Nicole Smith v. Housing Authority of Baltimore
UNPUBLISHED PER CURIAM OPINION filed. Originating case number: 1:15-cv-02921-GLR Copies to all parties and the district court/agency. .. [17-1103]
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UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT
NICOLE ANDREA SMITH; JACQUELINE KIANA MORANT; AMY
TOWSON; SARA GARRET; ONNADAY MCINTOSH-GRIGGS; STEPHANIE
HARRIS; TAKIRA CARTER; LYNETTE COOPER; SHANAE BARNES;
CELESTE ENGLISH; MYRTLE GILBERT; TOWANDA PARKER; TRACEY
HOLDEN; ROSENA PRINCE; LASONIA GILBERT; DETRIA ADAMS;
SIERRIA WARREN; SHANAE BOLES; KHRYSTYNA KELLEY, All of the
above Individually Named Plaintiffs On Behalf of Themselves and all Other
Plaintiffs - Appellees,
VITINA YVETTE THOMAS,
HOUSING AUTHORITY OF BALTIMORE CITY; PAUL T. GRAZIANO,
Baltimore City Housing Commissioner and Executive Director of the Housing
Authority of Baltimore City; THE CITY OF BALTIMORE; MAYOR AND CITY
COUNSEL OF BALTIMORE; CHARLES COLEMAN, a/k/a Clinton Coleman;
DOUG HUSSY; MICHAEL ROBINSON; DOUG HUSSEY,
Defendants - Appellees,
CLINTON COLEMAN; MICHAEL ROBERTSON,
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Movant - Appellant.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Baltimore.
George L. Russell, III, District Judge. (1:15-cv-02921-GLR)
Submitted: July 31, 2017
Decided: September 11, 2017
Before WILKINSON, TRAXLER, and HARRIS, Circuit Judges.
Affirmed by unpublished per curiam opinion.
Landon M. White, LAW OFFICE OF LANDON M. WHITE, LLC, Baltimore, Maryland,
for Appellant. Cary J. Hansel, Erienne A. Sutherell, HANSEL LAW, PC, Baltimore,
Maryland; Carrie Blackburn Riley, BLACKBURN RILEY, LLC, Baltimore, Maryland,
Unpublished opinions are not binding precedent in this circuit.
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Phoenicia Harrell appeals from the district court’s order denying her motion to
compel intervention into a class action. On appeal, Harrell contends that the district court
erred in not compelling Class Counsel to produce documents regarding absent class
members who were rejected due to lack of a phone interview and that the district court
erred in not decertifying the class due to inadequate notice to Harrell and others. We find
that, because Harrell’s registration form was untimely filed, the district court correctly
denied her motion.
At the core, Harrell is alleging that she (and other potential class members) did not
get proper notice that a phone interview needed to be completed by August 26, 2016, in
order to qualify as a member of the class. However, it is undisputed that, in order to
properly register as a member of the class, the written registration form was due by
August 26, 2016. It is further undisputed that Harrell’s form was postmarked August 26,
but not received until after that date. In an effort to show that her registration was timely
filed, Harrell relies on the mailbox rule, arguing that her registration was timely
postmarked. See Cochran v. Norkunas, 919 A.2d 700, 714 (Md. 2007) (“The well
established rule is that in the absence of any limitation of provision to the contrary in the
offer, the acceptance of the offer is complete and the contract becomes binding on both
parties when the offeree deposits the acceptance in the post box.”). She also cites Md.
Rule 1-203(c), which provides three extra days due to notice being delivered by mail.
The mailbox rule applies specifically to the acceptance of a contract offer through
the mail. See Cochran, 919 A.2d at 714-15. Here, Harrell’s registration form did not
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complete a contract, whereby she became a member of the class. Instead, it is undisputed
that Harrell was not a member of the class until her application was reviewed, she was
interviewed, and she was approved. Thus, no contract was formed by her registration,
and the mailbox rule is therefore inapplicable.
Further, Md. Rule 1-203(c) is also
inapplicable, as the registration period begins with the mailing of the class notice, rather
than “service.” See Chance v. Washington Metro. Transit Auth., 920 A.2d 536, 542-44
(Md. Ct. Spec. App. 2007) (noting further that Rule is inapplicable where all residents
were notified by mail and there was, thus, no need for an “equalization factor”).
Accordingly, the district court properly found Harrell’s registration to be untimely.
Thus, Harrell’s challenge to the district court’s denial of her request for discovery
regarding the phone interviews is irrelevant. That is, even if numerous other potential
class members were rejected because they did not complete their phone interviews by
August 26, this does not change the fact that Harrell did not timely file her written
registration form. Accordingly, error in the notice or discovery process, if any, was
Likewise, Harrell’s second issue is equally irrelevant. It appears that Harrell is
arguing that she was not notified of her rejection from the class until the court had
already closed the case, thus preventing her ability to challenge the rejection and uncover
other improperly rejected applicants.
However, it is undisputed that Harrell was
informed of the final fairness and approval hearing, as well as her ability to appear at the
fairness hearing or file objections the settlement agreement. Harrell was also given
notice of how to ask questions or get more information, and she could have easily
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determined the status of her application prior to the fairness hearing.
It is further
undisputed that Harrell did not object to the settlement agreement or the fairness hearing.
In any event, given that Harrell did not timely file her registration form, she was
not prejudiced by the timing of the rejection notice. Had she been notified prior to the
fairness hearing and appeared at the fairness hearing to object, the result would have been
identical. The issues were fully briefed in Harrell’s motion to compel, and the district
court concluded that Harrell’s application was untimely filed and that she failed to show
any excusable neglect. Thus, the procedural errors, if any, were merely harmless.
Accordingly, we affirm the district court’s order. We dispense with oral argument
because the facts and legal contentions are adequately presented in the materials before
this court and argument would not aid the decisional process.
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