Articles Posted in Maryland Court of Appeals

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Petitioner had health care insurance as a member of the United Healthcare Select HMO (the HMO) when he visited a healthcare provider (GCM) for an x-ray of his knee. After Petitioner paid a bill he received from GCM for the x-ray exam he filed a complaint alleging that the bills GCM sent Petitioner were an illegal attempt to "balance bill" an HMO member in violation of State law and that the bills constituted an unfair and deceptive practice in violation of the Consumer Protection Act (the Act). The circuit court dismissed the complaint. The court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the state HMO law prohibiting balance billing by health care providers as part of the legal foundation for the establishment of HMOs does not include a right of action by an HMO member against a healthcare provider for violation of that prohibition; but (2) an HMO member may bring an action under the Act against a healthcare provider who improperly bills the member in violation of the state HMO law in a way that also violates the prohibition against unfair or deceptive trade practices in the Act. View "Scull v. Groover, Christie, & Merritt, P.C." on Justia Law

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Dozens of Jacksonville, Maryland households (Respondents) brought suit against Exxon Mobil Corporation for damages from an underground gasoline leak from an Exxon-owned gasoline service station that leaked approximately 26,000 gallons into the underground aquifer and contaminated wells supplying water to a number of households. Respondents sought compensatory and punitive damages based on allegations of fraudulent concealment, strict liability, trespass, punitive nuisance, and negligence. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Exxon with respect to the fraudulent concealment and punitive damages claims but found in favor of Respondents as to all other claims for compensatory damages. Exxon appealed, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the awards for complete diminution of property value, damages for emotional distress, and damages for future medical monitoring costs. The court of special appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, reducing the $147 million in damages awarded to Respondents by more than half. The Court of Appeals reversed the judgments in favor of Respondents for diminution in property value, emotional distress, and medical monitoring, holding that the evidence was insufficient to support to the awards for these claims. Remanded. View "Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Ford" on Justia Law

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In 2006, Exxon Mobil Corporation reported a leak of approximately 26,000 gallons of gasoline from the underground tanks at its fueling station in Jacksonville, Maryland. Hundreds of residents and business proprietors of Jacksonville (Appellees) subsequently filed suit against Exxon for damages stemming from the contamination of their water supply, other consequential effects, and alleged misrepresentations by Exxon. The jury awarded $496,210,570 in compensatory damages and $1,045,550,000 in punitive damages for Appellees. Exxon appealed both damages awards as to all recovering Appellees. The Court of Appeals (1) reversed the judgments in favor of all Appellees for fraud, emotional distress for fear of contracting cancer, medical monitoring, and emotional distress for fear of loss of property value, holding that Appellees did not prove by clear and convincing evidence Exxon's liability as to these claims; and (2) reversed the judgments for loss of use and enjoyment and for diminution in value of real property in favor of certain Appellees and affirmed as to the others. View "Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Albright" on Justia Law

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In Powell I, Plaintiff sued Doctor and others for medical malpractice. The circuit court granted summary judgment to Appellees in 2007. The appellate court held that the appropriate remedy was to dismiss the suit. The Supreme Court affirmed, vacated the grant of summary judgment, and remanded for dismissal. By the time the complaint was dismissed in 2011, the statute of limitations had expired on the merits of the substantive claims. In Powell II, Plaintiff filed a second, identical statement of claim in 2007. The circuit court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment in 2008 under the doctrine of res judicata. In 2011, Plaintiff filed in Powell II a motion to reopen case and vacate judgment, arguing that the circuit court's reliance on the preclusive effect of the decision in Powell I was faulty. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court accepted certification and held (1) in Powell II, the judge did not err in granting summary judgment because, at the time, the doctrine of res judicata barred the maintenance of the litigation based on the 2007 grant of summary judgment in Powell I; and (2) the circuit court did not err in denying Plaintiff's motion to reopen case and vacate judgment. View "Powell v. Breslin" on Justia Law

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Respondent filed a medical action against Petitioner, a medical doctor. At issue before the Court of Appeals was whether a completed case information report, on which an election of a jury trial is noted and which is filed with the complaint, but not served on the opposing party, is a proper vehicle for demanding a jury trial. The court of special appeals held that it was and, therefore, reversed the judgment of the circuit court, which had reached the opposite result. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that a case information report form, being neither a "paper" nor a "pleading" and, in any event, having not been served on the opposing party, is neither a proper nor timely means of demanding a civil jury trial pursuant to Md. R. 2-325(a) and (b). View "Duckett v. Riley" on Justia Law

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In McQuitty I, Dylan McQuitty, by and through his parents, successfully sued Ms. McQuitty's physician and his practice (collectively, Spangler) for having failed to obtain Ms. McQuitty's informed consent to treatment, which resulted in severe injuries to Dylan during his birth. In a series of post-trial motions following McQuitty I, Spangler moved to reduce the verdict in favor of the McQuittys. After the verdict but prior to resolution of the post-trial motions, Dylan died. The circuit court found that Dylan's death did not absolve the portion of the judgment allocated to Dylan's future medical expenses. The Court of Appeals held (1) the trial court properly denied Spangler's motions for post-trial relief; (2) the post-verdict death of Dylan did not absolve Spangler from the finality of the jury's award of future medical expenses; (3) the hospital, for which summary judgment was entered in its favor as to liability and damages during McQuitty I, was not a joint tort-feasor under Maryland's Uniform Contribution Among Tort-Feasors Act, such that its settlement release from the McQuittys did not entitle Spangler to a reduction of the judgment against them; and (4) post-judgment interest on the verdict accrued from the date of the original judgment.

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After Hospital declined to renew the privileges of Physician due to repeated complaints about Physician, Physician sued for damages. Hospital claimed immunity under the Health Care Quality Improvement Act (HCQIA). The circuit court granted summary judgment to Hospital, and the court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals granted certiorari to answer whether in the context of a summary judgment proceeding, the presumption of HCQIA immunity is rebutted upon the showing of material facts in dispute regarding the physician's reporting of substandard medical care and attempts to improve the quality of the care in the hospital system. The Court affirmed, holding (1) evidence of retaliation will not prevent summary judgment on HCQIA immunity unless it can permit a rational trier of fact to conclude that (i) the defendant failed to comply with the standards for immunity set forth in 42 U.S.C. 11112(a), or (ii) the action was not a "professional review action" under 42 U.S.C. 11151(9); and (2) in this instance, Physician did not produce evidence sufficient to convince a rational trier of fact that Hospital failed to satisfy the standards for immunity set forth in HCQIA, and therefore, summary judgment was warranted.

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The Board of Physicians sanctioned Petitioner, a medical doctor, upon finding that Petitioner violated several subsections of Md. Code Ann. Health Occ. 14-404 when he falsely indicated on an application for renewal of his medical license that he was not involved in a medical malpractice action. The circuit court and court of special appeals affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the Board did not err in either its interpretation of Md. Code Regs. 10.32.02.03.C(7)(d) or its application of that regulation to the statement of Petitioner's counsel that Petitioner would be in court on a date proposed to conduct an unrelated case resolution conference; (2) the Board properly decided that Petitioner violated section 14-404(1)(3) by failing to include on his application the pendency of the malpractice action; and (3) the Board did not err in determining that the term "willful" means intentional for purposes of section 14-404, and the record contained substantial evidence that Petitioner willfully made false statements in connection with his involvement in a medical malpractice action in his application for license renewal.

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While employed with Alpharma, a pharmaceutical company, Debra Parks was involved in marketing a prescription drug known as Kadian. Parks filed a complaint in circuit court for wrongful termination in violation of public policy, claiming that Alpharma was involved in illegal marketing activities and that after Parks had raised her concerns with various people at Alpharma, Alpharma retaliated against her by terminating her employment. The circuit court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. While Parks' appeal was pending in the intermediate appellate court, the Court of Appeals granted certiorari on its own initiative. The Court affirmed the ruling of the circuit court on the basis that Parks failed to identify any clear mandate of public policy allegedly violated by Alpharma and allegedly reported by her that would constitute some of the required elements of a wrongful discharge claim.