D.C. Superior Court Opinions

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E.g., June 29, 2017
E.g., June 29, 2017
Format: XXX-DWLR-XXXX
  • D.C. Superior Court

    Family Law

    Paternity / Child Support / DNA Testing / Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity

    A DNA test disproving biological paternity after the deadlines for rescinding paternity in D.C. Code § 16-909.01(a-1) and challenging paternity in D.C. Dom. Rel. Rule 60(b) does not vacate conclusive establishment of paternity. Even if twelve years is a reasonable period of delay under the “catch all” provision in D.C. Dom. Rel. Rule 60(b)(6), the statute clearly precludes that provision’s application in cases of voluntary acknowledgement of paternity. There is insufficient factual basis on the record for Respondent to meet his burden to show the mother of the minor children committed fraud by knowingly misrepresenting his paternity. Magistrate judge’s application of Rule 60(b)(6) to vacate the valid voluntary acknowledgment of paternity was error. Motion for review granted. Order disestablishing paternity vacated and order explaining findings reversed. Petition for child support reinstated and remanded.

  • D.C. Superior Court

    Tort Law

    Defamation / Qualified Common Interest Privilege / Malice / Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

     

    Dismissal of suit by proprietor of a biodiesel company against commercial landlord for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress due to alleged false statements made to neighbors and the D.C. Fire Department granted in part and denied in part. Allegation that Defendants’ representative made a false report the D.C. Fire Department, which subsequently referred the matter to the Environmental Protection Agency, in not so unspecific as to warrant dismissal for failure to plead sufficiently specific facts. Allegations that defamatory statements were made by a party acting within the scope of agency for Defendants are consistent with the allegations and sufficiently detailed to allow Defendants to craft a responsive pleading. While a statement reporting hazardous materials to the Fire Department is protected by the qualified common interest privilege, Plaintiff has shown sufficient evidence of express malice or malice in fact to possibly overcome the privilege. Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress as she does not allege that Defendants took any action that would be “utterly intolerable in a civilized community” and her alleged mental anguish and stress do not rise to the level of severe emotional distress required by case law. Motion to dismiss granted as to Count II (intentional infliction of emotional distress) but denied as to Count I (defamation).

  • D.C. Superior Court

    Insurance Law

    Business Crime Coverage / Separate “Occurrence”

     

    Multiple acts of theft by an employee constitute a single “occurrence” under the “Business Crime” provision in the employer’s insurance policy. The definition in the policy was written in the disjunctive, not to create alternatives but rather to broadly define “occurrence” to encompass factual situations where an employee commits one act of theft, commits multiple acts of theft, or a series of thefts. Given the ability of a dishonest employee to create substantial financial loss—which is unlike the risk posed by an unplanned accident—it is within the reasonable expectations of the insurer and insured that the coverage for employee theft is based on all loss resulting from an employee’s dishonest motive. Defendant’s motion for partial summary judgment is granted on Counts I and II.

  • D.C. Superior Court

    Discovery

    Deposition of Opposing Counsel / Shelton Test / Quashing a Subpoena

     

    Defendant may depose counsel for Plaintiff regarding the specific notice given required pursuant to the Deed of Trust and D.C. Code in a lien priority dispute since: (1) Plaintiff’s counsel is the only person who can testify to the information sought, which relates to a conversation he had with the recorder of deeds and whether the counsel had actual knowledge that a recording did not effectively attach real property; (2) the information is relevant and crucial to the defense and Plaintiff’s position that his judgments were first in time, first in right; and (3) the information sought does not include privileged materials, such as matter relevant to counsel’s litigation strategy. Plaintiff’s motion to quash under Superior Court Civil Rule 45(c)(3) denied.

  • D.C. Superior Court

    Liability

    Negligence / Negligence Per Se / Public Duty Doctrine / Special Relationship Exception / Specific Beneficiary

     

    Special duty exception to the public duty doctrine applies to Plaintiff. Plaintiff is both a foreseeable plaintiff and an express member of the class the law was designed to protect: suppliers of material and labor. Plaintiff is a specific beneficiary under the District’s little Miller Act (section 2-201.01), which was promulgated by the District as the sole remedy for contractors, subcontractors, and material men doing business with the District. Plaintiff reasonably relied on that statute and on the District’s representation that contractors who are awarded contracts by the District have provided the District with satisfactory payment bond. Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment granted.

  • D.C. Superior Court

    Civil Procedure

    Amending a Complaint / Interlocutory Appeal / Interest of Justice

     

    Plaintiffs have not established good cause to amend the complaint after they already caused considerable delay by filing an interlocutory appeal. The interest of justice, the fifth factor in the five factor test, would not be served by allowing the Plaintiffs to amend their complaint given the special circumstances presented. Courts favor the fair and speedy adjudication of claims and disfavor piecemeal litigation as a matter of policy. Granting of the plaintiffs’ motion would not only be incompatible with this court’s policy. Plaintiffs’ Motion for Leave to Amend denied.

  • D.C. Superior Court

    Family Law

    Child Support / Paternity / Acknowledgment of Parentage / Fraud / Order for Genetic Testing

     

    Magistrate’s finding that Respondent’s Acknowledgment of Parentage “was not made knowingly, voluntarily, or informed of its legal consequences to Respondent” and therefore was “not valid under D.C. Code § 16-909.01(a)” was error. There was no basis for the magistrate to reach that conclusion since Respondent’s credited testimony, at best, establishes that he does not remember signing the Acknowledgement of Parentage or receiving any papers on the day of the child’s birth. The Respondent stated that he believed he had been the father of the minor child when the child was born and conceded that he was at the hospital with the Petitioner when the minor child was born and confirmed his name, date of birth, and social security number at the time of the minor child’s birth, which all appear on the Acknowledgement of Parentage form. The record does not show that Respondent met his burden for proving fraud, which must be established by clear and convincing evidence and not “conclusory and unsupported assertion of forgery.” The magistrate order did not address Respondent’s presumed paternity of the minor child. Respondent did met the requirements for overcoming the presumption that he is the father of the minor child as he did not institute proceedings within the time period of D.C. Code § 16-2342(c) and can claim no relief under that section. Since Respondent was the presumed parent, a genetic test should not have initially been ordered. Remanded for further proceedings.

  • D.C. Superior Court

    Tort Law

    Negligence / Federal Employer’s Liability Act / Standard of Care / Federal Railroad Safety Act / Federal Preclusion / Causal Link / Proof of Lost Wages

     

    Summary judgment is not appropriate in an action by a railroad engineer alleging injury from an improperly lubricated switch since Plaintiff has satisfied the requirement for standard of care and genuine issues of material fact exist. Plaintiff sufficiently established a standard of care under the relaxed burden of proof required by the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (“FELA”) through expert testimony about industry practices and customs and Defendant’s failure to adhere to its own internal regulations. Genuine issues of material fact remain regarding whether Defendant breached that standard, which must be decided by a jury. Plaintiff’s claims are not precluded by 49 C.F.R. § 213.103 because there is a genuine issue of material fact whether the work area around the switch constituted a walkway; earlier precedent has held that regulation does not preclude FELA claims regarding the use of ballast in walkways; federal preclusion is an affirmative defense and there is a genuine issue of material fact; and summary judgment should not be granted given the importance of jury remedy in FELA actions. There is a genuine issue of material fact whether the evidence will establish a causal link between Defendant’s conduct and Plaintiff’s injuries. Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s injuries could have come from unrelated activities while Plaintiff’s medical evidence and expert testimony all support a causal relationship. A genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether Plaintiff has sufficiently proven lost wages, specifically in regards to whether Plaintiff worked immediately following the injury and whether he could return to physically demanding positions that are similar to his previous position. Defendant’s motion for summary judgment is denied.

  • D.C. Superior Court

    Remedies

    D.C. Condominium Act / Election of Remedies Doctrine / Nonjudicial Foreclosure

     

    Plaintiff is barred from pursuing relief against Defendant through nonjudicial disclosure while its complaint seeking a judicial foreclosure as a remedy is still pending. Simultaneous pursuit of both a judicial and nonjudicial foreclosure as a remedy is inconsistent and mutually irreconcilable with one another. Under the Condominium Act, the ability to proceed concurrently with a judicial and nonjudicial foreclosure is not specifically stated or otherwise authorized in derogation of the common law. Defendant’s Emergency Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Preliminary Injunction and Other Relief is granted and Plaintiff is enjoined from attempting to close on Defendant’s condominium unit by means of its power of sale until further order from the Court.

  • D.C. Superior Court

    Family Law

    Child Custody / Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act / Jurisdiction / Initial Child-Custody Determination

     

    Court lacks jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”) to make an initial child-custody determination and must defer to a pending proceeding in Maryland that was initiated prior to this action. No court in the District of Columbia has yet made a child-custody determination in the matter. While the parties’ divorce was filed in the District and encompassed a child-custody proceeding, that proceeding concluded without a child-custody determination. Under the UCCJEA, if parents choose to conclude a child-custody proceeding without a child-custody determination, and one parent later decides to seek such a determination, the parent may commence a new child-custody proceeding in a different state. Defendant’s motion to dismiss is granted and Plaintiff’s motion to modify custody is dismissed. 

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