February 2015 Link Round-Up
A big case out of the Court of Appeals earlier this year didn’t get any play here on the Blog, but generated a bit of fallout discussion elsewhere in the online Maryland legal community last month, including write-ups by Ann Marie Mehlert of Lerch, Early & Brewer and Catherine A.B. Simanski of Rollins, Smalkin, Richards & Mackie. Described by Catherine in her post as arising from “a feud of ‘Hatfields and McCoys’ proportions over parking spots situated between a condo association and a homeowner’s association,” Falls Garden Condominium Ass’n, Inc. v. Falls Homeowners Ass’n, Inc., Md. Ct. App., No. 30, Sept. Term 2014 (Jan. 27, 2015), grabbed some attention by holding that a letter of intent (that’s an “LOI” among acronym-savvy attorneys) for a settlement agreement was still binding on the parties even though they couldn’t eventually agree on the terms of a lease that was meant to satisfy the proposed settlement. In analyzing the outcome, Ann Marie offered that most real-estate professionals “have always viewed the LOI as an efficient means to get business terms out on the table and agreed to before negotiating a lease” and “usually understand that the LOI is non-binding.”
For its holding that the LOI contained all the essential or material terms of the deal, and was therefore binding, the Court of Appeals was able to distinguish Falls Garden Condominium Ass’n from an earlier case in which an LOI was held to be non-binding, Cochran v. Norkunas, 398 Md. 1 (2007). Ann Marie didn’t seem to find the differences in the cases quite as apparent, but, either way, advised that Falls Garden Condominium Ass’n essentially makes explicit language expressing the non-binding nature of an LOI a must if the parties don’t want to be locked into it. Meanwhile, Catherine hypothesized that the ruling could be applied to make more oral settlement agreements enforceable.
Another notable opinion out of the Fourth Circuit last month, EEOC v. Freeman, No. 13-2365 (4th Cir., Feb. 20, 2015), drew comment on the Blog from contributor Derek Stikeleather and Melissa Loureiro of Goodell DeVries. Also chiming in was Kevin Cox of Kollman & Saucier, who, in discussing the affirmation of the district court’s exclusion of the EEOC’s expert and summary judgment on its disparate-impact claim, similarly made note of Judge Agee’s concurring take-down of the Agency. Kevin also speculated that employers “are likely disappointed that the Fourth Circuit stopped short of analyzing whether the employer’s background check policy was lawful” and hoped that the decision puts the EEOC “on notice that it must base its disparate impact claims on rigorous statistical data and analysis.”
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