eNotes: Liability – September 2022 – Washington, D.C.
September 01, 2022
SIGNIFICANT CASE SUMMARIES
DC CASE SUMMARY
Caesar v. Westchester Corp.
District of Columbia Court of Appeals
Decided: August 18, 2022
Where monetary damages in the amount of an injury will not adequately compensate a plaintiff, additional permanent injunction may be appropriate.
In February of 2014, a longtime resident of an apartment complex, took up residence in one of their ten guest rooms. These guest rooms were maintained separate from the apartment units, and they could be rented for a nightly fee. At the time, she had concerns about her recently diagnosed hypertension, which could theoretically be aggravated by exposure to any type of smoke. She took up residence in the guest room while her regular unit was being insulated from her neighbor’s alleged pipe-smoking. She stayed in the guest room and refused to return to her regular unit until April 30, 2016, at which time the apartment complex began charging for her use of the guest room. The resident did not pay, despite notice of the charges.
Further, the resident would not return to her regular apartment, despite assurances from the Apartment Complex that the smoke infiltration issue had been remediated. After the resident had denied an air-quality test of her apartment, causing a breakdown in negotiations, the Apartment Complex brought suit in September of 2016, alleging breach of the cooperative’s contract. The resident filed Counterclaims for breach of fiduciary duty, housing discrimination, breach of covenant of quiet enjoyment, and breach of implied warranty of habitability. The Trial Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Apartment Complex on all counts in both their case in chief and on the resident’s counterclaims. In its first entry of judgment, the Trial Court neglected to implement any remedy.
The Apartment Complex asked the Court to re-open the matter to provide a remedy. It argued that it was owed back payment for the use of the guest lodging, and a permanent injunction against the resident for use of the guest lodging. The Trial Court re-opened the matter, affirmed its previous grant of summary judgment, and imposed the permanent injunction, accompanying an award of $235,860 in back pay for use of the unit, as well as $218,741 in attorney’s fees. The resident appealed.
The DC Court of Appeals reduced the monetary damages award for back pay down to $227,810, upheld the award for attorneys’ fees, and left the grant of a permanent injunction undisturbed. In short, the Court found that the compensation could be awarded separate and apart from the permanent injunction because the compensatory damages on the breach of contract did not fully address the fact that the resident was still occupying the unit. The Court explained that this amounted to a harm essentially similar to a continued trespass, and that, even if the Plaintiff was able to compensate the apartment complex for her prolonged stay, there were other unquantifiable harms that could not be addressed by monetary compensation, such as the overall value in maintaining available guest rooms for other members of the cooperative to utilize.
Questions about this case can be directed to Joseph Mooradian at (202) 318-1751 or firstname.lastname@example.org.