Court Decisions

In Bob Smith Automotive Group, Inc., et al. v. Ally Financial, Inc. (September 8, 2014), the Circuit Court for Talbot County entered judgment in favor of RMG’s client, Ally Financial Inc. after a four-week bench trial before Judge Karen Murphy Jensen, specially assigned. The plaintiffs sought damages against Ally of more than $20 million, alleging that Ally improperly demanded payment of more than $13 million of floor-plan financing, which Ally had extended to the plaintiff auto dealerships. The Court dismissed all of the plaintiffs’ tort claims at the conclusion of the trial and entered judgment in favor of RMG’s client on the remaining breach of contract claims in a 31-page written opinion filed on September 8, 2014. RMG attorneys Benjamin Rosenberg, David Wyand, Andrew Baida and Stuart Cherry represented Ally.  Click here to read the article in The Daily Record.

In Al Jazeera International v. Dow Lohnes PLLC, et al. (September 2, 2014), Chief Judge Deborah K. Chasnow of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland denied a motion to dismiss filed by defendants Dow Lohnes and Leslie H. Wiesenfelder in a legal malpractice claim arising out of the construction of Al Jazeera's Washington DC broadcast studio. Benjamin Rosenberg and Stuart Cherry are handling the case for RMG's client, Al Jazeera, which is seeking more than $2 Million in damages.

In Jones v. Pohanka Auto North, Inc., et al., decided on September 2, 2014, Gerry Gaeng and Jim Crossan successfully defended Maryland car dealers from claims by consumers that the dealerships violated Maryland’s Credit Grantor Closed End Credit Provisions (“CLEC”). The plaintiffs filed a putative class action complaint alleging that the dealerships sold and financed debt cancellation agreements that did not comply with CLEC and sought statutory penalties, including the forfeiture of all interest and fees collected during the life of the loans, against the dealerships. The United States District Court for the District of Maryland granted the dealerships’ motion to dismiss. The court agreed with the dealerships that because the CLEC’s language became part of the contract, as a matter of law, there was no violation of CLEC unless the dealership refused to honor the statutory language incorporated into the contract. Because there was no such refusal by the dealerships, the dealerships could not be liable for breach of contract or violation of the CLEC statute. Click here to view the opinion.

In a probate matter being administered by the Orphans’ Court for St. Mary’s County and as a result of a trial before a three-judge panel on August 12, 2014, Stuart A. Cherry successfully prosecuted a petition to allow a claim on behalf of one of the estate’s creditors. This victory came after the estate attempted to disallow the claim in full.

On August 5, 2014, Chief Judge Cecelia G. Morris of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York entered an order granting a motion to lift the automatic stay imposed by 11 U.S.C. Section 362 filed by Gerard J. Gaeng and Stuart A. Cherry on behalf of one of RMG’s clients. Obtaining the lifting of the bankruptcy stay permits RMG’s client to maintain a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland that RMG filed against the debtor prior to the debtor filing for bankruptcy relief.

In Tal-Dor Partners, LLC v. Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc. and NextMedia Outdoor, Inc., decided by the Court of Special Appeals on July 24, 2014, David Wyand successfully defended a claim by a landowner that a billboard lease was invalid and unenforceable. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed summary judgment granted by the Circuit Court for Dorchester County, rejecting claims that the billboard lease did not adequately describe the property, that the billboard lease had to be recorded to be enforceable, and that the billboard lease constituted an invalid subdivision.

In an arbitration proceeding and multi-pronged litigation that concluded in July 2014 in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Ben Rosenberg, Andy Baida and Harris Eisenstein obtained judgments totaling almost $2,000,000 on behalf of RMG’s client, William Glazer, against Glazer-Kennedy Insider’s Circle, LLC, a special purpose entity formed by a Chicago-based private equity fund to acquire Mr. Glazer’s business.

In Thompkins v. Mountaineer Investment, LLC, decided on June 23, 2014, Gerry Gaeng and Andy Baida were the principal drafters of the Brief of Amici Curiae filed in the Maryland Court of Appeals on behalf of the Maryland Bankers Association and a group of national and regional financial institutions arguing against plaintiffs’ theories of assignee liability. In Thompkins, the plaintiffs claimed that the lender on their second-mortgage loan charged closing fees in excess of those permitted under Maryland’s Secondary Mortgage Loan Law (SMLL). Arguing that Maryland’s Uniform Commercial Code and common law created assignee liability, plaintiffs sought statutory penalties for the SMLL violations, including the forfeiture of all interest and fees collected during the life of the loan, against the assignee who had purchased the loan. The Court of Appeals rejected plaintiffs’ contentions and held that a borrower could not sue the assignee of a paid-off mortgage loan for violations of the SMLL that were allegedly committed by the lender at the loan closing.  Click here to read the opinion.

In Signature Flight Support Corporation v. Supervisor of Assessments for Anne Arundel County, Case No. 13-MI-AA-0579 (1-2), Maryland Tax Court (January 22, 2014), Caroline D. Ciraolo successfully challenged the denial by the State Department of Assessment and Taxation and the Property Tax Assessment Appeals Board for Anne Arundel County (“PTAAB”) of an application for exemption from property tax on substantial improvements at the Thurgood Marshall Baltimore Washington International Airport, establishing that client was exempt as lessee of property owned by the State and used for a concession at a public airport.

In Denburg & Low, P.A. v. Reservoir Limited Partnership (November 2013), Ben Rosenberg and Andy Baida successfully argued before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals that their client could not be sued for damages by an accounting firm which discovered mold in the building space it had leased when the firm rescinded the lease prior to taking possession by cashing a check returning the security deposit and prepaid rent.

In State of New York v. John Doe, Case No. C-13-179578, Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, MD (November 8, 2013), Caroline D. Ciraolo successfully intervened in and negotiated a dismissal of an action to enforce a grand jury subpoena for a client’s records in the possession of an accountant.

In United States v. Gill, Case No. 12-cv-03813-RDB, U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (June 13, 2013), Caroline D. Ciraolo successfully negotiated a settlement of an action to reduce a federal tax lien to judgment, and a dismissal of a complaint to foreclose property.

In Brault Graham, LLC v. Law Offices of Peter G. Angelos, P.C. (May 2013), the Court of Special Appeals held that a law firm represented by Ben Rosenberg, Andy Baida, and Stuart Cherry was entitled to recover the reasonable value of the legal services which the law firm had provided to former clients in a complex medical malpractice case for approximately five years prior to being discharged.

In Wrightson v. Ashburn, decided on April 5, 2013, Andy Baida and Stuart Cherry persuaded the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to overturn multiple verdicts returned by a jury based on claims arising out of a contract which the plaintiff alleged she had entered into with their clients. The total amount awarded the plaintiff at trial was $1,015,000. On appeal, the court reversed all judgments with the exception of a judgment for $315,000 against one of the clients based on a breach of contract claim, which the court vacated and remanded to the trial court for the entry of a judgment for $80,000.

Caroline D. Ciraolo represented individual investigated for embezzlement and filing false income tax returns and amended income tax returns over a twelve year period.  She negotiated a two-count plea to violation of 18 U.S.C. 1343 and 26 U.S.C. 7201.  In April, 2013, successfully challenged the government’s argument against grouping, resulting in a reduced advisory Guideline range of 27 to 33 months, and persuaded to court to grant downward variance, resulting in a 15-month sentence with a recommended designation to a minimum security satellite camp.

Gerry Gaeng and Jim Crossan successfully represented several national financial services companies in a consolidated appeal of eighteen class-action and individual consumer lawsuits that was decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

The cases were brought by borrowers who alleged that their second-mortgage loans were made in violation of Maryland’s Secondary Mortgage Loan Law (“SMLL”). Representing financial service companies who had purchased plaintiffs’ loans, Gaeng successfully argued in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland that the cases should be dismissed because there is no assignee derivative liability for SMLL violations committed by the original lenders.

When the dismissals were appealed, Gaeng again argued for defendants in the Fourth Circuit, which affirmed the dismissals and ruled that even if the borrowers could have stated claims for derivative liability against the loan purchasers under state or federal law, the claims would be barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. Click here to read the Opinion.

Caroline D. Ciraolo represented an individual investigated for failing to file foreign bank account reports and filing false income tax returns resulting in a loss of more than $800,000.  Client charged with a single violation of 26 U.S.C. 7201 resulting in an advisory Guideline range of 24 to 30 months.  In February, 2013, persuaded to court to grant downward variance, resulting in sentence of a year and day, with a recommendation for direct placement to a local residential reentry center (formerly referred to as community confinement or halfway house).

Gerry Gaeng, Andy Baida and Jim Crossan successfully represented several national financial services companies in multiple consolidated appeals of consumer lawsuits that were recently decided by Maryland’s Court of Appeals. The cases were brought by borrowers under Maryland’s Secondary Mortgage Loan Law (“SMLL”) against companies who had purchased the mortgage loans. Plaintiffs alleged that the lenders who made the loans violated the SMLL by failing to provide a disclosure form and by charging multiple closing fees, and argued that the purchasers of the loans should be liable for the lender’s violations. The Court of Appeals agreed with defendants that the lenders had not violated the SMLL. It held that the disclosure form was not required unless the mortgage loan is for commercial purposes, and that the charging of multiple loan origination fees does not violate the SMLL as long as the aggregate of the fees is within the statute’s 10% cap. The Court of Appeals also rejected plaintiffs’ claims that the purchasers of the loans could be liable for failing to provide loan documents to borrowers who requested them long after the loan had been paid off. Click here to read the opinion.