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Law digest – 5/15/14

MARYLAND COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS 

Admiralty, Jury instructions: Jury instructions that included a statutory regulation governing the operation of drawbridges accurately conveyed the applicable law: the plain language of the regulation was neither ambiguous nor at variance with the general requirement that all vessels must signal to the drawtender to open a drawbridge or that, in the case of two or more vessels seeking passage through an open bridge, each vessel approaching the bridge must signal. Sail Zambezi, Ltd. v. Maryland State Highway Administration, No. 1888, Sept. Term, 2012. RecordFax No. 14-0430-01, 21 pages.

Corporations and partnerships, Equitable relief: In plaintiff’s suit against corporation and shareholders seeking relief pursuant to Maryland’s corporate dissolution statute, circuit court did not abuse its discretion in crafting alternative equitable relief, because the corporation remained a prosperous going concern and a less drastic remedy than dissolution was sufficient to address corporation’s oppressive conduct and the resulting harm. Bontempo v. Lare, No. 678, Sept. Term, 2011. RecordFax No. 14-0430-03, 59 pages.

Estates & Trusts, Charitable trust: Charitable foundation was rightful beneficiary of a charitable trust because, although foundation divested itself of its ownership rights in the residential home for the elderly that it owned at the time the trust was executed, the foundation continued to exist as a philanthropic and charitable nonprofit organization, and caring for the elderly was among its continued philanthropic endeavors. John B. Parsons Home, LLC v. John B. Parsons Foundation, LLC, No. 109, Sept. Term, 2013. RecordFax No. 14-0430-04, 33 pages.

Family Law, Cohabitation: Circuit court erred when it dismissed husband’s complaint for divorce based on the court’s finding that phone sex was a form of cohabitation within the scope of family law statute allowing for absolute divorce on basis of 12-month separation. Bergeris v. Bergeris, No. 0405, Sept. Term, 2012. RecordFax No. 14-0430-02, 12 pages.

Insurance Law, ‘Consent to settle’ clause: In a suit for underinsured motorist benefits, the policyholder was not entitled to summary judgment based on her insurer’s failure to show prejudice from her failure to obtain its consent before settling with the tortfeasor’s insurer for its policy limits; the policyholder had a statutory and contractual duty to obtain such consent, and her failure did not trigger the prejudice rules under statute or common law. Morse v. Erie Insurance Exchange, No. 0511, Sept. Term, 2013. RecordFax No. 14-0429-05, 45 pages.

Insurance Law, ‘Consent to settle’ clause: Insurer was entitled to summary judgment on an underinsured motorist claim where it was undisputed that insured failed to obtain her insurer’s consent to settle for tortfeasor’s policy limits, in violation of her own policy and applicable law; insurer was not required to show prejudice resulting from the lack of consent, and there was no genuine dispute of material fact as to whether insurer waived its rights. Woznicki v. Geico General Insurance Co., No. 532, Sept. Term, 2013. RecordFax No. 14-0429-06, 23 pages.

Workers’ Compensation, Injury in the course of employment: Under the applicable “position risk” test, a traveling employee who fell while dancing after work at the nightclub in the same hotel where he was working, sustained an accidental injury arising out of and in the course of employment. Gravette v. Visual Aids Electronics, No. 291, Sept. Term, 2013. RecordFax No. 14-0429-03, 29 pages.

4TH U.S. CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS

Administrative Law, Survivor’s benefits: Wife of coalminer who died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and had collected related benefits until his death in 1997 was entitled to survivor’s benefits under Black Lung Benefits Act where opinions of miner’s treating physician and another doctor contained evidence showing the seriousness of the miner’s pulmonary condition and that the disease hastened his death. Collins v. Pond Creek Mining Company, No. 13-1702. RecordFax No. 14-0501-60, 16 pages.

Civil Procedure, Withdrawal of counsel: In a hearing concerning defendant’s civil commitment as a “sexually dangerous person,” the district court abused its discretion in denying defense attorney’s motion to withdraw as counsel without thoroughly inquiring into the extent of the communications breakdown between defendant and his attorney or the basis of the asserted conflict. United States v. Blackledge, No. 12-7419. RecordFax No. 14-0504-60, 63 pages.

Labor & Employment, Arbitration clause: District court correctly found that the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (“Dodd-Frank”) did not invalidate arbitration agreement between employee and employer because scope of Dodd-Frank is limited to plaintiffs bringing whistleblower claims and employee was not bringing such a claim. Santoro v. Accenture Federal Services, LLC, No. 12-2561. RecordFax No. 14-0505-60, 15 pages.

Labor & Employment, Hostile work environment: Employer was not entitled to summary judgment on hostile work environment claim where evidence would allow a reasonable jury to conclude that employee experienced unwelcome harassment from an independent sales representative based on gender and/or race, which was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of her employment and create an abusive atmosphere, and that employer knew or should have known but took no action. Freeman v. Dal-Tile Corporation, No. 13-1481. RecordFax No. 14-0429-60, 32 pages.

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