Chapman v. Kamara, No. 18

CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtRAKER.
Citation739 A.2d 387,356 Md. 426
Decision Date25 October 1999
Docket NumberNo. 18
PartiesCheryl CHAPMAN, Personal Representative of the Estate of Henry Norman Cole, II, et al. v. Marie KAMARA, Individually, etc.

739 A.2d 387
356 Md. 426

Cheryl CHAPMAN, Personal Representative of the Estate of Henry Norman Cole, II, et al.
v.
Marie KAMARA, Individually, etc

No. 18, Sept. Term, 1998.

Court of Appeals of Maryland.

October 25, 1999.


739 A.2d 388
Thomas Fortune Fay, David J. Perrone, on brief, Washington, DC, for petitioners

Gerard J. Stief, Associate General Counsel (Robert J. Polk, General Counsel; Robert J. Kniaz, Deputy General Counsel, on brief), Washington, DC, for respondents.

Argued before BELL, C.J., and ELDRIDGE, RODOWSKY, CHASANOW1, RAKER, WILNER and CATHELL, JJ.

RAKER, Judge.

This case arises out of an automobile accident that occurred in Prince George's County. Several of the parties to that accident filed a "friendly suit"2 in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, and the court entered a consent judgment. Several years later, parties to the friendly suit became concerned with the preclusive effect of that consent judgment on a subsequent lawsuit filed in federal court, and moved to vacate that judgment. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), which was not a party to the suit, but was a party to the subsequent federal lawsuit, moved to intervene as a matter of right in the motion to vacate. The circuit court granted WMATA's motion to intervene and denied the motion to vacate judgment. We granted

739 A.2d 389
the writ of certiorari to consider the following questions
I. Whether WMATA had a justiciable interest in the "friendly suit" in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County such as permitted intervention in the action for the purpose of opposing the motion to vacate the judgment?
II. Whether the judgment by consent in the "friendly suit" should have been vacated as requested by both defendants and consented to by both plaintiffs?
III. Whether, in the absence of any service upon her or notice to her of the proceedings, Renee Cole is entitled to have the judgment against her set aside?
IV. Whether the entry of appearance of an attorney on behalf of an estate not yet in existence is valid, permitting relief to be granted against the estate?

I.

On October 11, 1991, Henry N. Cole, II was driving a van in Prince George's County. The vehicle collided with a telephone pole. Henry N. Cole, II, was seriously injured in the accident, and died from his injuries approximately fourteen months later. Seven passengers were in the van, each of whom sustained physical injury. Among the injured passengers were two minors, Russell Cole (the brother of the decedent) and Arouna Koroma.

On December 23, 1993, the Reverend Henry N. Cole and Marie Kamara, the parents of Russell Cole and Arouna Koroma, filed a suit in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County on behalf of the two minors and individually. This was characterized as a "friendly suit," filed to effectuate a settlement of remaining claims under the insurance policy of Renee Cole, the owner of the van and the step-mother of the driver. The named defendants were the estate of Henry N. Cole, II, as the driver of the van, and Renee Cole, as the owner. Renee Cole had insured the van for up to $100,000 under a policy issued by Government Employees Insurance Company (GEICO).

Marie Kamara sued the estate and Renee Cole for $29,296.80 as mother and next friend of Arouna Koroma, and for $15,053.20 individually. Reverend Cole sued the estate for $5,508.27 as father and next friend of Russell, and for $8,741.73 individually. He did not sue Renee Cole.3 An attorney hired by GEICO consented to the entry of judgment against the estate and Renee Cole.

The complaint alleged that Henry N. Cole, II "did negligently and carelessly operate the vehicle so as to cause it to leave the roadway," and that "as a consequence of the negligence and carelessness of the decedent," the minor plaintiffs sustained injury. The complaint also alleged that the parents had sustained and would continue to sustain medical expenses and loss of services. Finally, in the name of Marie Kamara but not Reverend Cole, the complaint alleged that the decedent was operating the van as the agent, servant, and employee of Renee Cole.

On the day the complaint was filed, the insurance company counsel filed an answer on behalf of the estate and Renee Cole, denying liability generally. Also on that day, the Circuit Court for Prince George's County entered a consent judgment against the defendants for the amounts prayed. The plaintiffs filed on that date an order of satisfaction, marking the judgments as paid and satisfied.4

739 A.2d 390
On October 7, 1994, Reverend Cole petitioned for administration of the estate and was appointed personal representative.5 Attorney Cheryl Chapman represented Reverend Cole in that petition. On the same day, Reverend Cole, as the personal representative of the estate, and through counsel, filed a wrongful death and survival action against WMATA in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County

In the wrongful death count, Reverend Cole filed suit as surviving parent of Henry Cole, II, as well as to the use of Nankita Boseman, natural mother of the decedent. In the survival action, Reverend Cole filed suit as the personal representative of the estate. In that complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that a WMATA bus caused the accident when it crossed the center line, causing decedent to veer off the road into a utility pole in an attempt to avoid a collision.

WMATA removed the case to the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, Southern Division. In that court, the case is captioned Henry N. Cole, as Personal Representative and Surviving Parent of Henry N. Cole, II, Deceased, and to the Use of Nankita Boseman vs. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Civil Action No. PJM-94-3185.

On March 29, 1996, WMATA filed a motion for summary judgment in the federal suit. WMATA argued that because the consent judgment in the friendly suit was based on the finding that decedent's negligence had caused the accident, Reverend Cole and the estate were collaterally estopped from subsequently arguing, in the federal suit, that WMATA's negligence, and not the negligence of decedent, had caused the accident.

On April 17, 1996, Cheryl Chapman, as personal representative of the estate, and Renee Cole filed a motion to vacate the consent judgment entered on December 23, 1993, alleging lack of personal jurisdiction based on defective service of process. Renee Cole argued that she was never served with process in the suit and that she did not consent to the entry of judgment against her. The estate argued that it could not have been served with process in the December, 1993, action because the estate did not come into existence until Reverend Cole was appointed personal representative in October, 1994. With this motion, the parties filed an affidavit of Russell Cole, who had then attained the age of majority; in the affidavit, he consented to the motion to vacate the judgment. On May 3, 1996, the parties filed an affidavit of Arouna Koroma, indicating that he had no objection to the motion to vacate the judgment. All parties agreed that the suit filed in December, 1993, was the culmination of negotiations of the settlement reached between the plaintiffs and GEICO.

On May 3, 1996, pursuant to Maryland Rule 2-214(a), WMATA filed a motion to intervene as a matter of right, and an opposition to the estate's motion to vacate judgment. WMATA took no position on Renee Cole's motion to vacate the judgment against her.

WMATA argued that a consent judgment was entered against the estate in a negligence action brought by the two minors and their representative parents. Implicit in that judgment, it asserted, was the determination that the decedent, and therefore the estate, was negligent, and that his negligence was a proximate cause of the injuries sustained by the minor plaintiffs. Even though the judgment against the estate was a consent judgment, WMATA continues, the estate is nonetheless collaterally estopped from relitigating the issue of the decedent's negligence. Because the prior judgment establishes contributory negligence, this finding most likely would bar a claim by the decedent if he had survived the accident and sued WMATA for personal injuries. As a result,

739 A.2d 391
the consent judgment entered against the estate in this case has legal significance beyond merely protecting the defendant and the insurer against later suits by the minor plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs opposed WMATA's motion to intervene. They argued that WMATA has no justiciable interest in the transaction because the consent judgment proceeding was a matter solely between the parties to that action. They further argued that all interested parties to the consent judgment agreed to the motion to vacate judgment. Finally, they argued that WMATA's only interest is in avoiding a trial on the merits in the federal lawsuit, which does not amount to a justiciable interest.

On May 14, 1996, Marie Kamara, through counsel, responded to the plaintiffs opposition to WMATA's motion to intervene. She objected to the plaintiffs' statement that "all of the parties to the consent judgment proceedings of December 23, 1993 have agreed to the motion to vacate," and stated that she, individually, specifically had taken no position to date, and had neither consented to nor opposed the plaintiffs' motion to vacate.

The trial court granted WMATA's motion to intervene and denied the plaintiffs' motion to vacate. The court ruled that the insurance company attorney's appearance on behalf of Renee Cole was authorized. The trial judge further found that his appearance as counsel for the estate, in a lawsuit in which the future personal representative, Reverend Cole, was a party and was represented by other counsel, was authorized and consequently waived any claim of lack of service of process on or jurisdiction over the estate. The court also found that Reverend Cole, as the future personal...

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39 practice notes
  • Peay v. Barnett, No. 1726, Sept. Term, 2016
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • March 29, 2018
    ...the facts of this case is that of "mistake." A "mistake" under the Rule refers only to a "jurisdictional mistake." See Chapman v. Kamara , 356 Md. 426, 436, 739 A.2d 387 (1999) (citing Claibourne v. Willis , 347 Md. 684, 702 A.2d 293 (1997) ) ("Mistake is limited to a jurisdictional mistake......
  • Simpson v. CONSOLIDATED CONSTRUCTION SERVICES, No. 1960 Sept. Term
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • February 6, 2002
    ...to protect its interest; and 4. the applicant's interests must be inadequately represented by the existing parties. Chapman v. Kamara, 356 Md. 426, 443, 739 A.2d 387 (1999) (quoting Chapman v. Kamara, 118 Md.App. 418, 427, 702 A.2d 977 (1997)). The "[f]ailure to satisfy any one of the four ......
  • Facey v. Facey, No. 1183, Sept. Term, 2019
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • February 26, 2021
    ...that act of fraud, no lawsuit could have been filed. Therefore, he concludes, the fraud was extrinsic.Relying on Chapman v. Kamara , 356 Md. 426, 739 A.2d 387 (1999), Roberto also argues that the fraud effected a jurisdictional mistake. In Chapman , he explains, the court exercised its revi......
  • Williams v. Hofmann Balancing Techniques, Ltd., No. 1214
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • July 5, 2001
    ...on his behalf.")(citing Thomas v. Hopkins, 209 Md. 321, 326-27, 121 A.2d 192 (1956)), aff'd in part and rev'd in part on other grounds, 356 Md. 426, 739 A.2d 387 (1999). Once suit was commenced within the period of limitations, notice to the party named by amendment, Perfect Equipment Corpo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
39 cases
  • Peay v. Barnett, No. 1726, Sept. Term, 2016
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • March 29, 2018
    ...the facts of this case is that of "mistake." A "mistake" under the Rule refers only to a "jurisdictional mistake." See Chapman v. Kamara , 356 Md. 426, 436, 739 A.2d 387 (1999) (citing Claibourne v. Willis , 347 Md. 684, 702 A.2d 293 (1997) ) ("Mistake is limited to a jurisdictional mistake......
  • Simpson v. CONSOLIDATED CONSTRUCTION SERVICES, No. 1960 Sept. Term
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • February 6, 2002
    ...to protect its interest; and 4. the applicant's interests must be inadequately represented by the existing parties. Chapman v. Kamara, 356 Md. 426, 443, 739 A.2d 387 (1999) (quoting Chapman v. Kamara, 118 Md.App. 418, 427, 702 A.2d 977 (1997)). The "[f]ailure to satisfy any one of the four ......
  • Facey v. Facey, No. 1183, Sept. Term, 2019
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • February 26, 2021
    ...that act of fraud, no lawsuit could have been filed. Therefore, he concludes, the fraud was extrinsic.Relying on Chapman v. Kamara , 356 Md. 426, 739 A.2d 387 (1999), Roberto also argues that the fraud effected a jurisdictional mistake. In Chapman , he explains, the court exercised its revi......
  • Williams v. Hofmann Balancing Techniques, Ltd., No. 1214
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • July 5, 2001
    ...on his behalf.")(citing Thomas v. Hopkins, 209 Md. 321, 326-27, 121 A.2d 192 (1956)), aff'd in part and rev'd in part on other grounds, 356 Md. 426, 739 A.2d 387 (1999). Once suit was commenced within the period of limitations, notice to the party named by amendment, Perfect Equipment Corpo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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