D.C. Superior Court Opinions

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E.g., November 18, 2017
E.g., November 18, 2017
Format: XXX-DWLR-XXXX
  • D.C. Superior Court

    Property Law

     Good Faith Intention by Landlord to Recover Premises for Immediate and Personal Use / Service / “Occupancy” Under § 42-3505.01(d)

     

    Claim for possession of premises by landlord in order to occupy them for immediate and personal use under § 42-3505.01(d) is unsuccessful because the intended use is not “immediate” and would be too sporadic to constitute “occupancy.” Plaintiff has only properly served one party since the process server served one notice to vacate on only one spouse and the plain language of § 42-3206 requires that each tenant be served with the notice. Plaintiff did not effect proper substitute service on the remaining tenant-spouse because server did not inquire whether he was home and there was no indication from the circumstances that he was unwilling or unable to come to the door to be served. The claim against the tenant not served with the notice must be dismissed.  As to the tenant who was served with the notice, and against whom Plaintiff’s claim is not moot, Plaintiff’s stated intention to stay in the apartment for up to three to five days per month does not constitute  a good faith intention to recover possession for “immediate and personal use and occupy as a dwelling” under § 42-3505.01(d). While § 42-3505.01(d) does not expressly require the owner use the premises as a primary residence, the statute’s language indicates a more robust use of premises than the sporadic use to begin at an undetermined time intended by Plaintiff.

  • Employment Compensation

     

    Worker’s Compensation Act / Lent Employee Doctrine / Professional Sports / D.C. Super. Ct. Civ. R. 60 / Relieving a Party from Judgment due to Mistake or Excusable Neglect

     

    The Worker’s Compensation Act (“WCA”) bars claims by Plaintiff, a professional soccer player, for negligent treatment of injury against Defendant D.C. United, his team. Defendant D.C. United is at least a special employer of Plaintiff under the WCA. The structure of Defendant Major League Soccer makes it a concurrent employer of the players with the various teams. It is unnecessary to trace each dollar D.C. United paid for Plaintiff’s workers’ compensation insurance since its capital contributions to MLS were more than sufficient to cover its share of payment to MLS insurance. While one employer’s coverage does not create tort immunity for workplace injuries while on the job for a second, unrelated employer, the close relationship between D.C. United and MLS and the fact that D.C. United paid for MLS insurance means that the policy’s absence of language naming D.C. United as an insured is not determinative. Despite the Operating Agreement’s language that only MLS is to obtain a policy for Plaintiff, the contract manifested the entities’ intent to delegate the responsibilities of the league and D.C. United therefore complied with § 32-1534 by providing workers’ compensation insurance coverage to Plaintiff through MLS Insurance. Defendant D.C. United’s motions for relief and summary judgment are granted and Plaintiff’s claims against it are dismissed. Commonwealth Defendant’s motions to join are denied.

  • Discovery

    Confidentiality Agreement

     

    Defendant is enjoined from enforcing confidentiality agreement with a witness in an age discrimination suit. Defendant cannot use a confidentiality agreement to control or otherwise limit interactions between Plaintiff and a witness. Defendant offers no counter-argument about how it would be prejudiced and the witness will be the subject of much discovery if Plaintiff’s allegations are true. Plaintiff’s motion for a protective order to prevent obstruction of witnesses granted in part.

  • Employment Law

    DC Human Rights Act / Common Law Abusive Discharge / 42 U.S.C. § 1981 / Hostile Work Environment / Discriminatory Termination

     

    A plaintiff’s litigation to conclusion of a DC Human Rights Act (“DCHRA”) claim against one defendant before the Office of Human Rights (“OHR”) precludes a later claim in court against another defendant that is based on essentially the same facts and legal theories.  All claims that were previously raised against Plaintiff’s former supervisor in the OHR that are now raised against Defendant are dismissed.  Plaintiff has not set forth an actionable claim of common law abusive discharge as termination for insisting that Defendant perform verifications in accordance with unspecified “federal regulations” as that is not a specified claim recognized by the DC Court of Appeals and has not made a showing that an officially declared policy warrants the creation of a new exception to the at-will doctrine.  Plaintiff’s racial origin need not have been the express subject of harassing incidents in order to establish a prima facie case of hostile work environment under § 1981.  Plaintiff has presented sufficient indirect evidence of pretext as the hostile treatment against her could reasonably be inferred to arise from racial animus and Defendant’s explanation for her termination—that she was “edgy” and “defensive”—may have been the result of her discriminatory treatment.  Motion for summary judgment granted in part and denied in part.

  • Family Law

     

    Intrafamily Offense Act / Civil Protection Orders / Destruction of Property as an Offense “Upon a Person”

    The crime of malicious destruction of property may fall under the Intrafamily Offense Act’s (“IFA”) definition of an offense “upon a person” such that it could justify the issuance of a civil protection order (“CPO”). Damaging the property of another person can instigate further physical violence, act as a precursor to a violent act, or intimidate the other party in the same manner as an act of violence would, and may represent one aspect of a pattern of violent domination and control. Where an act of destruction of property potentially serves as a precursor to, threat or instigator of, or substitution for violence, or otherwise comprises part of a violent or intimidating pattern of domination and control, the issuance of a CPO would properly serve the IFA’s goals. Accordingly, the destruction of a phone and car immediately before and after a physical assault and the destruction of a victim’s car in order to express displeasure and exert control are consistent with the underlying purpose of the IFA. Recklessly damaging a door in order to open when no one else is home does not serve the IFA’s purpose.

  • Contract Law

    Quitclaim Deed / Incapacity / Inter Vivos Gift / Donative Intent

     

    Quitclaim deed of property transferred to neighbor is disaffirmed and voided. Decedent was incapacitated when he transferred the property to a neighbor. The transfer of the property is better viewed as an inter
    vivos
    gift rather than a contract. Past work performed on the property cannot be consideration for a contract. Decedent never manifested donative intent since (1) he was incapacitated at the time of transfer and therefore could not understand the nature of the transaction; (2) testimony indicated he never believed the property belonged to anyone but him; and (3) he never gave up possession. Even if the transfer were viewed as a contract it would be voidable because of the incapacity. Decedent’s representatives have the authority to disaffirm the Quitclaim deed. Petition to void deed granted.

  • Medical Malpractice

    Collateral Source Rule / Medicare

    The collateral source rule permits a plaintiff to seek damages for the full amount of medical expenses, including the amount written off by the hospital pursuant to the Medicare reimbursement formula. When a person pays into the Medicare system she has bargained for that benefit and under the collateral source rule she should receive the benefit of that bargain. Defendant’s motion in limine to exclude evidence of non-compensable hospital charges written off under federal Medicare program is denied.

  • First Amendment

    Civil Protection Order / Stalking


    Petition for Civil Protection Order (“CPO”) denied because the underlying behavior is constitutionally protected and thus does not constitute the offense of stalking. A website and flyers denouncing sex offender registries and the public employees who operate them constitutes speech on matters of public concern. Photographs that were improperly taken and used do not alter the protected nature of the speech and pictures taken in public buildings showing only a person’s physical appearance and government-owned furniture and fixtures do not implicate any privacy interest. While the website and pictures may have caused Petitioner emotional distress, the First Amendment protects offensive and inflammatory speech. While the acts of surreptitiously photographing Petitioner and distributing flyers in her place of work could fall within the scope of the stalking statute, there is no evidence that Respondent was directing his message at Petitioner rather than speaking in the context of public discourse. Even if the Court found Respondent’s behavior violated the stalking statute, the court would not exercise its discretion to grant a CPO since one in this situation would be inconsistent with the purposes of the Intrafamily Offense Act, the benefits to Petitioner would be outweighed by the resulting chilling effect on speech, and the availability of other remedies against enjoining Respondent’s speech based purely on content.

  • Landlord-Tenant Law

    Habitual Late Payment of Rent / Redemption of Tenancy

    Plaintiff landlord is entitled to a non-redeemable judgment of possession. A tenant habitually late in paying rent is not entitled to redeem tenancy. Rent payments are habitually late where the late payments—24 over the course of 3 years—were consistently and willfully late. Once notice was provided and Defendant failed to cure she lost the opportunity to redeem her tenancy.

  • Defamation

    D.C. Anti-SLAPP Act / LIKELY TO SUCCEED ON THE MERITS /  PROVABLY FALSE STATEMENTS / FAIR COMMENT PRIVILEGE / ACTUAL MALICE / INTENTIONAL INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS / 12(B)(6) MOTION TO DISMISS


    Anti-SLAPP and 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss a defamation suit brought by a scientist against media organizations and writers over accusations of data fraud are denied. A Plaintiff seeking to show he is likely to succeed on the merits on a defamation claim in response to an anti-SLAPP motion must satisfy a standard comparable to that used for a motion for judgment as a matter of law. Assertions that Plaintiff’s research was “fraudulent,” “bogus,” “scientific misconduct,” and “data manipulation” are not mere opinion or hyperbole but statements based on provably false facts sufficient to demonstrate a prima facie case for libel. Fair Comment privilege is not available where challenged statements are misstatements of fact. Where Plaintiff’s work has been investigated and found accurate several times, continued accusations that Plaintiff’s work is “intellectually bogus” shows a reckless disregard for the truth sufficient to indicate that further discovery may uncover evidence of actual malice and possibly sustain a finding of intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendants’ motion to dismiss pursuant to 12(b)(6) is denied for the same reasons.

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