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An Introduction to the Discovery Process in District and Circuit Courts

business law and landlord/tenant lawIn a court of law, the facts of a case are weighed, then a decision regarding them is made based on applicable laws. Discovery is a step in the legal process that ensures that all of the evidence each party will use at trial, is shared with the other side, so both parties can fully prepare for trial with all relevant information. The general process is the same in both district and circuit court. However, the scope and depth of the inquiry, as well as the timeline for the discovery process, differs between the two. Knowing what to expect as you head through the legal process can help set your mind at ease and help assure the best outcome at every stage. Discovery in District Court Maryland's District Court is where all civil cases for claims under $5,000 are heard. For claims that are between $5,000 and $30,000, District Court shares jurisdiction…

Understanding a Tenant’s Right of First Refusal

Tenant's right to first refusalThe concept behind the right of first refusal is fairly straightforward: Contractually, it’s a right granted to Entity A to enter into a business transaction with Entity B before anybody else is able to. If Entity A decides not to take part in the transaction, Entity B is then free to negotiate with other potential buyers. Often, this concept appears in real estate transactions, where the seller grants a certain party the right to purchase a property before anybody else can. Many leases executed between tenants and landlords contain a right of first refusal clause. In Baltimore City, however, a tenant’s right of first refusal is on the legal books, established in Subtitle 6 of Article 13 of the Baltimore City Code. What does the law say? The Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) maintains that “before title to any single-family residential rental property is voluntarily transferred, the tenant of…

Are You Owed Money? When You Should Consider Hiring an Attorney to Help

Are You Owed Money? When You Should Consider Hiring an Attorney to HelpIn a perfect world, every client, tenant, member of the supply chain, or debtor would pay their bills on time. When they don’t, businesses often expend a lot of effort trying to collect on unpaid debts, and the longer a debt is unpaid, the harder it becomes to collect. You may not need an outside assistance with collection if you run a large company with the resources to pursue delinquent debtors. Most small businesses, however, can’t afford for their bookkeeper or small accounting staff to devote time to collections. If you’re struggling to collect unpaid debts, it may be time to hire an outside help. Debt Collection Agency or Attorney? Hiring a debt collector costs money, of course, but that’s a preferable alternative to collecting nothing on the outstanding debt. Collection agencies usually charge a flat fee on any debt they collect. So, if your debtor owes you $10,000, and…

Protect Yourself From Unfair Contracts

Maryland Business Contract LawyerAs a business owner, you will enter into a number of contracts – leases, supplier agreements, employment contracts, and more. You want to ensure that any contract you sign is fair and offers you some legal recourse, should a contract dispute arise. But it’s equally important to make sure you don’t inadvertently create unfair or illegal contracts yourself. The following is an overview of how to avoid signing or creating an unfair contract. Maryland Contract Basics Maryland law recognizes five basic components of a contract: Competent parties – Adults who are mentally capable of understanding the terms of the contract Offer – The proposal by a party to take an action and/or pay for goods or services Acceptance – Approval of the terms and conditions of the offer, as may be evident by the signatures of the parties to the agreement. Consideration – The agreement specifies consideration, which means all…

Singer and record label settle to avoid court

Maryland music fans may be familiar with the work of British songwriter, singer and actress Rita Ora. The 25-year-old's debut album "Ora" was a huge hit in 2012, but she has not put out any records since. This may be in large part due to a contentious legal battle with her record label that she became embroiled with in 2015, but media sources reported on June 7 that Ora and Roc nation had reached an out-of-court settlement. Ora agreed to release five albums when she signed with the Jay Z-backed Roc Nation in 2008, but she became disillusioned with the label and filed legal papers in 2015 claiming that her contract violated California law and should be ruled unenforceable. The singer said at the time that Roc Nation was more interested in promoting Jay Z's other commercial ventures than fostering musical talent. She has since said that the label devotes…

Health insurance companies battle over prescription drug costs

Thousands of Maryland residents rely on health insurance provided by Anthem and prescription drug coverage from Express Scripts, but they may not be aware that these two leading health care companies are embroiled in a contentious legal battle. The first shots were fired in March when Anthem sued Express Scripts for $15 billion, but the Missouri-based pharmacy benefit company fired back on April 19 by filing a lawsuit of its own. The two companies are involved in a contract dispute over the cost of prescription drugs. Anthem's CEO says that he tried to negotiate a better deal for his company in January seeking savings of up to $3 billion a year. Anthem claims that it is entitled to a percentage of the savings earned by Express Script from negotiating more advantageous deals with drug makers. The Express Scripts lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern…

Maryland man files class action lawsuit against AOL

A Maryland man who is representing himself has filed a class action lawsuit against AOL, which was formerly known as America Online, for breach of contract. The man claims that AOL customer service representatives misled him about subscription services offered by the company, and he also alleges that AOL's practices violate Maryland's consumer protection laws. The man filed his lawsuit on Oct. 29 at a circuit court in Prince George's County, but the case was referred to the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland on Nov. 24. The venue of the breach of contract case was changed because the plaintiffs and the defendant reside in different states and the damages being sought are in excess of $5 million. The man claims that an AOL representative told him that he would have to purchase a subscription membership in order to receive help recovering emails that he had lost when…

Federal court rejects appeal to award $96 million to Chevron

On Aug. 4, a federal appeals court rejected a challenge from the Ecuadorian government to an award of $96 million to Chevron Corporation. Individuals in Maryland who follow the oil industry probably know that the energy giant has been in a dispute with the South American nation for decades over oil field development. Texaco, which Chevron acquired later, made a deal in 1973 with the Ecuadorian government that allowed it to develop oil fields in the country as long as it sold oil at less than market price. In the 1990s, Texaco filed multiple lawsuits that claimed Ecuador violated the contract. Chevron began an arbitration proceeding in 2006 at The Hague's Permanent Court of Arbitration, claiming that the courts in Ecuador did not to settle the legal actions in a timely manner, which was a breach of treaty between the two countries. The Hague panel awarded $96 million to Chevron…

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in court

Maryland movie fans might be interested in the details of a case filed in a California civil court. Six plaintiffs are claiming they have been denied contractually-mandated payments from the profits of the three Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films released in the early 1990s. The plaintiffs are seeking damages of more than $3.175 million for breach of contract and other causes of action. The first movie, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles", was released in 1990 and grossed more than $200 million. "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze" was released in 1991 and grossed $78.7 million domestically. The last of the three initial TMNT films was released in 1993 and took in $42.3 million. Neither the 2007 animated film nor the 2014 Michael Bay feature is part of the lawsuit. According to the complaint, each of the plaintiffs was promised a percentage of net profits from the TMNT…

Contract fight ends with auto dealers breaking ties

Maryland drivers in search of new vehicles may to reassess their buying options following a split between TrueCar Inc. and AutoNation Inc. According to reports, the firms are set to end their partnership, and the breakup is projected to impact more than 200 AutoNation dealerships that employ TrueCar services. TrueCar, which provided sales leads to AutoNation and other companies via its web portal, was accused of requesting large volumes of consumer purchase data, and it also faces a number of lawsuits brought by other parties in the retail auto business. News sources say TrueCar is well known for breaking ties with dealerships that refuse to agree to its data-sharing terms. The company, which had already come close to shutting its doors in 2012 as a result of investigations by authorities in several states, continued to push for contract provisions demanding that AutoNation hand over customer information about every one of…