Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals, which reversed the determination of the Commissioner of Labor and Industry that the Whiting-Turner Contracting Company violated Md. Code Ann. Lab. & Employee. 5-104(a) by failing to “furnish employment and a place of employment which were free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees,” holding that there was substantial evidence for the Commissioner to determine that Whiting-Turner violated section 5-104(a). Specifically, the Court of Appeals held that the Commissioner correctly determined (1) Whiting-Turner’s failure to follow the shoring-tower manufacturer’s instructions to use looser braces in assembling a shoring tower supporting a concrete slab constituted a recognized hazard within the meaning of section 5-104(a); and (2) Whiting-Turner’s use of an undersized spacer beam in the upper support system of a shoring tower constituted a recognized hazard within the meaning of section 5-104(a). View "Commissioner of Labor & Industry v. Whiting-Turner Contracting Co." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the Hartford County Housing Agency (HCHA) terminating Petitioner’s voucher, holding that the HCHA complied with procedural due process procedures under Maryland law and the United States Constitution and that the record contained substantial evidence. Petitioner sought judicial review of the HCHA’s decision to terminate Petitioner’s voucher. The circuit court determined that the record contained substantial evidence to justify the HCHA’s decision and upheld the termination. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the HCHA is not an “agency” for the purposes of the Maryland Administrative Procedure Act, and therefore, Petitioner was not entitled to a contested case hearing; and (2) Petitioner was afforded due process through an informal hearing and the HCHA’s written decision. View "McDonell v. Harford County Housing Agency" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Mayor and Common Council of Westminster (the Council), holding that substantial evidence in the record as a whole supported the Council’s denial of Petitioner’s application to amend the General Development Plan for Wakefield Valley (the Wakefield Valley GDP) to permit construction of fifty-three homes on “Parcel W” of a former golf course (the Application). After the Council voted to deny the Application, the Council adopted an ordinance denying the Application and incorporating an attached written decision. The circuit court affirmed the Council’s decision as set forth in the ordinance. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the Council’s decision denying the Application was a quasi-judicial act, not a legislative act, as was therefore subject to judicial review; (2) the Council did not err in considering the zonal classification of Parcel W in evaluating the Application; and (3) there was substantial evidence in the record to support the Council’s decision. View "WV DIA Westminster, LLC v. Mayor & Common Council of Westminster" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the circuit court, holding that, under the plain language of Md. Code Ann., Transp. (TR) 16-205.1(b)(2)(ii), a law enforcement officer in requesting that a driver take an alcohol concentration test is not required specifically to advise the driver whether the test will be a blood test or a breath test. After James Nelson crashed a vehicle that he had been driving, Corporal Brandon Foor requested that Nelson take an alcohol concentration test. Nelson refused, and Corporal Foor confiscated Nelson’s commercial driver’s license. An administrative law judge determined that Nelson had violated TR 16-205.1 and ordered that Nelson’s commercial driver’s license be disqualified for twelve months. The circuit court reversed, holding that Corporal Foor was required specifically to request that Nelson take a blood test. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that an officer is not required specifically to request that a driver take a blood test or a breath test, and the circuit court erred in determining otherwise. View "Motor Vehicle Administration v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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In this case involving the State Correctional Officers’ Bill of Rights and the interplay between Md. Code Ann. 10-910(b)(1) and 10-910(b)(6), the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals concluding that an appointing authority may not have the opportunity to hold another penalty-increase meeting after the thirty-day deadline for issuing a final order when recording equipment malfunctioned preventing the substance of the initial meeting from being captured “on the record,” holding that the proper remedy for the unforeseen technological glitch is that the parties must reconvene for another meeting to be held on the record. Section 10-910(b)(1) provides that [w]ithin 30 days after receipt of” the hearing board’s recommended penalty, “the appointing authority shall…issue a final order.” Section 10-910(b)(6) states that “the appointing authority may increase the recommended penalty” if the appointing authority “meets with the [charged] correctional officer and allows” the officer “to be heard on the record.” The Court of Appeals concluded in this case that the appointing authority’s failure to satisfy the “on the record” requirement was incurable after the thirty-day deadline. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that because the technical failure could be easily cured with a remand and because the appointing authority must protect the due process rights of a charged correctional officer by adhering to all the enumerated procedures, remand was required to cure the procedural defect. View "Baltimore City Detention Center v. Foy" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that the Public Service Commission (Commission) acted within its authority when it approved the acquisition of Pepco Holdings, Inc. (PHI) and its utility subsidiaries by Exelon Corporation (Exelon). The General Assembly has provided for judicial review of decisions of the Commission assessing and either approving or rejecting an acquisition of a company that supplies electricity in the State, including a merger with another utility. At issue here was the Commission’s approval of the acquisition of PHI and its utility subsidiaries by Exelon. The circuit court and Court of Special Appeals concluded that the Commission acted within its authority when it approved the transaction. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the Commission properly considered the factors listed in Md. Code Pub. Util. Cos. 6-105(g)(2) and exercised its discretion as to what weight to accord factors other than those specifically listed in the statute; and (2) the Commission acted neither arbitrarily nor capriciously in evaluating harm to renewable and distributed generation markets. View "Office of People's Counsel v. Maryland Public Service Commission" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Court of Appeals was the correct interpretation of Md. Code Ann. Pub. Util. (PU) 4-210, known as the STRIDE statute, which allows Maryland gas companies more timely cost recovery if they submit plans that increase the pace of natural gas infrastructure improvements. The Maryland Public Service Commission, the circuit court of Montgomery County, and the court of special appeals each concluded that the STRIDE statute provides accelerated cost recovery only for gas infrastructure projects located in the State. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the STRIDE statute’s legislative history supports this Court’s interpretation that PU 4-210 is unambiguous and requires that “gas infrastructure improvements” be located “in the State” in order promptly to recover investment costs separate from base rate proceedings. View "Washington Gas Light Co. v. Maryland Public Service Commission" on Justia Law

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At issue in this consolidated appeal was whether the Maryland Collection Agency Licensing Act (MCALA), as revised by a 2007 departmental bill, was constrained to the original scope of collection agencies seeking consumer claims or whether the revised statutory language required principal actors of Maryland’s mortgage market to obtain a collection agency license. In 2007, the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation requested a department bill to revise the definition of collection agencies required to obtain the MCALA license. The enacted departmental bill changed MCALA’s definition of “collection agencies” to include a person who engages in the business of “collecting a consumer claim the person owns if the claim was in default when the person acquired it[.]” The circuit courts below dismissed the foreclosure actions at issue in this appeal, concluding that foreign statutory trusts acting as a repository for defaulted mortgage debts were required to obtain a MCALA license before its substitute trustees filed the foreclosure actions. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding that the foreign statutory trusts did not fall under the definition of “collection agencies” that are licensed and regulated by MCALA, and therefore, the foreign statutory trusts were not required to obtain a license under MCALA before the substitute trustees instituted foreclosure proceedings on their behalf. View "Blackstone v. Sharma" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether Petitioner’s request for the release of notes containing possible personnel information relating to her performance as an employee of the Montgomery County Attorney’s office were subject to disclosure under the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA). Montgomery County (Respondent) withheld the subject notes when responding to Petitioner’s MPIA request, claiming that the notes were privileged, non-public information. Petitioner then filed a complaint in the circuit court alleging that Respondent violated the MPIA and requesting an order requiring the disclosure of the documents. The circuit court granted Respondent’s motion to dismiss, concluding that an in camera review was not required because the notes were not considered personnel records pursuant to the Montgomery County personnel regulations. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals vacated the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals and remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings, holding (1) the trial court reviewing the denial of an MPIA request must be satisfied that the rationale offered by the agency supports the denial of the request; and (2) the trial court in this case did not sufficiently review the denial of Petitioner’s MPIA request. View "Lamson v. Montgomery County, Md." on Justia Law

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In this workers’ compensation case, the Court of Appeals clarified an exception to the "going and coming rule" - the special mission or errand doctrine. Employee, who was employed by Montgomery County, was injured in a car accident while driving from her home to a mandatory work training on a Saturday, which was normally her day off. The Workers’ Compensation Commission awarded compensation, finding that Employee’s injury arose out of and in the course of employment. The County sought judicial review, arguing that the going and coming rule prohibited recovery because accidental injuries sustained while going to or coming from work do not ordinarily arise out of and in the course of employment, and none of the exceptions to the rule applied. The circuit court granted summary judgment for the County. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the going and coming rule, rather than the traveling employee doctrine, controlled Plaintiff’s case; but (2) the undisputed facts permitted a reasonable conclusion that the special mission exception to the going and coming rule applied in this case. View "Calvo v. Montgomery County, Maryland" on Justia Law