eNotes: Liability – February 2023 – Washington, DC
February 01, 2023
SIGNIFICANT CASE SUMMARIES
Washington, DC Case Summary
Williams v. Rajesh & Sadhna, LLC
District of Columbia Court of Appeals
Nos. 21-CV-408 & 21-CV-418
Decided: December 22, 2022
Plaintiff must exhaust all administrative remedies before challenging a construction permit in D.C. Superior Court.
Plaintiff Desiree Williams resided in the top floor of a building in Northeast D.C. The property next-door was owned by Rajesh & Sadhna, LLC (“R&S”). In June 2019, R&S obtained a permit to convert its building into condominiums. As part of this construction, R&S would build a patio on the side of the building that faced Plaintiff’s unit. Williams alleged that the location of the patio would give individuals standing on the patio a vantage-point to peer into her bathroom through her skylight.
Ms. Williams filed a Complaint against R&S in D.C. Superior Court. The gravamen of her Complaint alleged that the “permanent design and construction of the patio is of such a nature that it creates an unreasonable use by overlooking into . . . Plaintiff’s unit.” She sought to either change the patio design, or to receive compensation to remodel her apartment to prevent a person standing on the patio from looking into her unit. Third-Party Complaints were filed to bring in New City Construction, LLC (Of note, Ben Peoples of TT&H served as counsel for New City Construction, LLC) and Studio 3877, PLLC. In Motions to dismiss, Studio 3877 raised a jurisdictional challenge to Plaintiff’s Complaint. Studio asserted that Plaintiff’s Complaint was not ripe. Plaintiff did not exhaust her administrative remedies to challenge the building permit before the Zoning Board of Adjustment. The Trial Court granted the Motion to dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint for lack of jurisdiction. Plaintiff appealed.
The Court of Appeals affirmed the Trial Court’s dismissal. Williams’ case was squarely controlled by the Court’s pervious decision in Ne. Neighbors for Responsible Growth, Inc. v. AppleTree Inst. for Educ. Innovation, Inc., 92 A.3d 1114 (D.C. 2014). There, the Court determined that parties seeking to challenge building permits must do so through the administrative process before heading to court. The Court of Appeals found that Williams’ case was no different. She was challenging the issuance of a building permit, nothing more. Williams could not fit her case into one of the exceptions to this jurisdictional speed bump. She made no allegations that the work was proceeding without a permit, and no allegations that the work desired by R&S had exceeded the scope of the permit. The Trial Court’s decision to dismiss was affirmed.
Questions about this case can be directed to Matt Ainsley at (202) 945-9506 or email@example.com.