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Oklahoma Court Rules that Professional Certificate Requirement is Unconstitutional

Published on Jun 23, 2013 at 2:38 pm in General Blogs.

The Supreme Court of Oklahoma has struck down the requirement that an affidavit of merit must be filed in legal actions for professional negligence.

Under Title 12 O.S. 2011 Section 19, the plaintiff must attach an expert’s affidavit in civil actions for professional negligence. The Sooner state’s top court held in the June 4 ruling that the statute is a special law that violates the Oklahoma constitution and that it also creates an unconstitutional financial burden on access to the courts in violation of the state’s constitution.

“It is undisputed that during the course of litigation the plaintiffs will be required to prove their case, as any other cause requires. They just do not have to provide expert testimony before it can be filed,” the court said in Timothy Wall v. John S. Marouk, D.O.

Court Upholds Insurer’s Refusal to Pay Claim Under Umbrella Policy after Auto Accident

Published on Jun 3, 2013 at 2:42 pm in General Blogs.

The state’s top court has upheld an insurer’s refusal to pay out on a claim under an umbrella policy made by a Maryland woman after her husband was killed in an auto accident. The Court of Appeals held that an umbrella policy does not fit within the definition of “private passenger motor vehicle liability insurance” contained in Section 19-504.1 of the state’s laws on insurance.

Joan Stickley was a passenger in a motor vehicle accident in 2008 in which the driver, her husband, was killed and in which she suffered serious injuries. According to the court’s opinion, Stickley’s husband “negligently” drove into an intersection.

The Stickleys had motor vehicle insurance and umbrella policies with State Farm. The motor vehicle liability policy had coverage of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident with State Farm Auto. The “Personal Liability Umbrella Policy” had uninsured motorist coverage of $2,000,000.

Debt Collector Successfully Argues that Wrong Address was a Mistake

Published on May 27, 2013 at 2:28 pm in General Blogs.

A debt collector that once saw thousands of cases thrown out of the Maryland court system for not being licensed by the state was successful recently in fending off charges when it used the address of the parent company that wasn’t licensed in the Free State to sue Maryland residents. The United States District Court for the District of Maryland dismissed a lawsuit brought against Midland Funding, ruling that the plaintiffs had failed to state a plausible claim for recovery under the legal theories they used.

Suzanne Hill, et al. v. Midland Funding, LLC et al. is a class action brought against Midland Funding and its attorneys, Lyons Doughty, Veldius, P.C., alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act (MCDCA) and the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (MCPA).

According to the complaint, each of the three plaintiffs was sued once or twice by Midland to collect unpaid credit card debt that the debt collector had purchased from Chase. The plaintiffs alleged that Midland had violated the law in two ways.

Lawsuit Against Debt Collector Dismissed for Lack of Specific Statements

Published on Mar 7, 2013 at 2:19 pm in General Blogs.

A Maryland woman who took a debt collector to court was unsuccessful in her claim that she was harassed – a violation of debt collecting laws. Priscilla Quander’s lawsuit claiming violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) was dismissed by a federal trial court.

Quander allegedly incurred a $1,200 debt provided by Platinum Protection. Quander said she only discovered the debt when she checked her credit report in May 2012. Hillcrest, Davidson and Associates LLC became involved with collecting the debt. She said she then contacted Hillcrest in an attempt to resolve the issue but claimed that she was not able to reach an amicable resolution. As a result, Quander said, Hillcrest employees called her up to two times a day to collect on the debt. She said they used “bullying tactics” and accused her of being “lazy” and of failing to pay her bills. She also claimed that she was falsely accused of attempting to evade collection efforts by repeatedly changing her telephone number and was warned that she would be called twice a day until the debt was paid. Quander told the court that she had had the same number for the past 10 years. She said the calls caused her to feel “oppressed, frustrated and scared.” Quander said that when she asked to speak to a supervisor about the matter, the supervisor claimed that the line connection was “cutting out” in order to avoid speaking with her.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Mediation?

Published on Feb 22, 2013 at 1:19 pm in General Blogs.

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a term for ways to legal settle disputes out of court. Arbitration and mediation are the two most common forms of ADR. When settling a personal injury case, you and your attorney may get asked to participate in a mediation to try and settle before your claim goes to trial. Choosing to take part in a mediation can have many benefits, but also a few disadvantages. In this blog, we go over both sides of the coin.

Mediation differs from arbitration. In arbitration, the arbitrator – who makes the final decision on the matter — acts as a judge; but, in an out-of-court setting. In mediation, a trained neutral person — the mediator — helps people in a dispute communicate with one another and reach agreement. The mediator’s role is to act as a neutral third party who facilitates discussions between the parties. Mediators don’t make decisions for the parties to the mediation; they do not provide legal advice or recommend the terms of an agreement.

In a typical mediation, parties explain their side of the story, the issues are identified, and options are discussed, as are solutions. Participants in mediation may choose to sign a written agreement which is enforceable as a contract. If an agreement is not reached, the claim can still be handled by the court or through arbitration.

Court Rules that Metro Can’t Be Sued for “Slip and Falls”

Published on Feb 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm in General Blogs.

In a decision that means there is no legal recovery for slips and falls at the area’s Metro stations, the Maryland Court of Appeals has held that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is entitled to immunity from tort claims – lawsuits — arising out of its maintenance decisions. The court’s ruling stemmed from slip and falls on wet floors suffered by two women while using the popular Metro subway transportation system.

Veronica Tinsley and Kim Hodge separately filed negligence actions in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County after they were both injured when using the subway. Tinsley said in her lawsuit that she was severely injured after slipping and falling on a floor that was wet because it was recently cleaned. Hodge said she suffered injuries when she slipped and fell on a floor that was wet because other passengers had tracked snow into the station.

Both women achieved five-figure money damage verdicts from their juries. However, the same day the jury ruled for Hodge, the Court of Special Appeals ruled for WMATA in the appeal of Tinsley’s lawsuit. The intermediate appellate court said Tinsley’s lawsuit was barred by sovereign immunity. Because of the ruling by the appellate court, WMATA attorneys were able to get the favorable award for Hodge set aside. When the two cases came before the state’s top court, Maryland’s Court of Appeals agreed with the intermediate appellate court.

Maryland Man Who Deposited Money into Account He Didn’t Own Can’t Recover Funds in Credit Card Dispute

Published on Dec 18, 2012 at 1:11 pm in General Blogs.

Maryland’s federal trial court recently decided a collection case with a slight twist – a man deposited money into an account that wasn’t his and sued to recover when the funds were used to offset a past due debt on a credit card associated with the account.

Kevin C. Betskoff, Sr., filed a lawsuit in the Carroll County Circuit Court against the Bank of America, alleging that it violated the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act, the Maryland Consumer Protection Act, the Truth in Lending Act and committed trover and conversion and intentional infliction of emotional distress when it took the $1064 he deposited in an account owned by Iona Investment Group LLC. He had received permission to use the account from L. Iona Canaday, the company’s resident agent.

When Betskoff attempted to retrieve the money several days later, he was notified that the bank had offset all of his funds to pay arrears on an unsecured credit card associated with the account. Betskoff contacted the bank and told it that he did not possess a credit card with the account and was not responsible for associated debt. He asked the bank to return the funds. The bank refused

Court of Appeals: Foreclosure Notices Must Identify All Secured Parties

Published on Dec 10, 2012 at 1:13 pm in General Blogs.

In a ruling that can only be described as common sense, the state’s top court recently ruled that a foreclosure notice must identify all the secured parties; however, there are circumstances when the failure to identify a secured party is not fatal to a foreclosure action.

In Camille C. Shepherd v. John S. Burson, et al., the Court of Appeals also said that a failure to identify all secured parties in a foreclosure notice does not require dismissal of the foreclosure when the notice identifies one of the secured parties, the notice provides other legally-required required information that allows the borrow to pursue a loan modification, the identity of the other secured parties is disclosed to the borrower well in advance of the foreclosure sale and the borrower does not move to dismiss the foreclosure proceeding on the basis of a defective notice for more than a year after such disclosure.

The court’s ruling stemmed from a lender’s attempt to foreclose on a Greenbelt, Md. home. Camille Shepherd obtained a $416,900 loan from IndyMac in 2007 secured by a deed of trust on the home. She defaulted on the loan in 2008 after having obtained a loan modification that lowered the interest rate and, as a result, lowered her monthly payment. IndyMac transferred its assets to OneWest Bank FSB in 2009 after IndyMac went under in 2007.

Appeals Court Rules that Non-Economic Damage Caps Apply Separately to Wrongful Death and Survival Actions

Published on Dec 10, 2012 at 1:12 pm in General Blogs.

The cap on non-economic damages in non-medical malpractice cases applies separately to jury awards in survival and in wrongful death actions, the Court of Special Appeals has held.

Caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases have been a point of controversy as Republicans have wanted to rollback jury awards by capping damages, while many attorneys have argued – and some courts have held — that the caps strip the jury of much of their function. Non-economic damages commonly refer to pain and suffering, but they also include losses such as emotional distress and loss of enjoyment of life.

The principal issue in Wayne H. Goss, et al. v. The Estate of Bertha Jennings, et al. was whether the cap on non-economic damages cap imposed by Maryland law applies separately or collectively to damages awarded in two separate types of legal action — wrongful death and survival — that often stem from the same occurrence.

Maryland Courts Rule on Qualified Expert Certificate Questions

Published on Nov 27, 2012 at 1:05 pm in General Blogs.

One of the threshold requirements for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit is that a “Certificate of Qualified Expert” must be filed with Maryland Health Care Alternative Dispute Resolution Office (HCADRO), an administrative agency that promotes arbitration of medical claims. The certificate must state that the injury was caused by a departure from the standard of care and that this departure caused the alleged injury. The certificate must be filed within 90 days after the filing of the complaint.

The lawsuit will be dismissed if the certificate is not filed on time, unless an extension has been granted. Extensions are granted by the HCADRO director only under a showing of “good cause.”

Maryland’s federal trial court and the state’s Court of Special Appeals recently issued two rulings dealing with different questions on certificates.

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