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Court of Appeals of Maryland
August 4, 2021, Filed
Nos. 38 & 39, September Term, 2020
[*13] [**770] Opinion by Booth, J.
In the instant cases, we must decide the applicable statute of limitations for claims filed by consumer debtors against a consumer debt buyer, Midland Funding, [***4] LLC ("Midland"), alleging improper debt collection activities in connection with money judgments that Midland obtained against the plaintiffs at a time when Midland was not licensed as a collection agency under Maryland law.
These matters originated as two separate putative class action cases that were filed against Midland in Maryland circuit courts. Petitioner Clifford Cain, Jr. filed a putative class action against Midland in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City on July 30, 2013. Petitioner Tasha Gambrell filed a putative class action against Midland in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County on September 28, 2015. In both cases, Petitioners allege that Midland obtained judgments against the named plaintiffs and similarly situated members of the putative classes for consumer debts during a time period when Midland did not have a collection agency license under the Maryland Collection Agency Licensing Act ("MCALA").1 Both putative class actions included counts for declaratory judgment (seeking a declaration that the judgments obtained by Midland were void), injunctive relief preventing Midland from collecting on the judgments in the future, and money damages [*14] arising from claims for unjust enrichment and violations of the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act ("MCDCA")2 and the [***5] Maryland Consumer Protection Act ("MCPA").3 In both cases, the circuit courts resolved the cases by motion. In Mr. Cain's case, the circuit court entered an order granting summary judgment to each party in part, and a separate declaratory judgment declaring the rights of the parties. In Ms. Gambrell's case, the circuit court granted Midland's motion to dismiss.
Both cases were appealed to the Court of Special Appeals. That court issued an unreported opinion in each case. With respect to Mr. Cain's case, the Court of Special Appeals determined that it had jurisdiction to consider Mr. Cain's appeal, concluding that the circuit court's summary judgment order and declaratory judgment constituted a final judgment. Aside from that procedural issue, which was unique to Mr. Cain's case, the Court of Special Appeals resolved Mr. Cain's and Ms. Gambrell's claims in the same manner. [**771] In each instance, the intermediate appellate court held that our decision in LVNV Funding LLC v. Finch, 463 Md. 586, 207 A.3d 202 (2019) ("Finch III") resolved the Petitioners' declaratory judgment counts and that under Finch III, the judgments obtained when Midland was unlicensed were not void. The court also held that, since Petitioners' judgments had been satisfied, they were not entitled to injunctive relief because [***6] Midland was no longer collecting on them. With respect to the remaining claims seeking restitution under an unjust enrichment theory and money damages for the statutory claims, the Court of Special Appeals held that the claims were barred by the general three-year statute of limitations codified at Maryland Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article ("CJ") § 5-101. The court rejected Petitioners' argument that the claims constituted "actions on a judgment" and were therefore subject to a 12-year statute of limitations applicable to specialties [*15] actions under CJ § 5-102(a)(3). The court similarly rejected Petitioners' assertion that the continuing harm doctrine applied to change the accrual date for their unjust enrichment claims. Finally, the court rejected Petitioners' argument that the statute of limitations was tolled under the class action tolling doctrine based upon Mr. Cain's earlier participation as a putative class member in a federal class action case, and in Ms. Gambrell's case, based upon two would-be class action cases pending against Midland in Maryland state courts. We granted Mr. Cain's and Ms. Gambrell's petitions for writ of certiorari.4 Because the cases involve the same questions of law, we issue one opinion to answer the following questions, which [***7] we have rephrased for clarity:
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
475 Md. 4 *; 256 A.3d 765 **; 2021 Md. LEXIS 366 ***; 2021 WL 4472589
CLIFFORD CAIN, et al. v. MIDLAND FUNDING, LLC
Prior History: [***1] Circuit Court for Baltimore City. Case No.: 24-C-13-004869. Jeannie Jinkyung Hong, JUDGE. Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County. Case No.: C-02-CV-15-002988. William C. Mulford, II, JUDGE.
Cain v. Midland Funding, LLC, 2013 Md. Cir. Ct. LEXIS 25 (Md. Cir. Ct., Dec. 20, 2013)
Disposition: IN CASE NO. 38, JUDGMENT OF THE COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS AFFIRMED IN PART AND REVERSED IN PART. CASE REMANDED TO THE COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS WITH INSTRUCTIONS TO REMAND THE CASE TO THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR BALTIMORE CITY WITH FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS TO DISMISS THE PUTATIVE CLASS ACTION CLAIMS, AND FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS ON MR. CAIN'S INDIVIDUAL CLAIMS CONSISTENT WITH THIS OPINION. COSTS IN THIS COURT TO BE PAID BY RESPONDENT.
IN CASE NO. 39, JUDGMENT OF THE COURT OF SPECIAL APPEALS AFFIRMED. COSTS IN THIS COURT TO BE PAID BY PETITIONER.
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