Effective January 1, Ober|Kaler joined the national firm, Baker Donelson. The combined firm maintains the name Baker Donelson and has more than 800 attorneys across 25 offices in ten states and Washington, D.C.  I am excited and privileged to begin 2017 as a Baker Donelson shareholder in their Baltimore office, and look forward to continuing communications and sharing of information with the many readers and followers of this blog.

The Maryland Condominium Act, at Section 11‑109.2, makes mandatory an annual budget, and requires that the proposed budget be submitted to the unit owner membership at least 30 days before it is adopted.  It is also required that the budget contain seven specific line items.  These line items — income, administration, maintenance, utilities, general expenses, reserves, and capital items — must be set forth in the budget without exception and without to regard to any other line items that may be included.  The adoption of the budget is required to take place at an open meeting of the owners.  Here is the complete test of Section 11-109.2:

(a)        Preparation and submission.—The council of unit owners shall cause to be prepared and submitted to the unit owners an annual proposed budget at least 30 days before its adoption.

(b)        Items required to be included. – The annual budget shall provide for at least the following items:

(1)  Income;

(2)  Administration;

(3)  Maintenance;

(4)  Utilities;

(5)  General expenses;

(6)  Reserves; and

(7)  Capitol items.

(c)        Adoption. – The budget shall be adopted at an open meeting of the council of unit owners or any other body to which the council of unit owners delegates responsibility for preparing and adopting the budget.  (more…)

My firm, Ober Kaler, will be combining with the well-respected national law firm Baker Donelson.  The Baker Donelson firm presently has more than 700 attorneys and public policy advisors representing more than 30 practice areas across 21 offices in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, D.C.  This combination will bring together two strong firms with national reputations for exceptional client service.  It is anticipated that this combination will be effective January 1, 2017.  The combined firm, which will maintain the name of Baker Donelson, will rank among the 50 largest law firms in the country, with more than 800 attorneys and advisors across 25 offices in nine states as well as Washington, D.C.   I am looking forward to continuing my construction, litigation and real estate practice as part of this dynamic merger.

Please see the August edition of Building Baltimore Magazine for my article on the Maryland Court of Appeals decision in Balfour Beatty Infrastructure, Inc. v. Rummel Klepper & Kalh, LLP.  The case established that the economic loss doctrine precludes claims for alleged negligent design by a contractor against a design professional where there is no contract between them.   Building Baltimore Magazine is a publication of Associated Builders & Contractors, Inc. – Baltimore.  You can also read the entire article here by clicking the “more” button. (more…)

I frequently receive questions about illnesses related to exposure to microbial growth and other conditions in water damaged buildings, and whether such medical conditions can form the basis of a personal injury claim.  Molds, of course, are generally recognized as allergens that can trigger respiratory symptoms in certain individuals.  For that reason, mold in buildings is considered an environmental issue that requires proper remediation.  Moreover, mold damages building components if left unaddressed.  However, repairs needed to remediate a water damaged building, and proof of a causal connection between exposure to specific molds and a particular symptom in an individual, are very different matters.   In the case of Montgomery Mutual Insurance Co. v. Chesson, , 206 Md.App. 569 (2012), the Maryland Court of Special Appeals found “that there is a genuine controversy within the scientific community with regard to whether exposure to water damaged buildings causes human health effects.”  As a result of the Court’s determination that “there is no consensus in the relevant scientific community that exposure to mold causes” medical injury, the testimony of a physician that mold exposure had caused illness was deemed to be inadmissible. (more…)

Legislation introduced in the Maryland General Assembly that would have prevented developers from including provisions in condominium governing documents that limit the developer’s liability for construction defects failed to reach a floor vote during the 2016 session. Senate Bill 250 and House Bill 1170 proposed to prohibit provisions in the declaration, bylaws or rules and regulations that limit the ability of a council of unit owners to file suit on behalf of itself or the unit owners or enforce warranty claims. The proposed new law would also have precluded limits on the rights of condominium councils or individual unit owners to bring claims relating to an alleged failure of the developer to comply with building codes, county approved plans and specifications, product manufacturer’s installation instructions, and other construction industry standards. Proposed new Section 11-134.1 of the Maryland Condominium Act would have prohibited provisions designed to prevent the filing of a claim within the applicable period of limitations or prevent claims from accruing pursuant to the “discovery rule.” The new law would also have precluded provisions requiring a vote of the unit owners approving the initiation of a claim, unless such a requirement is adopted after the unit owners assume control of the community from the developer.

A bill that would have required common ownership communities to register with the State did not come to a vote on the floor of the Maryland General Assembly during 2016 session.  House of Delegates Bill 1061 would have required common ownership communities — including residential condominiums, homeowner associations and cooperatives — to register each year with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation.