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AMTRAK v. NOTTER

October 8, 1987

NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION, Plaintiff,
v.
GEORGE M. NOTTER, JR., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HARRIS

MEMORANDUM OPINION

 This matter is before the Court on defendant's motion for summary judgment, plaintiff's motion to compel production of documents, defendant's motion to extend discovery, and defendant's motion to compel deposit of rent. Upon consideration of the motion for summary judgment, the opposition thereto, and the entire record, the Court concludes (1) that some, but not all, of plaintiff's claims are time-barred by the applicable statute of limitations, (2) that the motions to compel should be denied, and (3) that a limited extension of discovery is appropriate.

 Background

 On September 26, 1976, plaintiff National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak), a District of Columbia corporation, and Union Station Associates of New London (USANL), a Connecticut limited partnership, executed a lease under which Amtrak was to pay USANL approximately $ 45,000 annually, plus a portion of taxes and operating expenses, in exchange for the right to use a portion of the Union Railroad Station in New London, Connecticut (Union Station), as a passenger rail station. The lease was to expire on the later of April 30, 1996, or 20 years after the date on which Amtrak was able to occupy the station. In January of 1977, Amtrak and USANL executed an additional agreement, under which Amtrak agreed to pay for, and USANL agreed to provide, janitorial services in addition to those required under the lease. The defendant, George M. Notter, Jr., a Massachusetts citizen, is USANL's general partner. *fn1"

 On May 10, 1978, USANL leased a portion of Union Station to the United States Government for use as an armed forces recruiting facility. The Government took possession of that portion in August of 1978. Although Notter did not inform Amtrak officials in Washington, D.C., of that lease, it is undisputed that Amtrak employees at Union Station were aware of the Government's occupancy.

 Amtrak's Senior Real Estate Officer in Washington learned of the Government lease "sometime after the Spring of 1984." [Affidavit of Mary Ann Trueman at 1.] In 1985, Amtrak, exercising authority granted by its lease, conducted an audit of USANL's financial records. As a result of that audit, Amtrak officials in Washington, D.C., concluded that USANL had breached both the lease from Amtrak and the contract for additional janitorial services.

 On May 5, 1986, pursuant to the terms of its lease with USANL, Amtrak initiated private arbitration, claiming that Amtrak had been overcharged for operating expenses. On May 8, 1986, Amtrak filed this lawsuit, alleging that a portion of the space leased by USANL to the Government previously had been leased to Amtrak, and that USANL had billed Amtrak for more janitorial services than USANL actually provided. Amtrak claimed constructive eviction, breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment, and breach of the supplemental janitorial contract. In June of 1986, the parties agreed to withdraw the request for arbitration of the operating expense overcharge claim, and to consolidate that claim with this action. On June 16, 1986, Amtrak filed an amended complaint, adding the overcharge claim. Notter has counterclaimed, alleging that Amtrak has breached both the lease and the supplemental cleaning contract by failing to pay the full amounts due under those agreements.

 Discussion

 Notter moves for summary judgment on the grounds that all of Amtrak's claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations, and, alternatively, that Amtrak cannot state a claim for constructive eviction. Also pending are Amtrak's motion to compel production of copies of documents previously inspected by Amtrak, and Notter's motion to extend the discovery period. The Court addresses each motion in turn.

 I. Notter's Motion for Summary Judgment

 Because subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's claims is based on diversity of citizenship, see 28 U.S.C. § 1332, the Court must apply the law that would be applied in the District of Columbia courts, see Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78, 82 L. Ed. 1188, 58 S. Ct. 817 (1938), including the statute of limitations that would be applied by those courts. See Guaranty Trust Co. v. York, 326 U.S. 99, 112, 89 L. Ed. 2079, 65 S. Ct. 1464 (1945). When, as here, this Court must choose between the statutes of limitations of two or more jurisdictions, the Court must do so according to the choice-of-law rules applied in the District of Columbia courts. Klaxon Co. v. Stentor Elec. Mfg. Co., 313 U.S. 487, 496, 85 L. Ed. 1477, 61 S. Ct. 1020 (1941).

 In this case, the Court must determine preliminarily whether the laws of Connecticut or the laws of the District of Columbia supply the statute of limitations applicable to Amtrak's claims. Because the District of Columbia courts would hold that the statute of limitations issue is procedural and therefore governed by forum law, see Hodge v. Southern Railway Co., 415 A.2d 543, 544 (D.C. 1980); May Department Stores v. Devercelli, 314 A.2d 767, 773 (D.C. 1973), this Court will do so as well. See Banks v. Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co., 256 U.S. App. D.C. 22, 802 F.2d 1416, 1429 n.7 (D.C. Cir. 1986); Hoffa v. Fitzsimmons, 218 U.S. App. D.C. 163, 673 F.2d 1345, 1360 n.41 (D.C. Cir. 1982). Accordingly, the Court holds that the relevant District of Columbia statute of limitations -- D.C. Code § 12-301 -- applies to this case. *fn2"

 In its amended complaint, Amtrak charges Notter with breach of the supplemental janitorial agreement, as well as three breaches of the Union Station lease. Under D.C. Code § 12-301(7), the contract claim is subject to a three-year limitation period. Similarly, the District of Columbia courts impose a three-year limitation period on breach of lease claims. See Hines v. John B. Sharkey Co., 449 A.2d 1092, 1094 n.4 (D.C. 1982); Management Partnership, Inc. v. Crumlin, 423 A.2d 939, 942 n.* (D.C. 1980). *fn3"

 It is well established that the statute of limitations ordinarily begins to run from the time at which all elements of the plaintiff's cause of action exist. S. Freedman & Sons v. Hartford Fire Ins. Co., 396 A.2d 195, 198 (D.C. 1978). Therefore, the statute of limitations began to run on Amtrak's claims for breach of the covenant of quiet enjoyment and for constructive eviction in August of 1978, when the Government occupied the disputed space in Union Station. See, e.g., St. Paul Title Ins. Corp. v. Owen, 452 So. 2d 482, 485 (Ala. 1984); Rajchandra Corp. v. ...


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