Marc Fiedler Appellate Victories Information
Zelaya v. Strange, 17-CV-411 (D.C. App. Ct. Feb. 5, 2021) (unpublished memorandum opinion and judgment).
The D.C. Court of Appeals reversed in part summary judgment for a construction manager who refused to exercise his authority to stop hazardous work that resulted in a high-voltage electric shock that injured a worker catastrophically. The court held that (1) the manager, as a District of Columbia employee, was not exempt from the statutory duty to provide a reasonably safe workplace; (2) for a breach of that duty, the manager’s only defense based on the worker’s conduct is that the conduct was reckless, willful, and wanton; and (3) whether the worker was following his boss’s orders and feared getting fired if he refused to perform the dangerous work are relevant factors for a jury to consider in deciding whether he acted inappropriately.
Capital Women’s Care v. Susan Saulny Kenney, 18-CV-1198 (D.C. App. Ct. July 30, 2020) (unpublished memorandum opinion and judgment).
The D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment of $1,250,000 for a journalist who, in the thirty-eighth week of her pregnancy, informed her physician that she detected decreased fetal movement, but he negligently failed to direct her to undergo immediate testing that would have disclosed potentially fatal fetal distress and that would have prompted an emergency cesarean section to save the baby’s life. The court held that her obstetrical expert’s testimony provided a legally sufficient basis for the jury to find that the physician’s conduct caused the baby’s death.
Harvey v. District of Columbia, 798 F.3d 1042 (D.C. Cir. 2015).
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the family of a group-home resident with a profound intellectual disability who developed cervical stenosis, which eventually caused his death. The court held that the District violated his constitutional right to substantive due process by its deliberate indifference to his need for medical treatment.
Chucker v. Berger, No. 12-CV-1904 (D.C. App. Ct. Sept. 18, 2013 (judgment granting motion for summary affirmance), (D.C. App. Ct. Dec. 30, 2014) (order denying petition for rehearing en banc).
The D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment of $5,363,449 for the widow of a lawyer who developed colon cancer and died because his doctor negligently failed to order timely screening. The court refused to overrule precedent that permits counsel in closing argument to suggest that the plaintiff’s pain and suffering might be worth various dollar amounts.
Payne v. District of Columbia Dep’t of Employment Servs., 9 A.3d 665 (D.C. 2014).
The D.C. Court of Appeals reversed an administrative order denying workers’-compensation benefits to a Metrorail station manager whose working conditions aggravated his asthma. The court held that the administrative agency erred by exceeding its authority on review when it substituted its view of the facts for the findings of the administrative law judge and misapprehended the basis for the legal conclusions of the judge, who had awarded benefits to the station manager.
Hedgepeth v. Whitman Walker Clinic, 22 A.3d 789 (D.C. 2011) (en banc).
The D.C. Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment for a medical clinic and a doctor in an action by a patient who was misdiagnosed as being HIV-positive, causing him to become depressed. The court expanded the recovery allowed for negligent infliction of emotional where the plaintiff can show that (1) the defendant had a relationship with or had undertaken an obligation to the plaintiff that necessarily implicated the plaintiff’s emotional well-being; (2) there was an especially likely risk that the defendant’s negligence would cause serious emotional distress to the plaintiff; and (3) negligent actions or omissions of the defendant in breach of that obligation, in fact, caused serious emotional distress to the plaintiff.
Schoonover v. Chavous, 974 A.2d 876 (D.C. 2009).
The D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment of $1,525,000 for a youngster whose legs had to be amputated below the knee because his doctor negligently failed to properly diagnose his serious illness. The court held that the trial judge did not abuse her discretion in refusing to allow the doctor to voluntarily dismiss a cross-claim for contribution against the hospital with which the plaintiff had settled a malpractice claim, where that dismissal would have had the effect of reducing the plaintiff’s judgment against the doctor by $575,000.
Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth. v. Brown, No. 07-CV-387 (D.C. App. Ct. Dec. 15, 2008) (unpublished memorandum opinion and judgment).
The D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment on a $287,500 personal injury verdict for a motorist who sustained neurological injuries when he crashed into a lamppost while trying to avoid a car accident with a Metrobus that suddenly merged into his traffic lane. The court held that the trial judge (1) properly admitted the lay-opinion testimony of two eyewitnesses that the plaintiff “did the best thing” by swerving away from the bus and into the lamppost; (2) properly admitted the plaintiff’s medical bills without direct testimony from a doctor verifying their reasonableness; and (3) properly allowed the plaintiff to testify about the permanence of his injuries where his treating physician also testified they are permanent.
Collins v. Smith, No. 05-CV-1521 (D.C. App. Ct. Feb. 15, 2008) (unpublished memorandum opinion and judgment).
The D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment on a $761,000 wrongful death verdict for the widow of a Metrobus operator who died from a pulmonary embolism caused by his orthopedic surgeon’s medical malpractice. The court held that the trial judge (1) properly admitted the testimony of two experts whose opinions about the standard of care were based in part on generalized references to medical literature, a foreign report, and a case study with a small sample size; and (2) properly found that this testimony was sufficient to establish the national standard of care.
Pannu v. Jacobson, 909 A.2d 178 (D.C. 2006).
The D.C. Court of Appeals reversed a judgment on a jury verdict in favor of a neurosurgeon in a medical malpractice action by a patient who suffered severe and permanent nerve damage when the surgeon negligently severed several of his nerves in the course of operating on his back. The court held that: (1) the trial judge committed reversible error by failing to give a jury instruction reflecting the fundamental legal principle that the amount of care that one must exercise varies proportionately with the amount of danger present; and (2) the trial judge was required to give a jury instruction conveying this principle even though the instruction proposed by the plaintiff was unacceptable.
Brin v. S.E.W. Investors, 902 A.2d 784 (D.C. 2006).
The D.C. Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment for the owners and managers of an office building in an action by an office worker who suffered an array of ailments known as sick-building syndrome due to her exposure to airborne contaminants in the building where she worked. The court held that the statute of limitations did not begin to run on the plaintiff’s claims until she received or with reasonable diligence could have received expert medical advice that the defective air quality was a plausible cause of her injuries.
Hechinger Co. v. Johnson, 761 A.2d 15 (D.C. 2000).
The D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed a $2,000,000 verdict for a hardware-store patron who had been assaulted by a store employee. Among other things, the court held that: (1) D.C. was not an inconvenient forum even though the wrongdoing and injury occurred in Maryland; (2) it was permissible in closing argument to suggest that the plaintiff’s injuries might be worth various dollar amounts; (3) sufficient evidence was presented to prove the store was vicariously liable for its employee’s tortious assault; (4) the verdict could not be impeached by evidence that jurors did not understand or follow instructions and were confused; and (5) the verdict was not excessive in light of the plaintiff’s severe and permanent injuries.
Traudt v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 692 A.2d 1326 (D.C. 1997).
The D.C. Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment for an electric utility in an action by an asbestos abatement contractor’s employee arising from burn injuries sustained when he tried removing asbestos from 2,400-volt electric cables that, unbeknownst to the employee, the utility failed to de-energize. The court for the first time held that a contractee, such as the utility, owes its contractor’s employees a duty under the peculiar-risk doctrine to provide in the contract or otherwise that the contractor take special precautions. The court further held that the utility owed the plaintiff a statutory duty to provide a safe place of employment, even though the utility was not his direct employer.
Fry v. Diamond Constr., Inc., 659 A.2d 241 (D.C. 1995).
The D.C. Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment for a general contractor in an action by a subcontractor’s employee seeking damages for catastrophic injuries sustained in a ladder accident when he fell off a ladder that had been placed on a scaffold. The court recognized two new theories of liability: (1) a contractee, such as the defendant in this case, is subject to direct liability for injuries caused by its contractor’s conduct in obedience to the contractee’s negligent directions; and (2) a contractee is subject to direct liability for injuries caused by a contractor that the contractee knew or should have known was incompetent or improperly equipped. The court also held that the defendant was subject to vicarious liability for the subcontractor’s negligence because the work was inherently dangerous.
Cope v. Scott, 45 F.3d 445 (D.C. Cir. 1995).
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed in part summary judgment for the U.S. government in a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) suit by a motorist injured in a car accident in Rock Creek Park. The court held that the government’s decision as to where and what type of warning sign to post about dangerous road conditions was not immune from liability under the FTCA’s discretionary-function exception.
Burns v. Director, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, 41 F.3d 1555 (D.C. Cir. 1994).
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed administrative orders denying a construction worker workers’ compensation benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. The court held that substantial evidence supported the conclusion that the claimant’s on-the-job stroke was caused by his exposure to propane gas at his work site.
Madison v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth., 993 F.2d 228 (4 th Cir. 1993)(unpublished opinion).
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed a judgment entered on a jury verdict in favor of the widow of a blind man who had fallen onto Metrorail subway tracks while trying to board a train and who was run over and killed in a WMATA accident when the train pulled away from the station. The court rejected WMATA’s argument that, when he entered the track bed without authorization, the decedent lost his status as an invitee and became a trespasser to whom WMATA owed a lesser duty of care.
Williams v. Washington Hosp. Ctr., 601 A.2d 28 (D.C. 1991).
The D.C. Court of Appeals reversed a judgment entered on a verdict for a hospital in a medical malpractice action by a patient alleging that a doctor at the hospital negligently failed to discover a foreign object in his eye, resulting in blindness. The court held that the trial judge erred by failing to give an adverse-inference instruction where the defendant had misplaced crucial evidence.
Capital Hilton Hotel v. District of Columbia Dep’t of Employment Servs., 565 A.2d 981 (D.C. 1989).
The D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed an award of workers’ compensation benefits to a banquet houseman who suffered the rupture of an aneurysm in his brain while he carried heavy tables at work. The court held that the fact that he suffered from a pre-existing arterial disorder did not require him to prove an unusual exertion in order to establish a causal connection between his work-related activity and his injury.
Meiggs v. Associated Builders, Inc., 545 A.2d 631 (D.C. 1988), cert. denied, 490 U.S. 1116 (1989).
In this landmark case, the D.C. Court of Appeals held that subcontractors’ injured employees who receive workers’ compensation benefits from the subcontractors may sue general contractors for tort damages. In concluding that general contractors are not entitled to statutory immunity under the D.C. Workers’ Compensation Act, the court expressly rejected the U.S. Supreme Court’s contrary interpretation of the identical language in the Act’s predecessor statute.
Coleman v. Parkline Corp., 844 F.2d 863 (D.C. Cir. 1988).
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed a judgment on the verdict for a construction worker who, while unloading 500-pound elevator ceilings (“domes”) from a truck, was seriously injured in a construction accident when a dome fell on her. The court held that the trial judge properly admitted the testimony of the plaintiff’s safety engineer, even though he had no experience with loading elevator domes.
Bechtel Assocs., P.C. v. Sweeney, 834 F.2d 1029 (D.C. Cir. 1987).
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed the award of workers’ compensation benefits to the claimant under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. The claimant’s work-related pulmonary disease had combined with his pre-existing nonwork-related stomach cancer to create a compensable disability.
Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth. v. District of Columbia Dep’t of Employment Servs.¸ 515 A.2d 740 (D.C. 1986).
The D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed the award of workers’ compensation benefits to the claimant. The court held that: (1) the computation of workers’ compensation benefits should be based not solely on the income from the employer whose work occasioned the injury, but rather on the wages from all the jobs held by the worker at the time of the on-the-job accident: and (2) the benefits calculation may include income not originally reported in the claimant’s income tax return.