Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals

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This suit arose from the actions of iStar’s Board of Directors in modifying performance-based executive compensation awards, which were granted in the form of stock. Petitioners filed suit against current and former members of iStar’s Board and senior management, alleging breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, waste of corporate assets, breach of contract, and promissory estoppel. The circuit court dismissed all of Petitioners’ claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Petitioners’ claims were properly dismissed by the circuit court for failure to overcome the business judgment rule presumption; and (2) furthermore, Petitioners’ claims for breach of contract and promissory estoppel are derivative claims that are subject to the business judgment rule. View "Oliveira v. Sugarman" 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 owners of two properties leased them to developer-tenants for the purpose of building an apartment building on each. As construction was beginning, the landlords breached the leases by refusing to provide estoppel certificates and contesting the tenants' building permits. The landlords' breach prevented the tenants from obtaining financing, which ended the development project. The tenants sued for lost profits. Before trial, the circuit court ruled against the landlords on several motions, holding in part (1) the landlords could not introduce evidence of the 2008 crash in the real estate market to show that the tenants would not have made profits, and (2) the tenants could introduce evidence of the landlords' reasons for breaching, including communications with their former counsel. The jury awarded the tenants over $36 million in damages, holding the landlords jointly and severally liable. The court of special appeals held the landlords could not be held jointly and severally liable but otherwise affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the trial court did nor err in excluding all evidence of post-breach market data in measuring damages; and (2) the landlord waived the attorney-client privilege as to communications relevant to the subject matter of the claim of bad faith. View "CR-RSC Tower I, LLC v. RSC Tower I, LLC" 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

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These two consolidated appeals involved two lawsuits, a derivative claim and a direct shareholder action, both arising from a series of stock transactions in two family corporations owned primarily by eight siblings. After the death of one of the sisters, the corporations attempted to repurchase her stock pursuant to the terms of a stock purchase agreement. The sister's estate refused. The corporations filed a declaratory judgment action, seeking enforcement of the agreement. Meanwhile, two siblings, aggrieved by an earlier stock transaction, filed a derivative action, alleging self-dealing and breach of fiduciary duty. The circuit court (1) granted summary judgment in favor of the corporations on the derivative action after deferring to the judgment of a special litigation committee (SLC); and (2) granted summary judgment to the corporation in the declaratory judgment proceeding. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the circuit court's judgment in the derivative action, holding that the court made an inadequate inquiry into the SLC's independence and the reasonableness of its procedures; and (2) reversed in part the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in the declaratory judgment action, holding that the circuit court erroneously applied res judicata to the issue.

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The Maryland Real Estate Commission revoked the real estate licenses of Joel Pautsch pursuant to Md. Code Ann. Bus. Occ. & Prof. 17-322(b)(24)(i) based on Pautsch's convictions for child abuse. The circuit court affirmed after finding there was competent, material and substantial evidence to support the Commission's decision. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) there was substantial evidence upon which the Commission relief to support its finding that there was a nexus between Pautsch's convictions and his professional activities; and (2) the sanction was neither arbitrary nor capricious because Pautsch's crimes undermined his trustworthiness in dealing with the public during the course of providing real estate brokerage services and negatively impacted his character and reputation.