Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals

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Lender’s assignee (Assignee), while operating as an unlicensed debt collector, obtained a judgment against a credit card debtor (Debtor) in district court. Debtor’s contract with Lender included an arbitration provision. Debtor then filed a class action suit collaterally attacking the judgment based on violations of Maryland consumer protection laws. Assignee filed a motion to arbitrate the class action suit pursuant to an arbitration clause between Lender and Debtor. Assignee moved to compel arbitration. The circuit court granted the motion to compel, thus rejecting Debtor’s argument that Assignee waived its right to arbitrate when it brought its collection action against Debtor. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that because Assignee’s collection action was related to Debtor’s claims, Assignee waived its contractual right to arbitrate Debtor’s claims when it chose to litigate the collection action. View "Cain v. Midland Funding, LLC" on Justia Law

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Brown, Brown & Brown, P.C. (BB&B), a Virginia law firm, entered into more than fifty agreements over a nine-month period with Maryland homeowners facing foreclosure. Under the agreements, in return for an advance payment of money, BB&B promised to attempt to renegotiate the mortgage loan so that the homeowner could avoid foreclosure. Ultimately, BB&B did not obtain loan modifications for any of the homeowners. The Commissioner of Financial Regulation (Commissioner) concluded that BB&B had violated the Maryland Credit Services Businesses Act (MCSBA) and directed BB&B to pay treble damages to the Maryland homeowners with whom they had agreements. The circuit court reversed, concluding that the MCSBA did not apply to BB&B because the agreements at issue were for legal services rather than credit services. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) BB&B’s activities fell within the definition of “credit services business” under the MCSBA; and (2) BB&B did not qualify for the attorney exemption in the MCSBA. View "Comm'r of Fin. Regulation v. Brown, Brown & Brown, P.C." on Justia Law

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The Commissioner of Financial Regulation of the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation brought an administrative enforcement action against CashCall, Inc., a California corporation that marketed high-interest loans to consumers through television and internet advertisements, and John Paul Reddam (together, Petitioners), the corporation’s president and owner, alleging that Petitioners violated the Maryland Credit Services Business Act (MCSBA). The Commissioner concluded that CashCall was subject to the MCSBA, ordered Petitioners to cease and desist from engaging in the credit services business, and ordered that Petitioners pay a civil penalty. The circuit court reversed, concluding that CashCall was not a “credit services” business under the MCSBA. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the MCSBA’s definition of a “credit services business” requires there to be a direct payment from a consumer to an entity whose primary business is to assist consumers in obtaining loans that would be usurious under Maryland law. View "CashCall, Inc. v. Comm'r of Fin. Regulation" on Justia Law

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The Consumer Protection Division of Maryland’s Office of the Attorney General (CPD) concluded that Petitioner and his companies engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices in violation of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (CPA). The CPD issued sanctions, imposed civil penalties, and assessed costs. Thereafter, the Maryland State Board of Plumbing (the Board) opened a complaint against Petitioner alleging that Petitioner had violated the Maryland Plumbing act (MPA). The Board’s case largely consisted of the CPD’s findings and conclusions. The Board, by application of the doctrine of collateral estoppel, adopted the findings of fact made by the CPD and concluded that Petitioner violated the MPA. The Board revoked Petitioner’s master plumber license and imposed a civil penalty. The circuit court ruled that the Board properly invoked collateral estoppel in adopting the CPD’s findings of fact. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the doctrine of offensive non-mutual collateral estoppel is permissible in this State and can be invoked to grant preclusive effect to an administrative order; and (2) Petitioner’s double jeopardy protections were not violated when the Board and the CPD both fined him for the same conduct. View "Garrity v. State Bd. of Plumbing" on Justia Law

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Respondent had his vehicle serviced at Russel Collision and was billed for the repairs. Jeremy Martin, Russel Collision’s manager, later signed a “Notice of Sale of Motor Vehicle to Satisfy a Lien” for Respondent’s vehicle. The notice listed the “cost of process” at $1,000, which was the amount to which Russel Collision and Allstate Lien agreed they were entitled to keep Respondent’s car and sell it unless Respondent paid the costs related to the future sale of the car. Respondent’s vehicle was eventually sold at auction. Respondent filed suit against Russel Collision, Martin, and Allstate Lien, alleging that Md. Code Ann. Com. Law ("CL") 16-202(c), which provided Russel Collision a lien for Respondent’s vehicle, does not permit lien recovery costs of $1,000 as fees prior to the sale of the car. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Respondent. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed, holding that, under CL 16-202(c), a motor vehicle lien does not encompass “cost of process” fees and that such fees should not be included in the amount the customer must pay to redeem the vehicle. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that a garagemen’s lien does not encompass lien enforcement costs or expenses or cost of process fees prior to sale should the owner attempt to redeem the vehicle before sale. View "Allstate Lien & Recovery Corp. v. Stansbury" on Justia Law

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This dispute arose out of the alleged exposure of Plaintiff to lead paint at the homes in which she spent her childhood. Petitioner, by her mother, sued the owners of two of the homes, for negligence and unfair trade practices under the Consumer Protection Act. Only the claims against the second owner proceeded to trial. The circuit court awarded summary judgment in favor of Defendant after excluding proposed expert opinion testimony of a pediatrician to establish Defendant's building as the source of Plaintiff's lead exposure and elevated blood lead levels. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion when it excluded the proposed expert testimony; but (2) summary judgment in this case was not appropriate, as disputes of material fact existed to foreclose a grant of summary judgment. View "Ross v. Housing Auth. of Baltimore City" on Justia Law

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Gladys Garner and Randolph Scott defaulted on their respective automobile loan agreements. Both contracts were governed by the provisions of the Creditor Grantor Closed End Credit Act of the Commercial Law Article (CLEC). The contracts were later assigned to Ally Financial, Inc., Nuvell National Auto Finance, and Nuvell Financial Services (collectively, GMAC). GMAC repossessed both vehicles and informed the debtors that the vehicles would be sold at a "public auction." Both cars were later sold. The debtors filed separate complaints against GMAC alleging, in part, that GMAC violated the CLEC because the sales of their cars were in reality "private sales," requiring GMAC to provide a detailed post-sale disclosure to them under the CLEC, which GMAC had not done. The federal district court combined the cases and granted summary judgment for GMAC, concluding the sales were "public auctions" because they were both widely advertised and open to the public for competitive bidding. The federal appellate court then certified an issue for clarification to the Maryland Court of Appeals. The Court answered that the auctions were in reality "private sales" because attendance was limited to those who paid a refundable $1,000 cash deposit. View "Gardner v. Ally Fin., Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitioner filed a complaint against Respondent for unfair and deceptive trade practices and for common law fraud. Petitioner's complaint was based on an automobile warranty he purchased from Respondent that expired more than two years earlier than he had been led to believe. Petitioner purported to bring his action on behalf of others similarly situated. Before Petitioner filed a motion to certify the class, however, Respondent paid to extend Petitioner's warranty. The circuit court (1) denied Petitioner's motion for class certification, finding that because he had been made whole, Petitioner was no longer a member of any class; (2) granted in part Respondent's motion for summary judgment, finding Petitioner's claim moot; and (3) granted Petitioner attorney's fees for the period before and after Respondent tendered Petitioner individual relief. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Respondent's tender of individual compensatory relief to Petitioner did not require the court to deny class certification; (2) an award of punitive damages is not foreclosed by the tender of individual compensatory damages; and (3) an award of attorney's fees to Petitioner under a fee-shifting provision of the Consumer Protection Act is not limited to fees incurred before the tender. View "Frazier v. Castle Ford, Ltd." on Justia Law

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On behalf of himself and a proposed class of others similarly situated, Plaintiff filed an action challenging the legality of Ticketmaster's collection of a service charge on a concert ticket he purchased for a concert in the city. The complaint was based on provisions of the Baltimore City Code. The Supreme Court accepted certification to answer questions of law and held (1) if a ticket agency is authorized in writing by a licensed exhibitor to sell tickets as an agent of the exhibitor, the ticket agency is not required to be licensed; (2) the Code prohibits the collection of a service charge, in addition to the established price printed on the ticket, in connection with the original sale of the ticket by the exhibitor, and is not limited to ticket resales; (3) the Code does not permit anyone other than a ticket agency licensed under the Code to collect anything more for a ticket than the established price printed on the ticket plus taxes; and (4) a common law action for money had and received will lie to recover money paid in excess of that allowed by statute if the agreement pursuant to which it has been paid has not been fully consummated. View "Bourgeois v. Live Nation Entm't, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was whether the Maryland Credit Services Businesses Act (CSBA) applies to a tax preparer who receives payment from a lending bank for facilitating a consumer's obtention of a refund anticipation loan (RAL) where the tax preparer receives no direct payment from the consumer for this service. In this case, the circuit court dismissed Consumer's CSBA claim for failure to state a claim, concluding that the General Assembly enacted the CSBA to regulate credit repair agencies and not RAL facilitators. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the plain language of the CSBA most logically is understood as reflecting the legislative intent that the "payment of money or other valuable consideration" in return for credit services flow directly from the consumer to the credit service business; and (2) therefore, under the CSBA, Tax Preparer in this case was not a "credit services business" nor a "consumer"; and (3) accordingly, the CSBA did not apply in this case. View "Gomez v. Jackson Hewitt, Inc." on Justia Law