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Chae Bros., LLC v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 18, 2018

CHAE BROS., LLC, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MAYOR & CITY COUNCIL OF BALTIMORE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE L. RUSSELL, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Mayor & City Council of Baltimore's (the “Mayor and City Council”) Motion for a Declaratory Judgment Regarding the Damage Cap (ECF No. 58). The Motion is ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2018). For the reasons outlined below, the Court will deny the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         On March 3, 2017, Plaintiffs filed a 264-count Complaint in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, Maryland against the Mayor and City Council, BPD Defendants, [2] former Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the City of Baltimore, and the State of Maryland. (ECF No. 2). Defendants removed the case to this Court on June 19, 2017. (ECF No. 1).

         On March 30, 2018, the Court granted the State of Maryland's and BPD Defendants' Motions to Dismiss. (Mar. 30, 2018 Mem. Op. at 24, ECF No. 55). The Court also granted in part and denied in part the Mayor and City Council's Motion to Dismiss. (Id.). Only Plaintiffs' claims under the Maryland Riot Act (the “Riot Act”), Md. Code Ann., Pub. Safety [“PS”] § 14-1001 et seq. (West 2018), against the Mayor and City Council survived the Motions to Dismiss. (Id. at 7-13).[3]

         On April 13, 2018, the Mayor and City Council filed a Motion for a Declaratory Judgment Regarding the Damage Cap. (ECF No. 58). Plaintiffs filed an Opposition on May 4, 2018. (ECF No. 73). On May 16, 2018, the Mayor and City Council filed a Reply. (ECF No. 78).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Applicable Law

         The Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201 (2018), grants federal district courts discretion to entertain declaratory judgment actions. See Wilton v. Seven Falls Co., 515 U.S. 277, 282 (1995). District courts have “discretion to entertain a declaratory judgment action if the relief sought (i) ‘will serve a useful purpose in clarifying and settling the legal relations in issue' and (ii) ‘will terminate and afford relief from the uncertainty, insecurity, and controversy giving rise to the proceeding.'” First Nationwide Mortg. Corp. v. FISI Madison, LLC, 219 F.Supp.2d 669, 672 (D.Md. 2002) (quoting Cont'l Cas. Co. v. Fuscardo, 35 F.3d 963, 965 (4th Cir. 1994)).

         B. Analysis

         The Mayor and City Council maintain that the Local Government Tort Claims Act's (the “LGTCA”) damages cap, Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. [“CJP”] § 5-303(a)(1) (West 2016)[4] applies to Plaintiffs' Riot Act claims. As a result, they assert, each individual Plaintiff's claim is limited to $200, 000.00 and all of Plaintiffs' claims are limited to $500, 000.00 total. Plaintiffs vigorously dispute these assertions.[5] Plaintiffs submit that the express language of the Riot Act dictates that they recover full, actual damages, and therefore, the LGTCA damages cap does not apply. The Court agrees with Plaintiffs.

         Under Maryland law, “[t]he cardinal rule of statutory interpretation is to ascertain and effectuate the real and actual intent of the Legislature.” State v. Neiswanger Mgmt. Servs., LLC, 179 A.3d 941, 951 (Md. 2018) (quoting Lockshin v. Semsker, 987 A.2d 18, 28 (Md. 2010)). A court's analysis, therefore, “begins with the plain meaning of the statute.” Id. If the Legislature's intent is clear from the language of the statute, the court's inquiry as to legislative intent ends and the court “appl[ies] the statute as written, without resort to other rules of construction.” Lockshin, 987 A.2d at 28-29 (quoting Bd. of Educ. of Balt. Cty. v. Zimmer-Rubert, 973 A.2d 233, 241 (Md. 2009)). The court does not “add or delete language.” Haile v. State, 66 A.3d 600, 611 (Md. 2013) (quoting Lockshin, 987 A.2d at 29). Nor does it “limit or extend” a statute's application. Id. (quoting Lockshin, 987 A.2d at 29).

         Plaintiffs contend that the Riot Act, by its plain language, provides for the recovery of “actual damages.” The Mayor and City Council counter that the LGTCA damages cap expressly applies to all torts. Because the Riot Act sounds in tort, they maintain, the LGTCA damages cap applies to Plaintiffs' Riot Act claims. The Court first examines the plain language of the LGTCA.

         A. ...


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