Lerman v. Heeman, No. 3

CourtCourt of Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtArgued before BELL, C.J., ELDRIDGE, RODOWSKY, CHASANOW, RAKER and WILNER, JJ., and ROBERT A. KARWACKI; RAKER
Citation701 A.2d 426,347 Md. 439
Decision Date01 September 1997
Docket NumberNo. 3
PartiesSheldon H. LERMAN v. Kerry R. HEEMAN. ,

Page 439

347 Md. 439
701 A.2d 426
Sheldon H. LERMAN
v.
Kerry R. HEEMAN.
No. 3, Sept. Term, 1997.
Court of Appeals of Maryland.
Oct. 17, 1997.

[701 A.2d 427]

Page 441

Mark D. Gately (J. Mark Coulson, Miles & Stockbridge, on brief), Baltimore, for Petitioner.

Catherine W. Steiner (William B. Whiteford, Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, L.L.P., on brief), Baltimore, for Respondent.

[701 A.2d 428] Argued before BELL, C.J., ELDRIDGE, RODOWSKY, CHASANOW, RAKER and WILNER, JJ., and ROBERT A. KARWACKI, J. (retired), Specially Assigned.

RAKER, Judge.

The questions presented are whether a joint tortfeasor, who has filed a Motion for Judgment of Contribution or Recovery Over pursuant to Maryland Rule 2-614, must have filed a cross-claim in the underlying tort suit, and whether that Motion for Contribution, when arising out of a medical malpractice action, is subject to mandatory arbitration under the Health Care Malpractice Claims Act. We shall hold that a joint-tortfeasor need not file a cross-claim prior to filing a

Page 442

Motion for Contribution, and that a Motion for Contribution, the decision of which does not require any further resolution of any negligence claims is not subject to mandatory arbitration.

I.

In November of 1992, the Estate of Tiffany L. Troch, et. al. ("claimants") filed a medical malpractice action with the Health Claims Arbitration Office against Petitioner, Sheldon H. Lerman, M.D., his Professional Association (as employer), Respondent, Kerry R. Heeman, M.D., Osler Drive Emergency Physicians Associates (Respondent's employer), and St. Joseph's Hospital. Defendants filed no cross-claims. The arbitration panel returned an award in favor of the claimants and against all the defendants, after which all parties filed a Notice of Rejection with the Health Claims Arbitration Office. Claimants then re-filed their action in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. Once again, defendants filed no cross-claims.

In September of 1994, a jury returned a verdict against Drs. Lerman and Heeman (and their employers) in the amount of $3,354,808.55. Subsequently, Respondent Heeman's insurer paid $2,354,808.55 and Petitioner Lerman's insurer paid $1,000,000, and each, through their insurers, paid half of the interest due on the judgment, in full satisfaction of the judgment.

In July, 1995, pursuant to Maryland Rule 2-614, Heeman filed a Motion for Judgment of Contribution or Recovery Over with the trial court requesting contribution from Lerman in the amount of $677,404.28, the amount by which his payment to the claimants exceeded Dr. Lerman's payment. Dr. Lerman, in turn, filed an Opposition to the Motion. Lerman's Opposition raised two arguments: (1) that the court had no authority to enter a judgment for contribution because Dr. Heeman had never filed a cross-claim against Dr. Lerman and, (2) the court had no jurisdiction to entertain Dr. Heeman's claim for contribution because the contribution claim had not

Page 443

been submitted to arbitration. The trial court granted Heeman's motion and entered judgment in the amount of $677,404.28. Lerman noted an appeal to the Court of Special Appeals, raising the same issues he raised below. The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the judgment of the circuit court. Lerman v. Heemann, 112 Md.App. 320, 323, 685 A.2d 782, 784 (1996). We granted Lerman's petition for certiorari.

II.

We review the trial court's judgment to determine if the court erred in granting Respondent's Motion for Contribution. Petitioner argues that a court can grant a motion for contribution only if the movant has a right to contribution, and that a right to contribution can be acquired only if it was previously asserted in a cross-claim. We disagree. Respondent's right to contribution is derived from Maryland's adoption of the Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act ("UCATA"), and is governed by Maryland Rule 2-614. Neither requires a previous assertion of the right to contribution.

To interpret rules of procedure and statutes we use the same canons and principles of construction, beginning our analysis by looking at the plain language--looking to the words of the rule and giving them their ordinary and natural meaning; if the words of the rule are clear and unambiguous, our analysis ordinarily ends. Long v. State, 343 Md. 662, 667, 684 A.2d 445, 447 (1996); In re Victor B., 336 Md. 85, 94, 646 A.2d 1012, 1016 [701 A.2d 429] (1994); New Jersey v. Strazzella, 331 Md. 270, 274, 627 A.2d 1055, 1057 (1993); Beales v. State, 329 Md. 263, 271, 619 A.2d 105, 109 (1993). When the language is ambiguous, we may look to the intent behind the statute or rule, but "our mission is to give the rule a reasonable interpretation in tune with logic and common sense." In re Victor B. 336 Md. at 94, 646 A.2d at 1016. See also Strazzella, 331 Md. at 275, 627 A.2d at 1057; Long, 343 Md. at 667, 684 A.2d at 448.

Maryland's earliest version of the UCATA, codified at Article 50 §§ 21-29, stated:

Page 444

A pleader may either (a) state as a cross-claim against a co-party any claim that the co-party is or may be liable to the cross-claimant for all or part of a claim asserted in the action against the cross-claimant; or (b) move for judgment for contribution against any other joint judgment debtor, where in a single action a judgment has been entered against joint tortfeasors one of whom has discharged the judgment by payment or has paid more than his pro rata share thereof. If relief can be provided in this sub-section no independent action shall be maintained to enforce the claim for contribution.

1941 Maryland Laws ch. 344, § 27(c), at 549. The 1941 version of the UCATA envisioned motions for contribution as an alternative to cross-claims, an alternative which obviates the need to clutter the judicial process with cross-claims. The 1941 UCATA did not require co-defendants to file cross-claims in the underlying suit prior to moving for contribution. Subsequent statutory revisions to the UCATA and the incorporation of the mechanism for recovery of a right of contribution into the procedural rules do not appear to alter this original intent.

The modern UCATA is codified at Maryland Code (1957, 1994 Repl.Vol., 1997 Supp.) Article 50 §§ 16-24, 1 and the mechanism for enforcing a joint tortfeasor's right to contribution has been codified in Maryland Rule 2-614. Article 50 § 16 defines joint-tortfeasors:

(a) "Joint tort-feasors" means two or more persons jointly or severally liable in tort for the same injury to person or property, whether or not judgment has been recovered against all or some of them.

Article 50 § 17 defines a right of contribution:

(a) Right exists.--The right of contribution exists among joint tort-feasors.

Page 445

(b) Discharge of liability or payment of share.--A joint tortfeasor is not entitled to a money judgment for contribution until he has by payment discharged the common liability or has paid more than his pro rata share thereof.

Moreover, Rule 2-614 (previously Rule 605d), 2 states that:

If in a single action a judgment is entered jointly against more than one defendant, the court upon motion may enter an appropriate judgment for one of the defendants against another defendant if (a) the moving defendant has discharged the judgment by payment or has paid more than a pro rata share of the judgment and (b) the moving defendant has a right to contribution or to recovery over from the other defendant.

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20 practice notes
  • Fitzgerald v. State, No. 8
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 10 Diciembre 2004
    ...that several issues in review of a death sentence were not preserved because they were not raised at the trial level); Lerman v. Heeman, 347 Md. 439, 450, 701 A.2d 426, 432 (1997) (citing Md. Rule 8-131(b)(1) in holding that an indemnity and contribution issue was not preserved because it w......
  • Somuah v. Flachs, No. 9
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 18 Diciembre 1998
    ...will not decide any issue that was "not raised in and decided by the trial court." Maryland Rule 8-131; see also Lerman v. Heeman, 347 Md. 439, 450, 701 A.2d 426, 432 (1997). In her motion for summary judgment and motion for judgment, Petitioner asserted that she was entitled to judgment as......
  • Attorney Grievance v. Thompson, Misc. Subtitle AG No. 16
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 17 Diciembre 2001
    ...& Co., 365 Md. 67, 78, 775 A.2d 1218, 1224-25 (2001); Johnson v. State, 360 Md. 250, 264, 757 A.2d 796, 804 (2000); Lerman v. Heeman, 347 Md. 439, 443, 701 A.2d 426, 428 (1997); New Jersey v. Strazzella, 331 Md. 270, 274, 627 A.2d 1055, 1057 (1993); Beales v. State, 329 Md. 263, 271, 619 A.......
  • Mercy Med. Ctr. v. Julian, Nos. 118
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 27 Noviembre 2012
    ...to contribution or to recovery over from the other defendant.Rule 2–614. We have had occasion to interpret the Rules in Lerman v. Heeman, 347 Md. 439, 445, 701 A.2d 426, 430 (1997), involving a contribution claim that followed a judgment of $3.3 million against two defendants, Dr. Sheldon H......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
20 cases
  • Fitzgerald v. State, No. 8
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 10 Diciembre 2004
    ...that several issues in review of a death sentence were not preserved because they were not raised at the trial level); Lerman v. Heeman, 347 Md. 439, 450, 701 A.2d 426, 432 (1997) (citing Md. Rule 8-131(b)(1) in holding that an indemnity and contribution issue was not preserved because it w......
  • Somuah v. Flachs, No. 9
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 18 Diciembre 1998
    ...will not decide any issue that was "not raised in and decided by the trial court." Maryland Rule 8-131; see also Lerman v. Heeman, 347 Md. 439, 450, 701 A.2d 426, 432 (1997). In her motion for summary judgment and motion for judgment, Petitioner asserted that she was entitled to judgment as......
  • Attorney Grievance v. Thompson, Misc. Subtitle AG No. 16
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 17 Diciembre 2001
    ...& Co., 365 Md. 67, 78, 775 A.2d 1218, 1224-25 (2001); Johnson v. State, 360 Md. 250, 264, 757 A.2d 796, 804 (2000); Lerman v. Heeman, 347 Md. 439, 443, 701 A.2d 426, 428 (1997); New Jersey v. Strazzella, 331 Md. 270, 274, 627 A.2d 1055, 1057 (1993); Beales v. State, 329 Md. 263, 271, 619 A.......
  • Mercy Med. Ctr. v. Julian, Nos. 118
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • 27 Noviembre 2012
    ...to contribution or to recovery over from the other defendant.Rule 2–614. We have had occasion to interpret the Rules in Lerman v. Heeman, 347 Md. 439, 445, 701 A.2d 426, 430 (1997), involving a contribution claim that followed a judgment of $3.3 million against two defendants, Dr. Sheldon H......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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