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DOE v. DOMINION BANK OF WASHINGTON

May 16, 1991

JANE DOE, Plaintiff
v.
DOMINION BANK OF WASHINGTON, N.A., Defendant


Hogan


The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS F. HOGAN

On May 10, 1991, at the close of the plaintiff's case in the above-captioned action, defendant Dominion Bank of Washington, N.A. ("Dominion Bank") moved for a directed verdict. After considering the facts presented by the plaintiff in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, and after conducting an exhaustive review of the law in this jurisdiction and in other jurisdictions, the Court, before the commencement of the defendant's case on May 13, 1991, granted Dominion Bank's motion for a directed verdict. Given the serious nature of the case and the likelihood that the Court's ruling shall be reviewed by the Court of Appeals, this Memorandum Opinion is intended to supplement the Court's lengthy bench opinion.

 Discussion

 I. Directed Verdict Standard

 A motion for a directed verdict should be granted when "the evidence, together with all inferences that can reasonably be drawn therefrom, is so one-sided that reasonable men could not disagree on the verdict." Vander Zee v. Karabatsos, 589 F.2d 723, 726 (D.C. Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 441 U.S. 962, 99 S. Ct. 2407 (1979). The Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant, without weighing the credibility of the witnesses and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-movant. Coburn v. Pan American World Airways, Inc., 711 F.2d 339, 342 (D.C. Cir.), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 994, 78 L. Ed. 2d 683, 104 S. Ct. 488 (1983). With this standard in mind, the Court shall now review the evidence before it.

 II. Evidence Before the Court

 This action arises out of a rape and assault on the plaintiff by a third party on May 24, 1989, on the premises of a building at 1430 K Street, N.W. Dominion Bank is the master lease-holder of the building.

 The plaintiff testified that the incident occurred around 9:20 A.M., during normal business hours in the building. She testified that she was grabbed and dragged from a building elevator into an office on the vacant ninth floor of the building. At the time of the incident, the plaintiff was an employee of Fiscal Planning Services, Inc., a commercial tenant in the building which was employed for solely commercial purposes.

 In place at the time of the rape of Ms. Doe was a security system which consisted of a card activated security system that prohibited access to the building or the elevators except to card holders from 5:00 P.M. to approximately 8:00 A.M. During those hours, an individual could not access a floor unless his or her card was programmed to allow access to the particular floor.

 The issue central to Dominion Bank's motion for a directed verdict is whether the rape was reasonably foreseeable under the circumstances. The Court shall, therefore, review the facts of which Dominion Bank, either itself or through its agent, Community Management Company *fn1" ("CMC"), knew or should have known about incidents of criminal or suspicious conduct at 1430 K Street, N.W.

 The plaintiff presented numerous memoranda which were admitted into evidence as notice only. *fn2" They included the following:

 (1) A February 26, 1987, letter from an employee of a tenant to the CMC property manager concerning a wallet stolen from the tenant's office. See plaintiff's Exhibit 19;

 (2) A July 30, 1987, CMC Incident & Accident Report reporting a video recorder missing from the tenant offices. See Plaintiff's Exhibit 21;

 (3) An August 17, 1987, CMC Incident & Accident Report reporting a telephone, tape recorder and set of tapes missing from tenant office. See Plaintiff's Exhibits 22 and 23;

 (4) A September 7, 1987, Memorandum from Dominion Bank Security Officer to Dominion Bank personnel reporting wallet stolen from Dominion Bank offices. See Plaintiff's Exhibit 24;

 (5) A September 8, 1987, CMC Incident & Accident Report reporting a handbag missing from tenant office. See Plaintiff's Exhibit 26;

 (6) A September 10, 1987, letter to CMC from tenant reporting lunches missing from office refrigerator and door leading to outside unlocked and ...


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