FOIA: An Untapped Resource

By Peter DePaolis

In a previous post, there was a mention related to the unanswered service requests that the DC Government receives in regards to cases that have been filed. One request and notification was in reference to trees along the 3200 block of Adams Mill Road NW. Our office obtained these specifics through FOIA, which is a great tool for citizens, clients, and attorneys to use when researching.

FOIA stands for the Freedom of Information Act and took effect on July 5, 1967. This law gives anyone the right to access information from the federal government. While there are a few exemptions to FOIA, most records are accessible. In fact, many agencies already produce some information to the public. So, before going through the FOIA request process, save yourself some time, and look at what’s already been released. If you still cannot find what you’re looking for, then the first step is to visit This website gives government agency listings that indicate where to send the FOIA request to. After finding the appropriate agency, make a formal FOIA request. While there is no specific FOIA form, there are a few guidelines. This letter is meant to be a detailed description of the information you are seeking from the government and the format you would like to receive it in. The last step is to simply mail the FOIA request to the appropriate agency.

All in all, it is a fairly simple process since many agencies now accept FOIA requests online. As it pertains to our firm, FOIA provided us with strong evidence to support our wrongful death and negligence suit against the District of Columbia. Through our inquiries into these public records, we realized that our clients’ accident did have foreseeable causes which contributed to his death. The FOIA information exposed the gaping opportunities that the DC Government missed in rectifying the hazardous tree that was a silent threat to public safety and took the life of an innocent pedestrian. To find out more on FOIA or our case example, click the links below


About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.