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Kulikov v. Baffoe-Harding

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

November 21, 2013

ALEKSEY KULIKOV
v.
KADIJA BAFFOE-HARDING

Woodward, Kehoe, Salmon, James P. (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.

OPINION

Woodward, J.

On March 27, 2012, appellee, Kadija Baffoe-Harding, filed the instant action against appellant, Aleksey Kulikov, in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Maryland, alleging negligence on the part of appellant in the operation of his motor vehicle that caused a motor vehicle–pedestrian collision on June 2, 2011, in Montgomery County, Maryland. In response, appellant filed a motion to dismiss or change the venue from Prince George's County to Montgomery County, because, according to appellant, Montgomery County was the only proper venue for the case. The circuit court disagreed, and denied appellant's motion on June 18, 2012. After the circuit court denied his motion for reconsideration, appellant appealed, and presents the following two questions for our review, which we have rephrased:

1. Can appellant immediately appeal the circuit court's denial of his motion to transfer for improper venue under Rule 2-327(b)?
2. If appellant's appeal is cognizable at this time, did the circuit court err in denying appellant's motion to transfer for improper venue under Rule 2-327(b)?

As explained below, we answer Question 1 in the negative, and thus dismiss the instant appeal. Consequently, we do not reach Question 2.

BACKGROUND

On June 2, 2011, appellee was crossing Friendship Boulevard in Chevy Chase, Montgomery County, Maryland when appellant made a left turn and struck her with his car. Appellee filed a complaint alleging negligence in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County on March 27, 2012. In response, appellant filed on May 3, 2012, a Motion to Dismiss or in the Alternative to Transfer Action based on improper venue ("Motion to Dismiss/Transfer"). In an affidavit attached to the motion, appellant stated that "at the time [he] received the lawsuit papers, " he (1) resided in Montgomery County, and (2) was not employed, did not carry on regular business, and did not habitually engage in a vocation in Prince George's County. Appellant also stated that the accident giving rise to the lawsuit occurred in Montgomery County. Thus, appellant argued, venue was only proper in Montgomery County under Maryland law. See Md. Code (2006, 2013 Repl. Vol.), §§ 6-201(a), 6-202(8) of the Courts & Judicial Proceedings (II) Article ("CJ").[1] Appellee did not oppose the motion.

By order dated June 18, 2012, the circuit court denied appellant's Motion to Dismiss/Transfer. On July 17, 2012, appellant filed a motion for reconsideration. Appellee again did not oppose the motion. By order filed on August 13, 2012, the circuit court denied appellant's motion for reconsideration. Appellant filed a timely notice of appeal on August 24, 2012.

DISCUSSION

Appellant is appealing from the trial court's denial of his Motion to Dismiss/Transfer. The motion to dismiss was based on improper venue under Maryland Rule 2-322(a) ("Improper Venue (Dismiss) Motion"). The motion to transfer was based on improper venue under Rule 2-327(b) ("Improper Venue (Transfer) Motion") (collectively "Improper Venue Motion"). In the instant appeal, appellant does not claim that the trial court's denial of the Improper Venue (Dismiss) Motion is immediately appealable. Appellant focuses solely on the court's denial of the Improper Venue (Transfer) Motion.

Appellant recognizes that under the language of Maryland appellate opinions, a trial court's grant of an Improper Venue (Transfer) Motion and a motion to transfer for forum non conveniens under Rule 2-327(c) ("Inconvenient Forum Motion") are immediately appealable as final judgments, but the denial of these motions is not immediately appealable. Nevertheless, appellant contends that both the grant and denial of an Improper Venue (Transfer) Motion should be immediately appealable. Appellant reasons that the different treatment, for immediate appealability purposes, of the grant and denial of the motions is based on cases reviewing trial court rulings on Inconvenient Forum Motions, not Improper Venue (Transfer) Motions. Moreover, according to appellant, not allowing an immediate appeal when a trial court denies an Inconvenient Forum Motion "makes sense, " because "venue is actually proper in both forums [sic]." Conversely, appellant asserts that the denial of Improper Venue (Transfer) Motion "has the harsh result of depriving [appellant] of his fundamental and substantial right to be sued in the county in which he resides."

In addition, appellant argues that equity and judicial economy considerations demand that he be able to immediately appeal the denial of his motion, because otherwise he would be forced to go through the lengthy and expensive process of defending himself in a "foreign county, " only to then re-litigate the matter in the proper venue. He further contends that "public cost[s], " including "maintaining court dockets, court congestion and the use of citizen's [sic] time for jury duty, " should be considered in cases of improper venue, and that these costs favor the immediate appeal of all orders granting or denying an Improper Venue (Transfer) Motion. Thus, appellant claims that an immediate appeal should be allowed for the denial of an Improper Venue (Transfer) Motion.

Appellee counters that this Court recently examined and reaffirmed the different treatment, for immediate appeal purposes, of the grant and denial of an Improper Venue (Transfer) Motion. Appellee observes:

[T]he current case law is absolutely clear that the denial of a Motion to Dismiss or Motion to Transfer filed pursuant to Maryland Rule 2-327(b) is not to be treated any differently than the denial of a Motion to Dismiss or Motion to Transfer filed pursuant to Maryland Rule 2-327(c).

According to appellee's reading of Maryland case law, Improper Venue (Transfer) Motions and Inconvenient Forum Motions can be the subject of immediate appeal ...


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