I was following a tow truck on Rt 50 the other morning with a nice, late model, BMW on the flatbed. Nothing seemed to be damaged. Maybe German engineering failed and it broke down or maybe it was being repossessed. Seeking the return of property through the Maryland courts is a two-step process. The legal actions are called Replevin and Detinue.
The first step, Replevin, is the first legal action filed in the District Court where you seek the return of personal property, with possible damages regardless of the amount in dispute. The property may be your late model BMW or your favorite aunt’s tea set. It allows for the possible return of the property based on a show cause hearing, a hearing held prior to the trial. In other words, the judge can order the property returned or the posting of a bond for its value, pending the trial.
Detinue is the second step and requires a trial to actually determine the rightful owner. For property values up to $5000 the action is filed in District Court. If a claim is between $5,000 and $30,000, the claim may be filed in either District or Circuit Court. Detinues for more than $30,000 must be filed in Circuit Court. Detinue is the legal action for the return of personal property or the property’s value, plus possible damages.
The Courts encourage parties to mediate these personal property cases. Mediation can occur at either stage of the process. Mediation allows the parties to confidently discuss the issues around the ownership of the property. The mediator’s job is to facilitate a conversation to help discover a mutually satisfactory settlement between parties. They will not make the decision on ownership and will not provide legal advice. Mediation has a very important feature. The process puts the parties 100 percent in control of the outcome. In a trial the judge will decide who gets the property or financial equivalent. Mediation allows a much more flexible settlement. It can allow payment terms, delivery conditions, timelines or any other terms that are mutually agreed.
Whether the property issue concerns a dog, BMW or tea set mediation can provide a confidential and flexible process to settle where the property ends up or what financial compensation is satisfactory. For details go to https://mdcourts.gov/legalhelp/returnofproperty.
Steve Forrer, former dean and vice chancellor of University of Maryland Global Campus, is currently a mediator for the Maryland District and Circuit Courts. Questions can be submitted at www.doncastermediation.com/contact for Steve to answer in this column. He also accepts private mediations
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