D.C. Superior Court Opinions

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E.g., February 25, 2018
E.g., February 25, 2018
Format: XXX-DWLR-XXXX
  • 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.

  • Unjust Imprisonment Act

    Pre-Suit Notice / Scope of Damages / Acts by Third Parties / Calculation of Lost Income / Determination of Life Expectancy for Calculating Future Injuries / Pro Tanto Credit to Offset Damages


    Plaintiff, who was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for twenty-two years and suffered repeated sexual assaults, resulting in HIV infection while imprisoned, is entitled to damages of $9,154,500 under the Unjust Imprisonment Act. (D.C. Code § 2-421 et seq.). For the purposes of filing pre-suit notice, the six month notice period began to run at Plaintiff’s formal exoneration and not from the date he was sentenced for his wrongful conviction. The Unjust imprisonment Act makes the District of Columbia strictly liable for all for all injuries and damages sustained by qualifying claimants as a proximate result of unjust imprisonment and does not distinguish between damages for loss of liberty and other types of compensatory damages. Plaintiff may recover damages for pain and suffering and other physical and emotional injuries in addition to loss of liberty. The Act does not limit damages to injuries suffered in correctional facilities within the District of Columbia. To the extent Plaintiff has proved that his injuries and damages in facilities and time periods outside of the District of Columbia were proximately caused by his wrongful conviction and unjust imprisonment, those injuries and damages are compensable under the Act. Plaintiff may recover damages for the time spent incarcerated between the jury’s guilty verdict and his sentencing. The Act does not utilize common law fault-based rules and claimants may recover damages for harms caused by intentional acts by third parties suffered while unjustly incarcerated. As such, Plaintiff is entitled to full compensatory damages for the special harms resulting from the many sexual and other physical assaults he suffered in prison and from his resultant HIV infection. Plaintiff’s expert analysis of income lost as a result of his incarceration is too speculative to support his lost income claims since it considered the average wages of African-American males in the District of Columbia who lacked high school diplomas and worked full time but took no account of the high percentage of those who are unable to find and maintain full time employment. Plaintiff’s expert also acknowledged that he had no basis to believe that the amount of Plaintiff’s actual earnings since his release from prison had been negatively affected by his unjust imprisonment. The Court will reopen the record and take judicial notice of the 2014 Life Tables in order to consider Plaintiff’s request for future injuries. The absence of expert testimony establishing the applicability of the Life Tables to Plaintiff goes to the weight the Life Tables should receive but not to their admissibility. However, the Life Tables do not prove Plaintiff’s expected lifespan by a preponderance of the evidence. There is nothing in the record to assess the impact of Plaintiff’s HIV infection, elevated cholesterol, the extreme stress and psychological injuries sustained in prison or his ongoing depression and recent suicidal tendencies. Damages of $1,000 per day spent in prison, $250 per day spent on parole, and $200 per day between exoneration and this trial will fully and fairly compensate Plaintiff for the harm he suffered while on parole as a proximate result of his unjust imprisonment. Plaintiff’s total damages for all compensable injuries and harms sustained in all compensable time periods are $9,154,500. Defendant is not entitled to a pro tanto credit to offset damages Plaintiff received from a settlement with the United States.

  • D.C. Superior Court

    Criminal Law

    Sixth Amendment Right to a Trial by Jury / Additional Statutory Penalties Creating a “Serious Crime” / Deportable “Crime of Domestic Violence”

     

     

    Noncitizens’ convictions for misdemeanor domestic violence offenses do not create a constitutional right to a jury trial. The Immigration and Nationality Act allows for automatic deportation from the United States of any noncitizen convicted of a statutorily-defined “crime of domestic violence.” Offenses of simple assault, D.C. Code §22-404(a)(1), and misdemeanor sexual abuse, D.C. Code § 22-3006, criminalize acts that do not necessarily involve the type of “physical force” contemplated in 18 U.S.C. § 16(a) and cannot be considered deportable “crimes of domestic violence” under the Immigration and Nationality Act. Accordingly, Defendants cannot be deported as a conviction of such offenses and do not face the “additional statutory penalties” that would make them “serious crimes” giving rise to a constitutional right to a jury trial. Motions demanding jury trial denied.

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