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Giant of Maryland, LLC v. Taylor

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

February 2, 2015

GIANT OF MARYLAND, LLC, ET AL
v.
JULIA M. TAYLOR

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Prince George's County. Cathy H. Serrette, JUDGE.

ARGUED BY Connie N. Bertram (Proskauer Rose LLP, Washington, D.C.) Bruce L. Marcus (Joseph A. Compofelice, Jr., Marcus Bonsib, LLC, Greenbelt, MD, Scott S. Spearing, Hermes, Netburn, O'Connor & Spearing, PC, Boston, MA all on the brief) FOR APPELLANT.

ARGUED BY Jo Ann P. Myles, Largo, MD and Cynthia E. Young, Annapolis, MD FOR APPELLEE.

PANEL Eyler, Deborah S., Hotten, Friedman, JJ.

OPINION

Page 143

[221 Md.App. 358] Eyler, Deborah S., J.

Giant of Maryland, LLC (" Giant" ), and Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America (" Travelers" ), the appellants, challenge a judgment of the Circuit Court for Prince George's County entered on a supersedeas bond (" the Bond" ) in favor of Julia Taylor, the appellee. We shall reverse the judgment.

FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

On February 27, 2004, Taylor sued Giant, her then employer, under Md. Code (1957, 2003 Repl. Vol.), Article 49B (now codified at Title 20 of the State Government Article), alleging racial and gender discrimination and retaliation for filing a charge of discrimination, all in violation of certain provisions of the Prince George's County Code. Taylor's claims were tried to a jury in January 2007. On January 18, 2007, the jury returned a special verdict finding in Taylor's favor on the gender discrimination and retaliation claims, and against her on the racial discrimination claim. It awarded her $644,750 in compensatory damages. Judgment was entered by the court in that amount (" the Merits Judgment" ).

Taylor filed a motion for prevailing party attorneys' fees, pursuant to section 42(c) of Article 49B. Before the motion was ruled upon, Giant noted a timely appeal from the Merits Judgment (" the Merits Appeal" ). Thereafter, the circuit court held a hearing, found that Taylor was a prevailing party, and, on July 26, 2007, entered an order awarding her $544,925 in prevailing party attorneys' fees and costs, which it reduced to a judgment in her favor (" the Fee Judgment" ).

On August 8, 2007, in anticipation of noting an appeal from the Fee Judgment, Giant filed a motion for approval of the

Page 144

Bond in the amount of $626,633.75.[1] As relevant here, the Bond states:

WHEREAS, GIANT[] has appealed to the Court of Special Appeals of the State of MARYLAND from a judgment [221 Md.App. 359] entered on July 26, 2007 in the CIRCUIT COURT in and for PRINCE GEORGE'S county.
NOW, THEREFORE, the condition of this obligation is such that if GIANT[] shall diligently prosecute its appeal to a decision, and shall promptly perform and satisfy the judgment of the Court of Special Appeals, this obligation will be void, otherwise to remain in full force and effect.

(Emphasis in original.)

On August 29, 2007, 34 days after entry of the Fee Judgment, Giant noted an appeal (" the Fee Appeal" ). Taylor moved to dismiss the Fee Appeal as untimely. The Merits Appeal and the Fee Appeal were docketed separately in this Court.

On September 30, 2009, this Court filed a reported opinion in the Merits Appeal, reversing the Merits Judgment on the ground that the evidence was legally insufficient to support the verdict. Giant of Md., LLC v. Taylor, 188 Md.App. 1, 981 A.2d 1 (2009) (" Taylor I " ). Then, on November 2, 2009, we filed an unreported opinion in the Fee Appeal vacating the Fee Judgment. Giant of Md., LLC v. Taylor, Slip Op., No. 1356, Sept. Term 2007 (filed Nov. 2, 2009). We denied Taylor's motion to dismiss the Fee Appeal, concluding that, because the Fee Judgment did not satisfy the separate document requirement of Rule 2-601(a), the Fee Appeal actually had been filed too early, not too late, and, in any event, we had jurisdiction over the Fee Appeal by virtue of our jurisdiction over the related Merits Appeal. We did not address Giant's contentions of error, all of which concerned the amount of the Fee Judgment. Instead, we held that because Taylor had lost her status as a prevailing party, due to our reversal of the Merits Judgment, she no longer was entitled to an award of attorneys' fees.

The Court of Appeals granted certiorari in both appeals and consolidated them for decision. On December 6, 2011, it filed its opinion in the consolidated appeals. Taylor v. Giant of Md., LLC, 423 Md. 628, 33 A.3d 445 (2011) (" Taylor II " ). In the Merits Appeal, the Court reversed this Court's decision, [221 Md.App. 360] holding that the evidence was legally sufficient to sustain the verdict. It remanded the Merits Appeal to this Court to address Giant's remaining contentions of error. In the Fee Appeal, the Court held that this Court lacked jurisdiction:

Finally, we address Ms. Taylor's challenge to the Court of Special Appeals's reversal of the trial court's award of attorney's fees to her, which was brought to us by a second petition for certiorari. She argues that the intermediate appellate court lacked jurisdiction to consider Giant's untimely filed appeal, which was filed more than 30 days after the trial court issued and entered its order granting her motion for attorney's fees, and thus was untimely filed under Rule 8-602. We agree, for it is axiomatic that " a party in the trial court must file a timely notice of appeal, from an appealable judgment, in order to confer upon an appellate court subject matter jurisdiction over that party's appeal."

Taylor II, at 665 (footnote and citation omitted).

Page 145

On April 8, 2013, in accordance with the Court of Appeals opinion, this Court entered an order dismissing the Fee Appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Our mandate issued on May 8, 2013.

Two days later, in the circuit court, Taylor filed a " Motion for Judgment on Bond" pursuant to Rules 1-402, 1-404, and 1-405. She argued that because the Fee Appeal was dismissed there was " no longer any basis for the continued existence of a stay of [the Fee Judgment]." She asked the court to " enter an Order directing the Clerk of the Court to enter Judgment against the Bond and release the Bond in the amount of $626,633.75 issued by Travelers []." Giant opposed the motion, arguing that Taylor's status as a prevailing party, vel non, remained in limbo because the Merits Appeal had not yet been decided on remand to this Court. According to Giant, if this Court again were to reverse the Merits Judgment, Taylor would not be a prevailing party and therefore would not be entitled to collect on the Bond. On that basis, it [221 Md.App. 361] urged the circuit court to deny Taylor's motion for judgment on the Bond.

On August 8, 2013, the circuit court entered an order holding Taylor's motion for judgment on the Bond " in abeyance pending disposition [of the Merits Appeal in this Court]." Thereafter, Taylor filed a " Motion to Alter and [sic] Amend the Court's Judgment Entered on August 8, 2013." In it, she suggested that the circuit court had misapprehended the procedural posture of the case. She argued that there was no reason for the court to await the resolution of the Merits Appeal before granting judgment on the Bond because she had a right to execute on the Bond arising solely from the Fee Judgment, which was left standing after the Fee Appeal was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Giant opposed the motion to alter or amend, maintaining that the court properly was holding the motion for judgment on the Bond in abeyance pending the resolution of the Merits Appeal.

On October 8, 2013, this Court issued an unreported opinion reversing the Merits Judgment. Giant of Md., LLC v. Taylor, Slip Op., No. 223, Sept. Term 2007 (filed Oct. 8, 2013) (" Taylor III " ). We held that the trial court erred by admitting into evidence certain handwritten notes by Taylor purporting to memorialize the substance of a conversation she had had with a Giant employee during a meeting to discuss her discrimination charges; and that the error had prejudiced Giant. We remanded the case to ...


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