Hartford Ins. Co. v. Birdsong, 416

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtArgued before GILBERT; KARWACKI
Citation69 Md.App. 615,519 A.2d 219
PartiesHARTFORD INSURANCE COMPANY, et al. v. Victor W. BIRDSONG, et al. ,
Docket NumberNo. 416,416
Decision Date01 September 1986

Page 615

69 Md.App. 615
519 A.2d 219
Victor W. BIRDSONG, et al.
No. 416, Sept. Term, 1986.
Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.
Jan. 8, 1987.

[519 A.2d 220]

Page 617

M. Bradley Hallwig (Gregory L. VanGeison and Anderson, Coe & King, on the brief), Baltimore, for appellant, Hartford Ins. Co.

Roger Robertson (A. Douglas Owens, on the brief), Baltimore, for appellant, Liberty Mut. Ins. Co.

James M. Gabler (Phillips P. O'Shaughnessy, Paul W. Spence, Sandbower, Gabler & O'Shaughnessy, P.A., Gerald H. Cooper and Cooper, Beckman & Tuerk, on the brief), Baltimore, for appellees.

Argued before GILBERT, C.J., and KARWACKI and ROBERT M. BELL, JJ.


This appeal arises from a personal injury action instituted by the appellees, Victor W. Birdsong and his wife, Elaine Birdsong, against multiple defendants, including companies insured by the appellants, the Hartford Insurance Company (Hartford) and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company (Liberty Mutual). After their named insureds were voluntarily dismissed as parties defendant, Hartford and Liberty Mutual separately sought to intervene as of right in the action on grounds that they might be found liable for a judgment obtained against another defendant. Both appellants challenge the trial court's denial of their motions to intervene.


On May 14, 1980, Victor Birdsong was stopped at a toll booth for the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel when his vehicle

Page 618

was struck in the rear by a truck driven by Jake Spurlin and owned by K.D. Jalousie of New Jersey, Inc. (Jalousie). At the time of the accident, the truck operated by Spurlin was en route from Elizabeth, New Jersey to Baltimore to be fitted with a new body by Duralite Truck Bodies and Container Corporation (Duralite), a division of Warner Fruehauf Trailer Company, Inc. (Warner Fruehauf). Duralite had contracted with T.R. Transport, Inc., to have Jalousie's truck picked up in New Jersey and driven to Baltimore. Spurlin was the T.R. Transport employee assigned to accomplish that task. On the date of the accident, Jalousie was covered by a policy of liability insurance issued by Hartford, while Liberty Mutual similarly insured Duralite and Warner Fruehauf under a single policy.

On April 29, 1983, the Birdsongs filed suit in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City seeking damages for injuries allegedly resulting from the May 14, 1980 accident. 1 Among the defendants named in the suit were Jake Spurlin, Jalousie, Warner Fruehauf, and Duralite. 2 Liberty Mutual provided counsel for Warner Fruehauf and Duralite pursuant to the terms of their liability policy. An answer to the Birdsongs' complaint was filed on behalf of those two defendants on July 12, 1983. Jalousie answered the complaint on September 2, 1983, through counsel provided by its insurer, Hartford. Although the record discloses that Spurlin was served [519 A.2d 221] with process on September 22, 1984, he never filed an answer or any other response to the suit. Both Hartford and Liberty Mutual took the position that they owed Spurlin no coverage under their policies.

Due to Spurlin's failure to plead, the Birdsongs requested, and the court granted, an order of default against Spurlin on March 12, 1985. On April 15, 1985, Jalousie moved to vacate the default, but the motion was denied on

Page 619

July 1, 1985, based on Jalousie's lack of standing. 3 In that motion, which sought in the alternative to stay entry of a default judgment pending resolution of the issue of insurance coverage for Spurlin, counsel for Jalousie stated an intention to file a declaratory judgment action within 30 days in order to resolve the question of whether Spurlin was entitled to coverage by Hartford or Liberty Mutual. Nevertheless, no declaratory judgment action was ever instituted.

Subsequently, trial was scheduled for March 31, 1986. Warner Fruehauf, Duralite, and Jalousie had been active participants in discovery and were preparing to go to trial. On February 18, 1986, however, the Birdsongs moved to dismiss the claims against those three defendants pursuant to Rule 2-506(b). The court granted that motion for voluntary dismissal with the consent of counsel for the parties involved.

Seventeen days later, on March 7, 1986, Hartford moved to intervene as a defendant in the case pursuant to Rule 2-214(a). The motion was filed by the same attorney who had been counsel for Jalousie. Hartford asserted that counsel for the Birdsongs had taken the position that Jalousie's liability policy with Hartford afforded coverage to Spurlin, a position with which Hartford continued to disagree. While Jalousie was a defendant, Hartford felt that its interests were adequately protected since it had provided Jalousie's counsel. With Jalousie dismissed from the case, along with every other defendant represented by counsel (i.e., Warner Fruehauf and Duralite), 4 Hartford feared that the Birdsongs would present a case for damages against Spurlin unopposed and then seek to enforce the judgment against Hartford pursuant to Md.Code (1957, 1986 Repl.Vol.),

Page 620

Art. 48A, § 481. 5 Hartford sought to assure the court that its intervention in the action would not require postponement of the trial, representing that its counsel was familiar with the case due to his prior involvement as counsel for Jalousie. Nevertheless, after hearing argument the same day the motion was filed, Judge Elsbeth L. Bothe denied Hartford's motion to intervene. 6

On March 19, 1986, Liberty Mutual filed a motion to intervene based essentially on the same grounds as were advanced in Hartford's motion. In addition to its motion to intervene, however, Liberty Mutual filed a motion for continuance of the trial date, asserting a need to conduct additional [519 A.2d 222] discovery as well as a conflict in its counsel's schedule. 7 Like Hartford, Liberty Mutual continued to deny coverage for Spurlin. On March 21, 1986, Judge Bothe denied Liberty Mutual's motion to intervene, thereby rendering moot its accompanying motion for a continuance. 8


We first consider the appellees' motion to dismiss the appeal on grounds of mootness. In support of their motion,

Page 621

the appellees assert that the sole purpose of the appellants' motions to intervene was to permit the appellants to participate in a hearing which had been scheduled pursuant to Rule 2-613(e) for March 31, 1986 to determine the amount of Mr. and Mrs. Birdsong's damages. Because that hearing was held as scheduled and resulted in a judgment in favor of Victor Birdsong in the amount of $3,000,000 plus costs, the appellees contend that the issue presented in this appeal is now moot.

"A question is moot if, at the time it is before the court, there is no longer an existing controversy between the parties, so that there is no longer any effective remedy which the court can provide." Koontz v. Ass'n of Classified Employees, 297 Md. 521, 529, 467 A.2d 753 (1983); Attorney General v. Anne Arundel County School Bus Contractors Ass'n, 286 Md. 324, 327, 407 A.2d 749 (1979). Here, if the appellants' motions to intervene were improperly denied, we could reverse those orders, vacate the judgment entered in favor of Mr. Birdsong, and remand the case for a new trial on the issue of damages. Rule 1074a. See Maryland-Nat'l Capital Park and Planning Comm'n v. Washington Nat'l Arena, 30 Md.App. 712, 714, 354 A.2d 459 (1976). Accordingly, the issue raised by the appellants is not moot, and we deny the appellees' motion to dismiss the appeal. 9


Rule 2-214 is the successor to former Rule 208. With respect to intervention as of right, Rule 2-214 states:

(a) Of Right.--Upon timely motion, a person shall be permitted to intervene in an action: (1) when the person

Page 622

has an unconditional right to intervene as a matter of law; or (2) when the person claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and the person is so situated that the disposition of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the ability to protect that interest unless it is adequately represented by existing parties.

The language of section (a) is taken almost verbatim from Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(a). Even under the language of former Rule 208a., which differed from the federal rule following amendment of the federal rule in 1966, the Court of Appeals relied on the federal cases construing Rule 24 as an interpretive guide. Citizens Coordinating Committee on Friendship Heights, Inc. v. TKU Associates, 276 Md. 705, 712, 351 A.2d 133 (1976). Therefore, in interpreting the new rule, we shall look for guidance to federal case law interpreting Fed. Rule 24(a) as well as to Maryland case law interpreting former Md. Rule 208a.

The appellants in the case sub judice claim "an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action" under Rule 2-214(a)(2). The federal appellate courts have imposed four requirements for intervention as of right under Fed. Rule 24(a)(2):

[519 A.2d 223] (1) the application for intervention must be timely;

(2) the applicant must have an interest in the subject matter of the action;

(3) disposition of the action would at least potentially impair the applicant's ability to protect its interest; and

(4) the applicant's interest must be inadequately represented by existing parties.

Texas v. United States Dep't of Energy, 754 F.2d 550,...

To continue reading

Request your trial
27 cases
  • Montgomery County v. Bradford, s. 31 and 56
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 1 Septiembre 1996
    ...they relied primarily on Shenk v. MD. District Savings & Loan, 235 Md. 326, 201 A.2d 498 (1964) and Hartford Ins. Co. v. Birdsong, 69 Md.App. 615, 519 A.2d 219 (1987) for the [691 A.2d 1285] proposition that the interest asserted by the would-be intervenor may be neither speculative nor The......
  • Travelers Indem. Co. v. Dingwell, s. 88-1953
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (1st Circuit)
    • 8 Febrero 1989
    ...Shoffstall, 119 A.D.2d 1001, 500 N.Y.S.2d 902, 903-04 (1986) (New York Code of Civil Procedure); cf. Hartford Insurance Co. v. Birdsong, 69 Md.App. 615, 519 A.2d 219, 221-22 (1987) (same result under local rules of civil procedure when insurer denies coverage). Accordingly, the asserted int......
  • Park & Planning v. Washington Grove, 55, September Term, 2008.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 12 Marzo 2009
    ...733, 573 A.2d 109, 112 (1990) (reviewing intervention as of right ruling under non-deferential standard); Hartford Ins. Co. v. Birdsong, 69 Md.App. 615, 626, 630, 519 A.2d 219, 224, 226 (1987) (reviewing timeliness under abuse of discretion standard, but sufficiency of interest under non-de......
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 6 Febrero 2002
    ...any one of the four requirements is sufficient to warrant denial of a motion to intervene as of right." Hartford Ins. Co. v. Birdsong, 69 Md.App. 615, 622, 519 A.2d 219 Appellants obviously did not have "an interest in the subject matter of" New Panorama v. CCS, which was failing roads at P......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT