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United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
January 29, 2020, Argued; March 13, 2020, Decided
[*247] KING, Circuit Judge:
This appeal arises from a purported kickback scheme orchestrated by the defendants, The Creig Northrop Team, P.C., Creighton Northrop, III (the "Northrop Defendants"), the Lakeview Title Company, Inc., and Lindell Eagan (the [**2] "Lakeview Defendants"). Homeowners Christine and Patrick Baehr (the "Baehrs"), as representatives of the putative class of plaintiffs, specify in their operative single-count complaint that the kickback scheme, in which the Lakeview Defendants paid the Northrop Defendants for marketing services that were actually illegal business referrals, deprived them and the other class members of "impartial and fair competition between settlement service[s] providers," in contravention of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act ("RESPA"), 12 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. See Baehr v. The Creig Northrop Team, P.C., No. 1:13-cv-00933, at ¶¶ 23, 41-47 (D. Md. Aug. 15, 2014), ECF No. 89 (the "Operative Complaint").
After conducting discovery, the Northrop and Lakeview Defendants jointly moved for summary judgment, arguing, inter alia, that the Baehrs had not established that they possessed Article III standing to sue. The district court thereafter awarded summary judgment to the defendants on that ground. More specifically, the court reasoned that the Baehrs had not suffered a concrete injury, and thus could not establish the necessary injury-in-fact for standing. See Baehr v. The Creig Northrop Team, P.C., No. 1:13-cv-00933, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 206721, slip op. at 21-22 (D. Md. Dec. 7, 2018) [**3] , ECF No. 244 (the "Summary Judgment Opinion"). Alternatively, the Summary Judgment Opinion barred the Baehrs's claim under RESPA's statute of limitations based on their failure to establish that the claim was equitably tolled. 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 206721, [slip op.] [*248] at 29. As explained below, we agree that the Baehrs lack standing to sue. Because ] a federal court cannot exercise jurisdiction in the absence of standing, we vacate and remand for dismissal of this case. See Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94, 102, 118 S. Ct. 1003, 140 L. Ed. 2d 210 (1998) (recognizing that standing "is part of the common understanding of what it takes to make a justiciable case" and that when jurisdiction does not exist, "the only function remaining to the court is that of announcing the fact and dismissing the cause" (internal quotation marks omitted)).
In July 2008, the Baehrs purchased a home in Glenwood, Maryland (the "Glenwood home").1 They hired Maija Dykstra, a real estate agent who was a member of The Creig Northrop Team, P.C. ("The Northrop Team"), to represent them as buyers. The Northrop Team is comprised of real estate agents who independently provide real estate brokerage services under the brokerage license of Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc.2 Creighton Northrop, III, a real estate agent, is the President of The Northrop Team. As President of The Northrop Team, Northrop splits real estate commissions with the other real estate agents who are independent-contractor members of the Team.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
953 F.3d 244 *; 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 8117 **; 2020 WL 1224415
PATRICK BAEHR; CHRISTINE BAEHR, Plaintiffs - Appellants, v. THE CREIG NORTHROP TEAM, P.C.; CREIGHTON EDWARD NORTHROP, III; LINDELL C. EAGAN; LAKEVIEW TITLE COMPANY, INC., Defendants - Appellees, and CARLA NORTHROP; LONG & FOSTER REAL ESTATE, INC., Defendants.
Subsequent History: Rehearing denied by, En banc, Rehearing denied by Baehr v. Creig Northrop Team, P.C., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 15257 (4th Cir., May 12, 2020)
US Supreme Court certiorari denied by Baehr v. Creig Northrop Team, P.C., 2020 U.S. LEXIS 4075 (U.S., Oct. 5, 2020)
Prior History: [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Baltimore. Richard D. Bennett, District Judge. (1:13-cv-00933-RDB).
Baehr v. Creig Northrop Team, P.C., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 206721, 2018 WL 6434502 (D. Md., Dec. 7, 2018)
Disposition: VACATED AND REMANDED.
settlement, title company, concrete, Team, kickbacks, deprivation, impartial, services provider, fair competition, unjust enrichment, injury-in-fact, summary judgment, Affiliated, referrals, overcharge, quotation, marks, marketing agreement, cause of action, kickback scheme, fiduciary, damages, statutory violation, real estate agent, fiduciary duty, real estate, contravention, providers, title insurance, putative class
Civil Procedure, Preliminary Considerations, Jurisdiction, Justiciability, Standing, Banking Law, Consumer Protection, Real Estate Settlement Procedures, Kickbacks & Prohibited Fees, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Appropriateness, Judgments, Evidentiary Considerations, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Appellate Review, Standards of Review, Genuine Disputes, Legal Entitlement, Materiality of Facts, Standing, Injury in Fact, Constitutional Law, Case or Controversy, Elements, Burdens of Proof, Special Proceedings, Class Actions, The Judiciary, Class Actions, Class Members, Named Members, Real Property Law, Brokers, Fiduciary Responsibilities, Contracts Law, Remedies, Equitable Relief, Quantum Meruit