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Souci v. William C. Smith & Co.

December 07, 2000

LESLIE J. SOUCI, APPELLANT,
V.
WILLIAM C. SMITH & COMPANY, APPELLEE.



Before Schwelb, Ruiz, and Washington, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schwelb, Associate Judge

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia

(Hon. José M. López, Trial Judge)

Argued October 25, 2000

This case arises from an allegation by Leslie J. Souci that William C. Smith & Company (Smith & Co.) negligently performed repairs to Mr. Souci's flooded co-op apartment. The trial judge granted summary judgment in Smith & Co.'s favor. We reverse.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL SUMMARY

The summary judgment record, viewed in the light most favorable to Mr. Souci, Bullock v. Nat'l City Mortgage Co., 735 A.2d 949, 952 (D.C. 1999), reflects that Mr. Souci, a cab driver and musician who has released several compact discs, is a shareholder of the Mintwood Place Cooperative, Inc. (the Co-op). The Co-op owns the Mintwood Building at 1875 Mintwood Place, in northwest Washington, D.C. Mr. Souci is also the holder of a proprietary lease granting him the right to occupy Unit 04 of the Mintwood Building. Mr. Souci's apartment is located on the ground floor. Units 44 to 24 (numbered from the top down) are located on the three floors above. At all times relevant to this suit, Smith & Co. was the property manager of the Mintwood Building and managed it on the Co-op's behalf.

In May or June of 1997, the toilet of Unit 44, which is located above Mr. Souci's apartment, overflowed, causing flooding in the three units below it. Of the four affected units, Mr. Souci's apartment sustained the worst damage, primarily because it is located on the ground floor. In addition, Mr. Souci's floor is made of concrete, so that the water had no means of escape. Mr. Souci claims that the ceilings, walls, and wood floors in his unit were warped as a result of water damage and that fixtures attached to the walls "sagged." Smith & Co. undertook to perform and oversee the repair work to the damaged units, including Mr. Souci's apartment. Mr. Souci claims that he initially did all in his power to cooperate with Smith & Co. and with the insurance adjuster in connection with the repairs to his unit. However, as the work progressed, Mr. Souci became concerned that the repairs were not being adequately performed and that his apartment would not be restored to its condition before the flooding. Although Smith & Co. apparently claimed that the only repair that remained necessary was to a floor, Mr. Souci filed an affidavit in which he detailed his allegations to the contrary:

The sheetrock repair on my bedroom ceiling did not line up with the existing ceiling[,] resulting in a horrible eyesore. The bedroom closet door jamb was left in a swollen, ruined state. The bedroom wall surfaces were not properly prepared and fungus grew underneath the new paint and caused it to bubble. Stippling dropped off the ceiling and stained the walls. There was deep staining on the floor and the supports for the radiator had become soaked and unstable. [In the bathroom, the] repair compound and old wet plaster separated and cracked after the repair. About ten floor tiles loosened as a result of the water. Plaster cracks in the wall were never repaired. Several areas of plaster bubbled up from the wall and were never sanded. The door jamb warped and did not fit properly. [In the kitchen, the] subfloor was still soaked when the new floor was laid and the floor became even more uneven. The hallway door jamb was soaked to a point of warping. The hallway floor was soaked and cupped. The trim was not properly prepared, sanded[,] or painted. [The] living room was heavily stained. Water soaked and ruined the radiator sleepers. (Paragraphs combined; paragraph numbers omitted.)

Mr. Souci claims that he repeatedly alerted Smith & Co. to the remaining flood-related problems in his unit, and that he attempted for several months to persuade Smith & Co. to address them. He alleges, however, that Smith & Co. ignored or rebuffed his complaints. Shortly before Smith & Co. proposed to make the repairs to Mr. Souci's floor --those final repairs that Smith & Co. deemed necessary -- Mr. Souci refused Smith & Co. any further access to his unit. Smith & Co. then sent Mr. Souci a check in the amount of $800 to cover the cost of the repairs to his floor. Mr. Souci declined to accept this payment and returned the check to Smith & Co.

On May 20, 1998, Mr. Souci brought the present action, *fn1 alleging negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress by Smith & Co. *fn2 On May 24, 1999, Smith & Co. filed a motion for summary judgment. On July 16, 1999, the trial judge granted Smith & Co.'s motion in a brief written order. This timely appeal followed.

II. LEGAL DISCUSSION

A. Standard of review.

"We review a grant of summary judgment de novo, applying the same standard as the trial judge." Bullock, supra, 735 A.2d at 952 (citations omitted). Summary judgment may be granted only if "there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Id. In evaluating whether there are disputed material facts, "we view ...


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