Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the finding of the Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) that Employer and Insurer (collectively, Respondents) were entitled to offset the ordinary disability benefits already paid to Petitioner against the temporary total disability benefits paid to him by Respondents. Petitioner suffered injuries primarily to his back and neck while working for Employer. Employer received two different sets of disability benefits from Employer and Insurer, each awarded by a different state agency. Specifically, Petitioner was granted temporary total disability benefits by the WCC and ordinary disability benefits by the State Retirement Agency. The WCC found that Respondents were entitled to a credit for the ordinary disability benefits already paid to Petitioner. On judicial review, the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the WCC. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that because both sets of benefits compensated Petitioner for the same injury, pursuant to Md. Code Ann. Lab. & Empl. 9-610, the statutory offset properly applied to prevent a double recovery for the same injury. View "Reger v. Washington County Board of Education" on Justia Law

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This case related to three actions: (1) an Endangered Species Act case (ESA case), where the Fund for Animals, Inc. (FFA) and other plaintiffs sued Ringling Brothers and its owner, Feld Entertainment, (collectively, Feld) for the mistreatment of Asian elephants in the Ringling Brothers’ Circus; (2) the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act case (RICO case), where Feld sued FFA and the other plaintiffs in the ESA case for improper conduct; and (3) the coverage case, where FFA sued its insurer (National Union) for not providing coverage to FFA when it was sued by Feld in the RICO case. The findings in the ESA case were adverse to FFA and could have been used against it in the RICO case, thus prejudicing National Union. In this appeal stemming from the coverage dispute, FFA argued that although notice of the RICO claim was late under the policy, the late notification was not prejudicial to National Union. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of National Union. The Court of Special Appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that National Union was not prejudiced in investigating, settling, or defending the RICO claim as a result of any delay in receiving notice of claims brought by FFA. View "National Union Fire Insurance Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa. v. Fund for Animals, Inc." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether an insured may receive personal injury protection (PIP) coverage under a personal motor vehicle liability insurance policy for injuries sustained while driving a taxicab owned by the insured but not covered by the personal motor vehicle liability insurance policy where the policy contains an exclusion for motor vehicles owned but not insured under the policy. The Maryland Insurance Commissioner concluded that the insurer’s denial of coverage was unlawful in this case. The circuit court reversed. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that an insurer of a personal motor vehicle liability insurance policy, which includes PIP coverage, is not responsible, as a result of the application of the personal motor vehicle liability insurance policy’s owned but not insured exclusion, for PIP coverage for injuries the insured sustained while driving a taxicab owned by the insured but not covered by the personal motor vehicle liability insurance policy. View "Maryland Insurance Administration v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Petitioners, United Insurance Company of America and the Reliable Life Insurance Company, filed a declaratory action against Respondents, the Maryland Insurance Administration, et al., (“MIA”) challenging the retroactive enforcement of Md. Code (2011 Repl. Vol., 2015 Supp.) sections 16-118 of the Insurance Article (“Ins.”). Section 16-118 imposed a duty on an insurer who “issues, delivers, or renews a policy of life insurance or an annuity contract . . .” in the State to “perform a comparison of [their] in-force life insurance policies, annuity contracts, and retained assets accounts against the latest version of a death master file to identify any death benefit payments that may be due. . . .” on a regular or semi-annual basis. Prior to this legislation, insurers were under no obligation to research whether a policyholder had died, and the statute did not indicate whether its provisions applied retroactively to existing insurance policies. The circuit court dismissed Petitioners’ action based on the failure to exhaust administrative remedies afforded by the Insurance Article. In an unpublished opinion, the Court of Special Appeals agreed, and affirmed the judgment of the circuit court. After its review, the Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court and affirmed. View "United Insurance v. MD Insurance Admin." on Justia Law

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Ember Buckley was a passenger in a motor vehicle driven by Harvey Betts when the vehicle was involved in an accident. Buckley, who sustained injuries in the accident, settled with GEICO, Betts’ insurer, for the full policy limits and signed a full release of all claims against Betts and a hold harmless agreement in favor of GEICO. Buckley then attempted to recover for the remainder of her outstanding medical bills under her uninsured/underinsured motorist (“UM”) policy with The Brethren Mutual Insurance Company (“Brethren”), which denied coverage. Buckley filed suit, alleging breach of contract and seeking the policy limit in compensatory damages. The circuit court entered summary judgment for Brethren, concluding that the release was a general release, and thus released all entities from future claims, regardless of whether they were a party to the release. The court of special appeals reversed, holding that the general release did not prejudice Buckley’s claim against Brethren. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the broad, all-inclusive language of the release must be read with an eye toward the parties’ overall intent; and (2) that the court of special appeals correctly held that the release did not waive Buckley’s UM claim against Brethren. View "Brethren Mut. Ins. Co. v. Buckley" on Justia Law

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After she was injured in a motor vehicle accident, Petitioner filed suit against Charles Serio, the tortfeasor. Petitioner’s motor vehicle insurer, GEICO, with whom Petitioner had underinsured motorist (“UM”) coverage, intervened as a defendant to protect its possible interest in the litigation. At trial, the parties stipulated that Serio was at fault for the accident, and the only issues before the jury were causation and damages. Petitioner’s counsel offered a proposed jury instruction on the nature of UM coverage, but the trial court refused the instruction, noting that insurance was not the issue at trial. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Petitioner for the amount of her medical bills but did not award damages for future medical expenses or pain and suffering. Petitioner unsuccessfully filed a motion for a new trial, arguing in not giving an instruction about the nature of UM coverage, the trial court confused the jury. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in declining to instruct the jury about the reason Plaintiff’s UM carrier was a party to the tort suit because the issue of UM coverage was not before the jury. View "Keller v. Serio" on Justia Law

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A holding company, whose subsidiaries owned power-generating facilities, filed a complaint against multiple insurers regarding the terms of liability policies the company purchased in the 1970s and 1980s. At issue in this case was whether New York or Pennsylvania law applied to the interpretation of the policies. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the holding company, determining that Pennsylvania law governed the interpretation of the policies. One of the insurers, TIG Insurance Company (“TIG”), appealed. The court of special appeals affirmed, concluding that there was no genuine dispute of material fact that the insurance contracts were made in Pennsylvania, and therefore, Pennsylvania law applied to the policies at issue. The Court of Appeals affirmed and adopted the opinion of the court of special appeals with the exception of the court’s discussion addressing TIG’s argument that the place of countersigning a policy determines the applicable state law because that argument was not preserved for appeal. View "TIG Ins. Co. v. Monongahela Power Co." on Justia Law

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A county-owned police patrol vehicle was damaged in a single-car collision while Respondent, a county police officer, operated the vehicle under the influence of alcohol. The County, a self-insured entity, filed a complaint against Respondent seeking to recover the cost of repairs to the vehicle. The district court ruled that the County could recover damages against Respondent based on an exclusion in the self-insurance guarantee purportedly excluding or disclaiming all insurance coverage on the basis that Respondent operated his vehicle under the influence of alcohol. The circuit court reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Maryland's compulsory motor vehicle insurance scheme does not permit a self-insurer such as the County to disclaim or exclude insurance coverage in a self-insurance guarantee where an individual causes a collision while driving under the influence of alcohol; and (2) the exclusion in the guarantee in this case was invalid because it violated the state compulsory motor vehicle insurance scheme, was not expressly authorized by the General Assembly, and was against public policy. View "Montgomery Co. v. Distel" on Justia Law

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After Mr. Greenfield unsuccessfully filed criminal charges against Petitioner, Petitioner filed a complaint against Mr. and Mrs. Greenfield (Respondents) alleging, inter alia, defamation and false light/invasion of privacy. The circuit court granted summary judgment to Respondents as to all claims. Respondents subsequently moved for an award of attorney's fees and costs while acknowledging that their attorney's fees and costs had been paid by their insurance carrier (Insurer). The circuit court denied the motion as to Mr. Greenfield but granted it as to Mrs. Greenfield, finding that she had been joined in the action without substantial justification and that she had "incurred" the costs of her defense within the meaning of Maryland Rule 1-341, even though Insurer had paid the costs of litigation on her behalf. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that a party compelled to defend him or herself against abusive litigation may recover the costs associated with that litigation under Rule 1-341, regardless of the individual or entity that actually pays such expenses. View "Worsham v. Greenfield" on Justia Law

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This case arose when six employees of the Baltimore Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church filed workers' compensation claims, claiming they had sustained physical injury as a result of exposure to mold in the Conference's office. The employees profferred Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker as their expert to prove causation. Defendant moved to exclude Shoemaker under Frye-Reed on the grounds that his methodology to determine causation was not generally accepted in the relevant scientific community. On remand, after a Frye-Reed hearing, the circuit court determined that Shoemaker's methodology was generally accepted by the relevant scientific community and satisfied the Frye-Reed test. The court of special appeals reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Shoemaker's technique and theory were not shown to be generally accepted in the relevant scientific community. View "Chesson v. Montgomery Mut. Ins. Co." on Justia Law