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Price v. Murdy

Court of Appeals of Maryland

December 18, 2018

WILLIAM PRICE, et al.
v.
RALPH M. MURDY, et al.

          Argued: September 6, 2018

          United States District Court for the District of Maryland Case No. GLR-17-736

          Barbera, C.J., Greene, [*] Adkins, McDonald, Watts, Hotten, Getty, JJ.

          OPINION

          Barbera, C.J.

         We are presented with a question of law certified by the United States District Court for the District of Maryland pursuant to the Maryland Uniform Certification of Questions of Law Act, §§ 12-601 to 12-613 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article ("CJP"), Maryland Code (1973, 2013 Repl. Vol.). The question posed is whether a Maryland statute-here, the licensing requirement of the Maryland Consumer Loan Law, § 12-302 of the Commercial Law Article ("CL"), Maryland Code (1975, 2013 Repl. Vol.)-is a statutory specialty as contemplated by CJP § 5-102(a)(6). If an action is on a specialty, CJP § 5-102 provides that it "shall be filed within 12 years after the cause of action accrues." For the following reasons, we hold that CL § 12-302 is a statutory specialty and actions on it are accorded a twelve-year limitations period.

         I.

         Facts and Procedural History

         Pursuant to the Maryland Uniform Certification of Questions of Law Act, CJP §§ 12-601 to 12-613, "we accept the statement of facts provided by the certifying court. We only 'answer questions of state law.'" AGV Sports Grp., Inc. v. Protus IP Sols., Inc., 417 Md. 386, 389 n.1 (2010) (citations omitted). We may reformulate, under CJP § 12-604, a question of law certified to us, TravCo Ins. Co. v. Williams, 430 Md. 396, 402 (2013), but we "may go no further than the question certified." AGV Sports, 417 Md. at 389 n.1.

         We adopt the following facts set forth in the certification order of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland:

Two Plaintiffs, [Price and Chovan, ] consumers who financed the purchase of automobiles through loans under $6, 000, brought a putative class action against the lender, Samuel Spicer, [1] for violations of the Maryland Consumer Loan Law ("MCLL"). Plaintiffs allege that Spicer was not licensed to enter into these loans under the MCLL. Plaintiffs further allege that Spicer violated the MCLL by: (1) failing to provide any notices related to repossession of cars; (2) charging and collecting compound interest; and (3) charging and collecting inflated or uncollectable attorneys' fees.
Plaintiffs claim that they entered into loans with Spicer while he was unlicensed, but all of the loan transactions occurred over three years before the instant lawsuit was filed on March 17, 2017. The general statute of limitations for civil actions is three years. CJP § 5-102(a)(6), however, provides a twelve-year statute of limitations for causes of action brought under a specialty statute:
(a) An action on one of the following specialties shall be filed within 12 years after the cause of action accrues, or within 12 years from the date of the death of the last to die of the principal debtor or creditor, whichever is sooner:
(1) Promissory note or other instrument under seal;
(2) Bond except a public officer's bond;
(3) Judgment;
(4) Recognizance;
(5) Contract under seal; or
(6) Any other specialty.
Plaintiffs assert that the MCLL is an "other specialty," and therefore the twelve-year statute of limitations applies to their claims. Spicer, on the other hand, maintains that the MCLL is not a specialty, and therefore the three-year statute of limitations applies. As a result, Spicer contends, Plaintiffs' MCLL claims are time-barred.

(Emphasis in certification order) (internal citations and footnote omitted). The District Court determined that the limitations issue involves a question of unresolved Maryland law and, therefore, certified the following question to this Court:

Whether the MCLL ยง 12-302's licensing requirement is an "other specialty" subject to Maryland's twelve[-]year limitations period under ...

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