the 1978-1979 school year in the amount DCPS would have been required to pay under the EAHCA. Plaintiffs have included a tort claim in their complaint but the Court does not read the EAHCA as permitting such a claim. In any event, the tort claim is denied; defendants being entitled to dismissal of that claim as a matter of law. The award for reimbursement only represents what DCPS was required to pay in 1978-1979.
The question now presented is whether a judgment may be entered against the named defendants, and whether it must or can be entered against the District of Columbia.
A distinction must be drawn between a case in which the plaintiff seeks injunctive relief. If the plaintiff seeks money damages, he "must name the District [of Columbia] as a party if the District funds are to be reached." Keith v. Washington, 401 A.2d 468, 471 (D.C.App.1979). See also Roberson v. District of Columbia Board of Higher Education, 359 A.2d 28, 31, n. 4 (D.C.App.1976); Farrell v. Ward, 53 A.2d 46, 50 (D.C.Mun.App.1947); D.C. Code 1-102 (1981). If the plaintiff seeks injunctive relief, he may sue the public officials, including in the appropriate case, the members of the Board of Education, or the superintendent. Here, there is no pending claim for injunctive relief.
Addressing only the issue of damages, the Court observes that the statute creating the Board of Education, D.C.Code 31-101 et seq. (1981), does not provide that the Board is a body corporate having the capability to sue or to be sued; accordingly, a suit for damages against the Board cannot survive. Kelley v. Morris, 400 A.2d 1045, 1047 (D.C.App.1979). Moreover, the members of the Board are not subject to liability for any official action of the Board performed in good faith. Id. See also D.C.Code 3-105 (1981). All of the individual defendants are sued in their official capacity, and the Court can find no basis upon which the individual defendants would now be liable for reimbursement. Finally, the Court notes that the District of Columbia is not named as a party and, as stated above, normally there can be no recovery against it unless it has been named.
As the Court has noted, any award in this case is in effect an award against the District of Columbia since, as the Court understands it, the money will be paid from the District treasury. Of course, some of that money comes from federal funds paid to the District under the EAHCA. Thus, this action, to the extent that the plaintiffs seek damages can be considered as a suit against the District of Columbia. See Spann v. Commissioners of District of Columbia, 143 U.S.App.D.C. 300, 443 F.2d 715 (1970) (per curiam).
Although there normally can be no recovery against the District unless it is named as a party, "neither [ Roberson v. District of Columbia Board of Higher Education, nor Farrell v. Ward ] went so far as to say that even when the realities demonstrate that the District is an intended defendant, its omission as a formal matter is fatal to a plaintiff's suit." Keith v. Washington, supra, 401 A.2d at 471, n. 2. On so much of plaintiffs' claim which seeks money damages, the plaintiffs seek reimbursement for moneys they expended to afford Pamela an appropriate education for the 1978-1979 school year. They acted only when DCPS did not act and are now entitled to reimbursement to the extent that DCPS would have been liable for that year under the EAHCA. The District elected to receive funds under the EAHCA and therefore is bound to follow the requirements of the statute. Any payments to the plaintiffs would necessarily come from the District treasury. This being the case, it follows that the realities in this case demonstrate that the District, to the extent plaintiffs seek reimbursement, is the intended defendant. Moreover, the District cannot claim that its rights have been prejudiced because it was not named as a formal party, since the defendants were fully and adequately represented by the Office of the Corporation Counsel, which would have represented the District had it been a formal party. Additionally, the Court notes that the involvement in EAHCA cases has not been limited to the Board of Education or to employees in the educational system, but rather, has included and includes the Department of Human Resources and its employees. At times there have been jurisdictional disputes as to who had the responsibility to take certain actions involving children requiring special education. See e.g., North v. District of Columbia Board of Education, 471 F. Supp. 136, 141 (D DC 1979) (dispute between Board of Education and Department of Human Resources as to who was responsible for residential placements). It is the Court's understanding that the dispute was only resolved with the intervention and assistance of the Chief Executive of the District. Finally, in this regard, the Court understands that uncontested awards for attorney fees in EAHCA cases have been paid out of the District treasury.
Based on all of the realities of this case, the Court concludes that this is, in effect, an action against the District of Columbia which is the intended defendant. Therefore, so that the complaint and order entered in the case will reflect the "realities" of the case; in recognizing that the plaintiffs seek reimbursement for funds expended from whatever source of the District of Columbia is required to make reimbursement, the Court treats plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment as one also requesting amendment to conform with the evidence, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 15, and sua sponte, amends the caption to include the District of Columbia as a defendant.
The claim here is for liquidated damages, but to the extent the plaintiffs may have been required to give notice of this action under D.C.Code § 12-309 (1981), the Court finds that plaintiffs' request for a special education placement and the subsequent administrative proceedings, afforded ample notice to the District of Columbia.
In sum, the Court now finds that the plaintiffs are entitled to reimbursement for payments made to Kingsbury to provide Pamela with an appropriate education for the 1978-1979 school year. The plaintiffs shall submit a statement setting forth the expenditures made for that school year. The Court also finds that the plaintiffs as the prevailing parties in this case, are entitled to attorneys fees. The plaintiffs shall submit their claims for attorneys fees and tuition reimbursement within fifteen days of the date of the Order.
An appropriate Order entering judgment for the plaintiffs as set forth above shall be entered.
© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.