Plaintiff alleges that on August 11, 1989, he "slipped and fell on a wet marble floor in the common receptionist area" of the law firm of Hogan & Hartson. Complaint P 6. Smith, then an employee of Hogan & Hartson who worked as a computer technical support specialist, claims that the floor had been mopped just prior to his accident and that defendants
negligently failed "to warn tenants and/or invitees of the dangerous and slippery condition of the floor with the appropriate signs and/or barriers." Id. PP 6, 7.
Smith subsequently made a claim with his employer for workers' compensation benefits. Hogan & Hartson made voluntary payments of compensation from the date of the injury until January 29, 1990. Plaintiff then filed a claim for workers' compensation pursuant to the District of Columbia Workers' Compensation Act of 1979. On April 3, 1991, the Hearings and Appeals Examiner issued a Compensation Order requiring Hogan & Hartson to pay compensation from January 30, 1990, through September 29, 1990, the date Smith began a new job.
On January 21, 1992, Liberty Mutual Insurance Co., as subrogee for Hogan & Hartson, filed suit against Ogden in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia for reimbursement of the benefits paid to Smith. The parties ultimately settled the Superior Court lawsuit. On April 3, 1992, plaintiff filed the instant complaint.
In viewing a motion to dismiss, "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957). At this stage, the Court must accept as true the factual allegations of the complaint, Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 81 L. Ed. 2d 59, 104 S. Ct. 2229 (1984), and draw from them all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 40 L. Ed. 2d 90, 94 S. Ct. 1683 (1974).
Summary judgment, in contrast, is appropriate when there is "no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). "The inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is a need for trial--whether, in other words, there are any genuine issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the "evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Id. at 255. At the same time, however, Rule 56 places a burden on the nonmoving party to "go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986).
To resolve this diversity case, the Court must apply the substantive law of the District of Columbia. See Edwards v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 567 F. Supp. 1087 (D.D.C.), aff'd, 236 U.S. App. D.C. 135, 733 F.2d 966 (D.C. Cir.), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 883, 83 L. Ed. 2d 189, 105 S. Ct. 252 (1983). Under the District of Columbia Workers' Compensation Act (the "Act"), D.C. Code §§ 36-301 et seq. (1988), an employee injured at work is not required to choose immediately between filing a workers' compensation claim and suing an allegedly liable third party. See Cunningham v. George Hyman Constr. Co., 603 A.2d 446 (D.C. 1992). Once the employee accepts a workers' compensation award, however:
Acceptance of such compensation . . . shall operate as an assignment to the employer of all rights of the person entitled to compensation to recover damages against such third person unless such person shall commence an action against such third person within 6 months after such award.