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Clark v. Clark

United States District Court, District of Maryland, Northern Division

March 3, 2015

RICHARD CLARK, SR., et al., Plaintiffs,
STEPHEN V. CLARK, Defendant.


William D. Quarles, Jr. United States District Judge

Richard Clark, Sr., individually, and as parent and guardian of Richard J. Clark, a minor, and Richard J. Clark (the "Plaintiffs"), sued Stephen V. Clark, personal representative for the estate of Charles Clark, [1] for state law tort claims. ECF No. I.[2] Pending is the Defendant's motion for partial summary judgment. ECF No. 7. No hearing is necessary. Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the following reasons, the motion will be denied.

I. Background[3]

This suit arises from a July 21, 2013 single-vehicle motorcycle accident in Mesa County, Colorado. ECF Nos. 1 ¶ 6; 7 at 1, 8; 9 at 1. Richard J. Clark was a passenger on a Harley Davidson motorcycle owned and driven by Charles Clark. ECF No. 1 ¶ 6. The motorcycle hit the median and became airborne; Richard J. Clark and Charles Clark were ejected from the motorcycle. Id. ¶ 7; ECF Nos. 7 at 8-9; 9-1 at 7-8. Charles Clark died at the scene, and Richard J. Clark suffered serious bodily injuries requiring more than $160, 000 in medical care. ECF NOS. 1 ¶¶ 8-9; 7 at 10; 9-1 at 5.

On October 21, 2013, the Plaintiffs filed a $1, 012, 862.70 claim against Charles Clark's Estate in the Orphan's Court for Baltimore City (the "Estate Claim"). ECF No. 9-1 at 1-2.[4] On April 30, 2014, the Estate Claim was denied in full. ECF No. 9-1 at 9-10 ("Notice of Disallowance"). The Notice of Disallowance stated that "the amount disallowed will be forever barred unless" the Plaintiffs file a petition in the Orphans' Court, or a lawsuit, against the Estate's personal representative "within 60 days after the mailing of [the Notice of Disallowance]." Id. at 10.

On May 20, 2014, the Plaintiffs sued the Defendant for state law negligence and deprivation of services. ECF No. 1. On August 25, 2014, the Defendant moved for partial summary judgment to limit the amount of recovery. ECF No. 7. On September 3, 2014, the Plaintiffs opposed the motion. ECF No. 9.[5] On January 13, 2015, the Defendant replied. ECF No. 13.

II. Analysis

A. Legal Standard

The Court "shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a);[6] Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In considering the motion, the judge's function is "not . . . to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. A dispute about a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 248.

B. The Defendant's Motion

The Defendant asserts that--as a matter of law--any recovery by the Plaintiffs must not exceed the liability limit of Charles Clark's insurance policy because the Plaintiffs filed suit more than six months after Charles Clark died. ECF No. 7 at 1, 4.

Md. Code Ann., Est. & Trusts § 8-104 (West 2011) provides that a creditor may file a claim against an estate by: (1) "deliver[ing] or mail[ing] to the personal representative a verified written statement of the claim indicating its basis, the name and address of the claimant, and the amount claimed, " § 8-104(b); (2) "fil[ing] a verified written statement of the claim" with the register of wills, and delivering or mailing a copy to the personal representative, § 8-104(c); or, (3) " [w] hen a cause survives death, the claimant is not required to file a claim under subsection (b) or (c), " but "may commence an action against the estate or" the personal representative "within the time limited for the filing of claims, " § 8-104(d). Md. Code Ann., Est. & Trusts § 8-103(a)(1) provides that claims against a decedent's estate must be presented within six months after the decedent's death.[7]

Under § 8-104(e)(1), when decedents are covered by a liability insurance policy, "then, notwithstanding the other provisions of this section, an action against the estate may be instituted after the expiration of the time designated in this section, but within the period of limitations generally applicable to such actions." However, recovery "is limited to the amount of the decedent's liability insurance policy." § 8-104(e) (2) (ii) .

The Defendant asserts that the Plaintiffs' Estate Claim was not an "action" under § 8-104(d). ECF No. 7 at 6 {citing Alban Tractor Co. v. Bollack, 410 A.2d 1101, 1102-03 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1980)). Thus, the Defendant argues, because the Plaintiffs filed this suit more than six months after Charles Clark died, but within the generally applicable limitations period, under ยง ...

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