Appealing MIA Decisions: Reading the 27-1001 Appeal Provision In Light of Thompson v. State Farm
You’re Plaintiff. You lost before the MIA. (That’s just statistics. Plaintiffs almost always lose before the MIA.) Now what?
You read the Bad Faith statue. It has an appeal provision allowing de novo judicial review or OAH review using Md. Code Ann., Insurance § 2-215, the Insurance Code’s appeal process section, and MD Code, State Government, § 10-222, the Administrative Procedures Act’s judicial review provision. Md. Code Ann., Insurance §27-1001(g). The Insurance Code’s appeal provision in 2-215 provides that appeals to the Circuit Court from Maryland Insurance Administration decisions go to either Baltimore City or the local Circuit Court. Md. Code Ann., Insurance § 2-215(c).
But of course you want a jury trial. You get one, but it is in a completely different section. The Courts and Judicial Proceedings section governing coverage actions against Insurers, Md. Code Ann., Courts & Judicial Proceedings § 3-1701(d)(2), provides you with the right to a jury.
So you get both, right? That would be too good to be true. Under Thompson v. State Farm, you get your pick: either a de novo appeal to the Circuit Court of Baltimore City or a jury trial under the general venue statute, Md. Code Ann., Courts & Judicial Proceedings § 6-201. Thompson v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 196 Md. App. 235, 251, 9 A.3d 112, 122 (2010).
The Thompson court reached its decisions by trying to read the statutes together. It determined that Insurance §2-215 and State Government §10-222 concern themselves solely with administrative appeals. They do not involve a jury trial. The court therefore found that requesting a jury trial under Courts and Judicial Proceedings §3-1701 would not be appealing “in accordance with” those sections, as referenced in Insurance §27-1001. Thompson, 196 Md. App. at 247, 9 A.3d at 119. Rather, those provisions created a de novo administrative appeal to the local circuit court or Baltimore City via a petition for judicial review. If you take that route, you do not get a jury trial, but do get Baltimore.
Courts and Judicial Proceedings §3-1701 meanwhile creates a separate appellate process. Instead of your administrative appeal in Baltimore, you get a jury trial in your local circuit court.
Practically, most plaintiffs ought to ask for a local jury trial. Juries seem more likely to be biased against the insurance company and more likely to award astronomical damages.