D.C. Superior Court Opinions

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E.g., March 28, 2017
E.g., March 28, 2017
Format: XXX-DWLR-XXXX
  • 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. 

  • D.C. Superior Court

    Family Law

    Neglect / Medical Child Abuse / Factitious Disorder in Other or “Munchausen-by-proxy”

     

    Preponderance of the evidence does not support a finding that Respondent is a neglected child within the meaning of D.C. Code § 16-2301 (9)(A)(i)(ii), & (iii). Respondent was born premature with a host of medical issues and his parents are new parents. The parents have not exaggerated, fabricated or induced conditions and symptoms to obtain unnecessary treatment, as required for a finding of medical child abuse. Respondent is not “without proper parental care or control.” He was not overmedicated or subjected to unnecessary medical appointments and treatment, his the parents were not responsible for requesting specific procedures to be performed by the hospital staff. Considering the totality of Respondent’s health, his mother’s health, being first-time parents, and the repeated nature of needing to go to the hospital, it is evident that his parents are ensuring proper parental care and control and that some doctors rushed to medical conclusions. Respondent’s mother does not suffer from a mental incapacity that makes her unable to care for him. Petitioner’s expert witness has not treated patients in ten years, has not diagnosed any other cases of Factious Disorder of Another, and his testimony is unreliable and unsupported by science. A diagnosis of Factious Disorder of Another requires a finding that there was falsification or exaggeration of symptoms associated with identified deception and there is no evidence Respondent’s mother deceived anyone. Petition of Abuse and Neglect dismissed.

  • D.C. Superior Court

    Defamation

    D.C. Anti-SLAPP Act / Limited-Purpose Public Figure / Actual Malice

     

    An organization that issued a report on arms transports to Ukraine is not liable for defamation in a suit by a company named in that report. Once a moving party has shown that it is covered by the Anti-SLAPPAct, the nonmoving party must demonstrate that its claim is likely to succeed on the merits. Defendant is a limited-purpose public figure for purposes of its defamation counterclaim and must prove malice by clear and convincing evidence. Under the Waldbaum inquiry: (1) the international shipment of arms has been a topic of controversy prior to the alleged defamation; (2) the regulation of the international arms market has clear importance in national politics and in shaping foreign policy; and (3) has attained “special prominence” in this controversy by voluntarily shipping arms to conflict areas of the world. Defendant has not shown damages as it has failed to submit sufficient evidence of actual monetary loss and nothing in the record demonstrates that its alleged loss of customers occurred as a result of any of Plaintiff’s allegedly defamatory statements. Defendant is unlikely to succeed on the merits at trial because there are no false and defamatory statements or implications in the Report relating to Defendant’s vessels turning off their AIS transponders, the facts do not demonstrate that Plaintiff possessed actual malice when relying on reports from Ukrainian newspapers and there is no proof of their falsity, failure to fact check a source that appears credible on its face does not show actual malice by clear and convincing evidence, and it is reasonable to infer that the armed guards stationed in the lobby of the building in which an entity has its offices are (at least in part) employed by that entity. Special motion to dismiss is granted and Defendant’s counterclaim is dismissed with prejudice.

  • Living Wage Act
    Statutory Interpretation

    The Living Wage Act required home health agencies to pay a living wage when the implementing rules were published. The phrase “any necessary” in the statute acts as a limiting qualifier and provides that some undetermined amendment is required depending on the condition of the state plan. Since the District of Columbia’s state plan has a reimbursement rate in place, then no amendment is “necessary” in order home care agencies to pay the living wage. Motion to dismiss denied.

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