Maryland Can Now Suspend Your License Even if You Weren’t Driving

Maryland’s highest court has held that the MVA can suspend your license for refusing a breath test, even if you weren’t driving OR even attempting to drive your vehicle.

The Court’s opinion stated that your driver’s license may be suspended if you refuse a breath test if the police “reasonably” believed that you were driving or attempting to drive.  The high court overturned lower court rulings that held it had to be proven that you were driving or attempting to drive.  Now, an officer just has to “reasonably believe.”  It will be interesting to see how this interpretation of the statute manifests.

Our advice, if you’ve been drinking, don’t get behind the wheel of your car.  Even if it’s to warm up while waiting for a cab or Uber, or if it’s to sleep it off.  If you have to get in your car to wait or sleep it off, get in the back seat.

 

 

She Gave an Interview and Now Mel Gibson is $500,000.00 Richer

Many of you have likely heard of civil settlements that involve confidentiality provisions. The terms will vary depending on the agreement, but generally they say that no party can discuss the settlement amount (usually applicable to the party receiving the settlement) or comment about the underlying facts that gave rise to the litigation or potential litigation.

This is not an uncommon thing in cases that involve large sums of money, public figures (i.e., athletes, celebrities, etc.) or cases where the defendant may have additional exposure in other pending cases (e.g., GM with the ignition switch litigation).  I once had a judge in Baltimore City get very irritated with me because I wouldn’t disclose the amount my client was paying to the plaintiffs to settle their cases.  I calmly explained that it was a confidential settlement.  After voicing his displeasure at me, he eventually conceded that it was within my client’s rights for me to not disclose the amount.

Do provisions like this have any teeth?  What can be done if a party violates the confidentiality provision?

Oksana Grigorieva, Mel Gibson’s ex-girlfriend, found out the hard way.  A California appeals court just affirmed a judgment that absolved Gibson of his obligation to make settlement payments to Grigorieva.  Gibson and Grigorieva both sued each other in 2010.  He sued to establish paternity of the couple’s daughter.  She sued him for defamation and battery.  They eventually reached a settlement agreement in which Gibson would pay $20,000 per month for child support and in exchange he was declared the father of the child. Additionally, to resolve the battery and defamation claims, Gibson agreed to pay Grigorieva $750,000.00 in three installments.

Sometime after receiving the first $250,000.00 payment, Grigorieva appeared on the Howard Stern Show and made comments that Gibson argued violated the settlement agreement.  The California appellate court agreed and Grigorieva is not going to receive any of the remaining $500,000.00 from the settlement.

Another person had his $80,000.00 settlement voided when his daughter decided to post something on Facebook.

If you sign something that contains a confidentiality provision, it’s best to comply, or it could end up costing you.  Just ask Oksana Grigorieva.

 

Is Disney Legally Liable for the Alligator Attack

By now, most of you have read the tragic, heartbreaking story about the 2-year-old boy who was grabbed by an alligator and pulled into the water at Walt Disney’s Grand Floridian resort in Orlando.

One of the secondary questions that has likely been thought or discussed is, what liability, if any, does Disney have as result of this tragedy.

The law generally states that the “duty” (responsibility) owed by a landowner to a person, depends on that person’s legal status on the land.  For example, if someone is trespassing on your land, the duty you owe to them is much different from what you owe someone you’ve invited onto your property.

The Graves family (the boy’s family) would be considered an “invitee” on Disney’s property.  They were invited to be on the property and they paid to stay there.

Florida law says that the owner or operator of the property has to maintain it in a reasonably safe condition and correct or warn of the dangers that the invitee knew or should have known about and which the property owner did not or should not have known had they exercised reasonable care and diligence.   

Danny Cevallos, a legal analyst for CNN wrote an article discussing this issue.  He points out that “whether or not Disney fulfilled its duty to the child and his family doesn’t just depend on their status as “invitees.” It’s also determined by the legal status of the “hidden danger” — in this case, the alligator.” He goes on to explain an area of law that is not commonly discussed, known as “ferae naturae.”  He states that under this legal doctrine, Florida law does not require a landowner to anticipate the presence of harm from wild animals.   As with most rules, there are exceptions.  Cevallos gives the following example, “if a resort had an alligator on a leash tied to a pole in a petting zoo, that’s going to impose liability in a way that an alligator born free in a swamp adjacent to a hotel would not.”

The ferae naturae doctrine does not provide complete immunity to a property owner in a situation like this. Florida courts have held that landowners may still be liable if they “know or should know of an unreasonable risk of harm posed by an animal on their premises, and cannot expect patrons to realize the danger or guard against it.”

The liability for Disney in this tragic situation will depend on a lot of factors, including what, if anything, did Disney know about the presence of alligators in the lagoon and what warning, if any did they give their invitees?  Numerous articles have stated that there were no signs posted specifically regarding the presence of alligators.  These are all things the trier of fact (usually a jury, but sometimes a judge) would have to determine in a trial. However, the likely reality is that Disney will quietly pay a settlement to the family (likely a confidential amount) and this will never go to trial.

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

A Frederick, Maryland man robbed a local Wal-Mart.   The weapon he used – a BB gun he had stolen previously from the same Wal-Mart.

The suspect, made off with approximately $1,700.00 from the store.  A K-9 officer and handler led deputies to a location near the store, where investigators found a backpack, the BB gun and a trespassing notification that was served by the Frederick County Sheriff’s office in February on Nicholas Wayne Keyian.

Security personnel from Wal-Mart remembered Keyian from a number of thefts from the same store during the previous months, including one the day before the robbery, in which the BB gun was allegedly stolen.  Keyian was also recognized as the suspect in a theft dating back to March, in which several electronic items were stolen from the store.

Not surprisingly, Keyian was arrested in connection with the robbery and charged accordingly and was being held in the Frederick County Adult Detention Center.  According to court documents, his bail was set at $100,000.

Maryland Judge Sentenced to Probation

If you’ve ever appeared in front of a judge, especially if you’re not an attorney, it can be a little intimidating. However, one Maryland judge took things a bit too far.

Judge Robert C. Nalley, a former Charles County Circuit Court judge, pleaded guilty in February of 2016 to charges that he violated the civil rights of a criminal defendant when he ordered a deputy sheriff to physically shock the defendant, who was wearing a “stun-cuff” at the time.

On July 23, 2014, Nalley was presiding over the jury selection of Delvon King who was representing himself on gun charges.  Nalley asked King whether he had any questions for the potential jurors and rather than ask a question, King began reading from a written statement, during which time he questioned the Court’s jurisdiction over him.  King purported to hold a belief that he was a sovereign citizen.

Self-proclaimed sovereign citizens often adopt the position that they are accountable only to their personal interpretation of the common law and are not subject to any statutes or proceedings at the state or federal levels.

King refused an order from Nalley to stop and it was at that time that Nalley ordered King to be shocked.  King was later found guilty on the criminal charges.

Nalley was sentenced today in federal court and was ordered to take anger management classes and was also given a $5,000.00 fine and a year of probation.