Morris v. Goodwin, No. 749, Sept. Term, 2014

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Writing for the CourtWoodward, J.
Citation148 A.3d 63,230 Md.App. 395
Parties Marguerite R. Morris, Personal Representative of the Estate of Katherine Sarah Morris v. Isaac Jerome Goodwin
Decision Date26 October 2016
Docket NumberNo. 749, Sept. Term, 2014

230 Md.App. 395
148 A.3d 63

Marguerite R. Morris, Personal Representative of the Estate of Katherine Sarah Morris
v.
Isaac Jerome Goodwin

No. 749, Sept. Term, 2014

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

October 26, 2016


Appellant, pro se.

Appellee did not submit a brief.

Woodward, Kehoe, Arthur, JJ.

Woodward, J.

230 Md.App. 397

Appellant, Marguerite R. Morris, personal representative of the estate of her daughter, Katherine Sarah Morris, filed a

230 Md.App. 398

pro se petition to annul Katherine's marriage to appellee, Isaac Jerome Goodwin, in the Circuit Court for St. Mary's County. Appellant alleged that the marriage was based on fraud. The circuit court dismissed her petition with prejudice on the grounds that appellant did not have standing to sue for the annulment of Katherine's marriage to appellee.

Appellant presents two questions for our review, which we have slightly rephrased:

1. Does a personal representative have standing to prosecute a petition for annulment of the decedent's marriage on the basis of fraud?

2. Did the circuit court err in not granting appellant a hearing before dismissing her petition for annulment for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted?

For the reasons set forth below, we shall affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

148 A.3d 65

BACKGROUND

On August 3, 2011, Katherine married appellee in Arlington County, Virginia. At that time, appellee was a U.S. Army Staff Sergeant stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Katherine was a fourth-year student at the University of Maryland, College Park. Following the wedding, appellee returned to Fort Bragg, and Katherine continued to reside on campus. Katherine committed suicide on or about May 6, 2012.1 On September 11, 2012, appellant was appointed personal representative of Katherine's estate by the Orphans' Court for St. Mary's County.

On June 14, 2013, appellant, acting pro se , filed in the circuit court a petition to annul Katherine's marriage to appellee on the basis of appellee's fraud.2 Appellant alleged in her petition

230 Md.App. 399

that appellee (1) married Katherine in order to increase his military housing allowance, (2) “continued his sexual relationships with several other women during the course of the marriage[,]” and (3) never shared his military benefits with Katherine “until [appellee] was ordered to do so by military superiors[.]” According to the petition, appellee “received an Article 15 from the United States Army for misappropriation of government funds” in June of 2011, and in July of 2011 “financial sanctions were levied on [appellee] of $545 a month and his Basic Allowance for Housing was reduced to approximately $409 a month.” Appellant also alleged that as a result of his marriage to Katherine, appellee “kept for his own personal use approx[imately] $700 a month allowance and did not provide any care or benefits to Katherine[.]” Finally, appellant acknowledged in the petition that Katherine “by her own admission discovered that [appellee] married her for fraudulent reasons.”3

On June 26, 2013, appellant filed an Emergency Motion to Post Summons Due to Evasion of Service. Appellant's motion was supported by an affidavit of a process server stating that appellee was evading service. The next day, the circuit court denied appellant's emergency motion, but, in a separate order, ordered that service be made by mail. On July 10, 2013, an Affidavit of Process Server was filed, stating that service was made on appellee by first class mail on June 28, 2013.

When no responsive pleading was filed by appellee, appellant filed a “Motion for Judgement [sic] by Default” on August 28, 2013. The circuit court denied appellant's motion two days later. On September 10, 2013, appellant filed a Motion for Reconsideration and Hearing on Judgment by Default. The

230 Md.App. 400

court denied appellant's motion on October 3, 2013, adding a handwritten note on the order: “Default inappropriate. Set in for hearing.”

On October 9, 2013, an attorney entered his appearance on behalf of appellant and filed a Request for Order of Default. No action was taken by the clerk of the court on appellant's request. On November 22, 2013, appellant filed a request for a hearing

148 A.3d 66

on the Order of Default. Again, no action was taken by the clerk of the court on appellant's request. On November 26, 2013, appellant's attorney filed a motion to withdraw his appearance on behalf of appellant. The circuit court never ruled on the motion to withdraw.

On December 30, 2013, the circuit court sent a Notification of Contemplated Dismissal, stating that the case “will be ‘DISMISSED FOR LACK OF JURISDICTION OR PROSECUTION WITHOUT PREJUDICE[,]’ ” unless appellant filed a motion showing good cause within thirty days. On January 8, 2014, appellant filed a Motion Not to Dismiss, a second Request for Order of Default, and a second request for a hearing on the Request for Order of Default. In her motion, appellant asserted that Maryland Rule 2–507 did not apply, because “it has not been one year since the last docket entry[,]” and service on appellee had been effected fourteen days after the filing of the petition.

On June 5, 2014, without holding a hearing, the circuit court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order, dismissing appellant's petition for annulment with prejudice, because appellant lacked standing to sue for annulment of Katherine's marriage to appellee. Appellant filed her notice of appeal on June 30, 2014.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Appellate review of a trial court's dismissal of a complaint is de novo. See Gomez v. Jackson Hewitt, Inc. , 427 Md. 128, 142, 46 A.3d 443 (2012). An appellate court reviews only “the four corners of the complaint and its incorporated supporting exhibits, if any.”

230 Md.App. 401

Forster v. Office of Pub. Defender , 426 Md. 565, 604, 45 A.3d 180 (2012). “[A]ll well-pleaded facts and allegations contained in the complaint, as well as all inferences that may reasonably be drawn from them,” are viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Gomez , 427 Md. at 142, 46 A.3d 443. An appellate court need not consider “bald assertions [or] conclusory statements,” and construes against the plaintiff “[a]ny ambiguity or uncertainty in the [factual] allegations[.]” Forster , 426 Md. at 604, 45 A.3d 180 ; Shenker v. Laureate Educ., Inc. , 411 Md. 317, 335, 983 A.2d 408 (2009). The dismissal will be upheld “only if the allegations and permissible inferences, if true, would not afford relief to the plaintiff, i.e. , the allegations do not state a cause of action for which relief may be granted.” Gomez , 427 Md. at 142, 46 A.3d 443. An appellate court may affirm the dismissal “on any ground adequately shown by the record, whether or not relied upon by the trial court.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

DISCUSSION

I. Annulment

Appellant argues that she, as personal representative, has standing to prosecute on Katherine's behalf a petition for annulment of Katherine's marriage to appellee. Appellant relies on two out-of-state cases, Clark v. Foust Graham , 171 N.C.App. 707, 615 S.E.2d 398 (2005), cert. denied sub nom ., Goodwin v. Smith , 670 S.E.2d 563 (N.C. 2008), and Schaub v. Schaub , 71 Cal.App.2d 467, 162 P.2d 966 (1945), for such proposition. According to appellant, even though annulment is disfavored in Maryland, “this case and the fraud perpetuated upon the decedent resulting in her death surely me[ets] a level warranting such relief.” Appellant contends that she has the authority under Maryland Code Section 7–401(y) of the Estates and Trusts Article to “stand for the Decedent in any action[.]” See Md. Code (1974, 2011 Repl. Vol., 2016 Supp.), § 7–401(y) of the Estates and Trusts Article (“ET”). Appellant

148 A.3d 67

further argues that, even though Maryland courts have held that the death of a party abates a divorce action, such holding

230 Md.App. 402

does not preclude her claim, because “actions for divorce are not the same as actions for annulment.”

A. Authority of Equity Court to Grant an Annulment

In Hall v. Hall , this Court noted Maryland's policy disfavoring annulments:

The law does not favor annulments of marriages, and it has long been a settled judicial policy to annul marriages only under circumstances and for causes clearly warranting such relief. It has been reasoned that more serious consequences, of a social and pecuniary nature, may result from a decree of annulment than from a decree of divorce, and that the vigilance with which the law guards the marital status should accordingly be intensified when an attack is made against its validity from the very beginning.

32 Md.App. 363,...

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18 practice notes
  • Malousek v. Meyer, S-20-470.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • 30 Julio 2021
    ...the ground of fraud can only be brought by the defrauded spouse while both parties to the marriage are living. See Morris v. Goodwin , 230 Md. App. 395, 148 A.3d 63 (2016). This rule is based on the distinction between void and voidable marriages. Id. This court has recognized that distinct......
  • Malousek v. Meyer, No. S-20-470.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • 30 Julio 2021
    ...on the ground of fraud can only be brought by the defrauded spouse while both parties to the marriage are living. See Morris v. Goodwin, 230 Md. App. 395, 148 A.3d 63 (2016). This rule is based on the distinction between void and voidable marriages. Id. This court has recognized that distin......
  • Brown v. Sojourner (In re Brown), Appellate Case No. 2018-001990
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 17 Junio 2020
    ...has a surviving spouse, as a void marriage may be challenged at any time, even after the death of a spouse. See Morris v. Goodwin , 230 Md.App. 395, 148 A.3d 63, 70 n.4 (2016) ("[C]ourts have ruled that void marriages may be challenged by third parties after the death of one of the married ......
  • Holloway v. Holloway, No. 0392
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Special Appeals
    • 24 Febrero 2021
    ...not prejudicial to the nonmovant). Further, in our view, a remand of this case would not serve judicial economy. See Morris v. Goodwin, 230 Md. App. 395, 411 (2016) ("Such a remand would be an exercise in futility and a waste of judicial resources."); and Williams v. Prince George's Cty., 1......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
18 cases
  • Malousek v. Meyer, S-20-470.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • 30 Julio 2021
    ...the ground of fraud can only be brought by the defrauded spouse while both parties to the marriage are living. See Morris v. Goodwin , 230 Md. App. 395, 148 A.3d 63 (2016). This rule is based on the distinction between void and voidable marriages. Id. This court has recognized that distinct......
  • Malousek v. Meyer, No. S-20-470.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • 30 Julio 2021
    ...on the ground of fraud can only be brought by the defrauded spouse while both parties to the marriage are living. See Morris v. Goodwin, 230 Md. App. 395, 148 A.3d 63 (2016). This rule is based on the distinction between void and voidable marriages. Id. This court has recognized that distin......
  • Brown v. Sojourner (In re Brown), Appellate Case No. 2018-001990
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 17 Junio 2020
    ...has a surviving spouse, as a void marriage may be challenged at any time, even after the death of a spouse. See Morris v. Goodwin , 230 Md.App. 395, 148 A.3d 63, 70 n.4 (2016) ("[C]ourts have ruled that void marriages may be challenged by third parties after the death of one of the married ......
  • Holloway v. Holloway, No. 0392
    • United States
    • Maryland Court of Special Appeals
    • 24 Febrero 2021
    ...not prejudicial to the nonmovant). Further, in our view, a remand of this case would not serve judicial economy. See Morris v. Goodwin, 230 Md. App. 395, 411 (2016) ("Such a remand would be an exercise in futility and a waste of judicial resources."); and Williams v. Prince George's Cty., 1......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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