There is an interesting federal court opinion that came out this month on a street artist/violinist who was barred by a police officer from playing the Ocean City boardwalk. Faced with the threat of

arrest, three months in jail and a $500 fine, plaintiff waited a year and filed a lawsuit.

Plaintiff filed a motion for injunctive relief, asking the court order Ocean City not to enforce a 30-foot audibility restriction on the O.C. boardwalk.

Sometimes, I think we should be harder on lawyers who have bad intent. But this is a little over the top for me.

In Attorney Grievance Commission v. Kepple, a lawyer was given an indefinite suspension of at least 30 days because 13 years ago she hid her real state of residence so she could get in-state tuition. Basically, she pretended she lived in West Virginia to get in-state tuition.

How did she get caught? Her spiteful ex-husband ratted her out.

After almost six years, the Maryland Court of Appeals shuts down a public interest group’s attempt to block the creation of a dairy farm creamery. The court found that the third party group did not have standing because the easement they sought to enforce did not include them. A long fight for someone who, as it turned out, had no skin in the game.

Here is what happened. Defendants own an organic dairy farm that is located on 199 acres in the Long Green Valley area of Baltimore County. The Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF) is a statutorily created organization that buys easements on farm owner’s lands, making them promise that they will only use it for farming purposes. Competition to get into the program is fierce, but in 1997, Bellevale sold a MALPF easement to MALPF for $796,500.

In 2007, the defendant proposed to build a 10,000 square foot creamery operation on the land and received approval from the MALPF because it created and stored milk, cheese, and other dairy products. The terms were compliant with MALPF’s statutory and organizational goals. However, another land preservation organization, the Long Green Valley Association (LGVA), took issue with the creamery and filed several complaints and emergency hearings with the Deputy Zoning Commissioner for Baltimore County. All the bureaucratic avenues ultimately declared that the creamery counted as a “farm” and was being created for “farming purposes.” Finally, the LGVA filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Baltimore County.

The subject of DNA testing has been increasingly prevalent in Maryland courtrooms. In the past few months, a Maryland case (Maryland v. King) was argued in the Supreme Court on whether an arrested person’s DNA could be legally taken. No matter one’s view on its collection, DNA sometimes plays a large role in determining who did or did not do something. However, they recently decided that Brown v. Maryland shows an example of how allegedly exonerating DNA results that might not even matter.

Brown features a particularly violent assault and rape of a young woman. She was abducted, beaten, handcuffed, and tortured– among other things, that the court understated as being “not pretty.” I think the word “unimaginable” works.

Anyway, Brown was found guilty and convicted to eighty-five years in prison. Now he attempted to utilize a new Maryland statute that granted a new trial if post-conviction DNA was (1) favorable to the petitioner and there was (2) a substantial possibility…that the petitioner would not have been convicted if the results were known at trial.

Four former and current black police officers in Annapolis have filed suit in federal court against the city. The officers claiming they were discriminated against because they are black and, as a result, were turned down for promotions and opportunities to advance.

These kinds of cases are so hard to prove even when they are true. Two of the officers argue disparate treatment which means while the City of Annapolis might use facially neutral employment practices, they have had an unjustified adverse impact on these black officers. In other words, maybe it was not intentional discrimination, but it is.

The Baltimore Sun reports that the city has 26 black officers on its 117-member force, which sounds reasonable. But that does not mean there was no discrimination. You just can’t read a story like this and know what happened.

A federal judge in Baltimore ruled that a gender discrimination lawsuit against Ripken Professional Baseball will continue, rejecting Ripken’s argument that the case should be dismissed or that arbitration should be compelled.

Interesting facts. Woman takes a job with Ripken Baseball in 2006 as an Account Representative. She gets promoted to Assistant General Manager of Ticket Sales in 2010. In 2011, she started dating a subordinate employee which she claims happened all the time at Ripken (like it does in the rest of the world) in spite of the fact that the employee handbook says it is a no-no. Ripken – not Cal, I’m referring to the organization – fires her, citing the relationship and, perhaps more importantly, that they told others to lie about the affair. The woman alleges that she was treated differently from her male colleagues who engaged in similar behavior with subordinates.

If true, maybe she was discriminated against? But that does not answer the question. Maybe she was discriminated against because she was not as good an employee as the others. The question, in this case, is whether she would have been fired if she was a man. Boy, that is a tough question for a judge or jury to figure out.

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Judge William D. Quarles Jr. denied a motion for summary judgment filed by an accounting firm in a declaratory judgment action seeking coverage for a malpractice claim. A claim against Trice, Geary & Myers alleged that the firm recommended that its clients participate in a defined benefit pension plan which caused them to unnecessarily be audited and forced to incur attorneys’ fees and tax debt. The insurance company, CAMICO Mutual, denied coverage because, well, that is what insurance companies do. CAMICO Mutual says it had no duty to defend the accounting firm because of the underlying allegations related to the insureds’ work as insurance agents and that the policy excluded claims “in connection with or arising out of any act, error or omission by any Insured in his/her capacity as an (insurance) agent or broker.” (Actually, they might have a point here, I hate to say.) I remember having a case in from of Judge Quarles when I was a defense lawyer that I thought was ripe for summary judgment. His response then was essentially, “You probably do but let discovery play itself out a bit first.” Similarly, here the court found discovery appropriate to flush out the arguments. That’s not a bad idea, but I bet that discovery will shed little light on the interpretation of what appears to be an ambiguous contract. One good piece of advice comes out of this case. Get enough coverage to cover any claims that might get filed against you. This is a $180,000 claim with only 100k in coverage even if they can get CAMICO on the hook. You can find the full opinion in Trice, Geary & Myers, LLC v. CAMICO Mutual here.  

Accounting Malpractice Verdicts and Settlements

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The Maryland Senate today took a big step forward on gun control today, approving legislation to require the training, licensing and fingerprinting of handgun purchasers and the banning of purchase of semi-automatic assault weapons.

The Sandy Hook tragedy continues to have long tentacles. Let’s see what the House of Delegates does.