Justia Maryland Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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In this zoning dispute involving the interplay between the public's interest in the future of a private airport in Prince George's County and the financial interests of its owner, the Supreme Court held that the amended zoning ordinance allowing the airport to develop higher-density housing did not violate Maryland's uniformity requirement, Md. Code Ann., Land Use 22-201(b)(2)(i).When the airport's owners began experiencing financial difficulties they sought to redevelop the site, which had been limited by the zoning ordnance to low-density, single-family detached housing, for non-airport use. The County Council amended the zoning ordinance to allow for higher-density housing to incentivize the airport's redevelopment. Plaintiffs brought suit. The circuit court concluded that the ordinance did not violate uniformity, but the appellate court reversed, finding that the ordinance violated uniformity because it was tailored so narrowly as to afford favorable development opportunities to only the airport property. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the ordinance was adopted to further a valid public purpose and did not discriminate against similarly situated properties, thus surviving the uniformity challenge. View "Prince George's County v. Concerned Citizens" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the appellate court reversing the judgment of the circuit court finding that a county ordinance did not violate Maryland's uniformity requirement requiring zoning laws to "be uniform for each class or kind of development throughout a district or zone," Md. Code Ann., Land Use 22-201(b)(2)(i), holding that the ordinance should have survived the uniformity challenge.While Prince George's County's zoning ordinance had historically limited development of housing at a private airport to low-density, single-family detached housing, the County Council amended the ordinance's text to allow the development of higher-density housing at the airport in order to incentivize redevelopment. Certain constituents brought suit, arguing that the ordinance violated uniformity because it was tailored so narrowly as to afford favorable development opportunities. The appellate court reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the plaintiffs failed to establish that the ordinance discriminated arbitrarily, and therefore, their uniformity challenge failed. View "Prince George's County v. Concerned Citizens" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the appellate court reversing the judgment of the circuit court denying Constituents' challenge to the amendment to a zoning ordinance limiting development of housing at a private airport in Prince George's County, which allowed the airport to develop higher-density housing, holding that the ordinance survived the challenge.While the County's zoning ordinance had historically limited development of housing at the airport to low-density, single-family detached housing, the County Council amended the text of the ordinance to allow the development of higher-density housing in order to incentivize redevelopment of the airport. Constituents brought the underlying challenge, arguing that the ordinance violated Maryland's uniformity requirement, Md. Code Ann., Land Use 22-201(b)(2)(i). The circuit court denied relief, but the appellate court reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the ordinance did not discriminate against similarly situated parties and was adopted to further a valid public purpose; and (2) therefore, the ordinance should have survived the uniformity challenge. View "Prince George's County Council v. Concerned Citizens of Prince George's County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the appellate court affirming the order of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants and dismissing Plaintiff's negligence claim, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in granting Defendants' motion to preclude the opinions and testimony of Dr. Steven Elliot Caplan, Plaintiff's designated expert in the area of pediatric medicine.Plaintiff alleged that Defendants, who owned and managed property in which Plaintiff lived as a child, were liable for injuries she sustained as a result of exposure to lead-based paint at the property. After Plaintiff designated Dr. Caplan as her expert Defendants moved to preclude his opinions and testimony. The circuit court granted the motion and then entered summary judgment for Defendants, finding that Dr. Caplan lacked a sufficient factual basis for his opinions and that, without his testimony as to causation, Plaintiff was unable to establish a prima facie case of negligence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) in ruling on the motion to preclude, the circuit court erroneously resolved genuine disputes of material fact; (2) therefore, the circuit court erred in granting summary judgment; and (3) Plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case of negligence. View "Oglesby v. Baltimore School Associates" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the appellate court concluding that the circuit court erred in determining that there was no public road over the parcel of real property in St. Mary's County at issue in this case but did not err in determining that the County owned the property in fee simple absolute, holding that the appellate court did not err.The trustee of the Wilkinson Family Trust sued the Board of County Commissioners of St. Mary's County asserting ownership of the property at issue. The circuit court found that the County owned the property in fee simple absolute and that no public road existed on the property. The appellate court vacated the judgment and remanded the case. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the appellate court (1) did not err in concluding that the County owned the property in fee simple absolute; and (2) did not err in holding that, as a matter of law, a public road was established on the property by dedication. View "Bd. of County Commissioners v. Aiken" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the appellate court affirming the circuit court's judgment reversing the determination of the Board of Public Works that a decision of the procurement officer for the Department of General Services (DGS) was arbitrary and capricious, holding that the procurement officer's decision was not arbitrary or capricious.The Maryland Department of General Services (DGS), on behalf of the Maryland Insurance Administration (MIA), issued a request for proposal (RFP) for office space. Montgomery Park was originally named the awardee, but through its procurement officer, DGS cancelled the RFP before the award was presented to the Board for approval. Thereafter, the procurement officer renewed MIA's existing lease between MIA and the leased premise. Montgomery Park filed two bid protests, which the procurement officer denied. The Board overturned the procurement officer's decisions determining that they violated Maryland procurement law. The circuit court reversed, and the appellate court affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that (1) the procurement officer's decision to cancel the RFP was not arbitrary or capricious; and (2) Montgomery Park lacked standing to protest the renewal of the existing lease between MIA and St. Paul Plaza. View "Montgomery Park v. Md. Dep't of General Services" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court affirming the determination of the Planning Board that Amazon Services, LLC's's proposed use of property it owned in Prince George's County fell within the definition of "Warehouse" under section 27 of the Prince George's County Code and was, therefore, permitted by right at the property, holding that the district court did not err.Amazon sought approval to make certain modifications and improvements to its property, which the Planning Board approved, concluding that the proposed use of the property qualified as a "warehouse" use under the applicable zoning ordinance. The District Council for Prince George's County affirmed. On review, the District Council concluded that the Planning Board correctly determined that Amazon's proposed use of the property qualified as a "warehouse and distribution facility" use under the zoning ordinance. The circuit court affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that there was substantial evidence in the record to support the decision of the District Council affirming the Planning Board's approval of Amazon's design plan for the property. View "Crawford v. County Council of Prince George's County" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that when a first-party, all-risk property insurance policy covers "all risks of physical loss or damage" to insured property from any cause unless excluded, coverage is not triggered when a toxic, noxious, or hazardous substance is physically present in the indoor air of that property, adheres to and can later be dislodged from physical items on the property, and causes a loss of the functional use of the property provided that the substance causes neither tangible, concrete, and material harm to the property nor deprivation of possession of the property.Insurer issued insurance policies to Insured covering policy periods in which Insured's stores were closed in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. Insured submitted claims to Insurer under the policies for "physical loss or damage" to its covered property exceeding $700 million. Insurer denied the bulk of the claim, leading to this lawsuit. The Court of Appeals held the presence of Coronavirus in the air and on surfaces at Insured's properties did not cause "physical loss or damage" as that phrase is used in the policies. View "Tapestry, Inc. v. Factory Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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In this case arising from a dispute over the purchase of residential real property in Charles County, the Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the court of special appeals affirming the judgment of the circuit court granting Sellers' motion to dismiss Purchaser's lawsuit alleging that Seller violated Md. Code Ann. Real. Prop. 14-117(a)(3)(ii) by imposing an amortized water and sewer charge longer than twenty years after the initial date of the sale of the property, holding that there was no error.In moving to dismiss this lawsuit, Seller argued that section 14-117(a)(3)(ii) applies only to real property located in Prince George's County. The Court of Appeals agreed and dismissed the case. The court of special appeals affirmed, thus declining to extend the geographic application of the statute beyond Prince George's County. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the plain text of section 14-117(a)(3)(ii) indicates that the twenty-year amortization limit on deferred water and sewage costs only applies to Prince George's County; and (2) the legislative history of the statute confirms that the amortization provision only applies to Prince George's County. View "Elsberry v. Stanley Martin Companies" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals held that an injured tort claimant's rights under a general liability insurance policy do not vest until the claimant has obtained a judgment against, or entered into a qualifying settlement with, an insured.CX Reinsurance Company issued commercial general liability policies to several Baltimore residential Landlords that included coverage for bodily injuries resulting from lead paint exposure at the Landlords' rental properties. CX field contract rescission actions against the Landlords, which the parties settled. Under the terms of the rescission settlements, the coverage for lead paint-related losses was substantially reduced. Claimants alleged they suffered bodily injuries from lead paint exposure while residing in the Landlords' rental properties, but the majority of claimants had not obtained final judgments against, or entered into settlements with, the Landlords before CX and the Landlords settled. The lower courts ruled that the Claimants were intended beneficiaries of the polices. The Court of Appeals reversed in part, holding (1) the Claimants who did not hold final judgments against or enter into approved settlement agreements with the Landlords were not the intended beneficiaries under the policies; and (2) the Claimants who obtained final judgments against their Landlords prior to the settlements of the applicable rescission cases may enforce the pre-settlement terms of the policies. View "CX Reinsurance Co. v. Johnson" on Justia Law