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DYSON v. WINFIELD

January 19, 2001

LAKESHIA DYSON, PERSONALLY AND AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR THE ESTATE OF RICO MONROE, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOSEPH K. WINFIELD, M.D., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lamberth, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Now before the Court is a motion for reconsideration by the plaintiff. Specifically, the plaintiff moves the Court to reconsider its September 21, 2000 decision barring the plaintiff from seeking damages for emotional distress and extraordinary child rearing expenses. After a full consideration of the parties' memoranda, and for the following reasons, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the plaintiff's motion for reconsideration.

BACKGROUND

On July 27, 1997, Lakeshia Dyson filed suit against Dr. Joseph Winfield under the common law of the District of Columbia as well as the District of Columbia Wrongful Death and Survival Statutes, 16 D.C.Code § 2701; 12 D.C.Code § 101. She alleged, inter alia, that Dr. Winfield negligently prescribed the drug Provera to her while she was pregnant, causing her child to be born with numerous birth defects and eventually die. As damages, Ms. Dyson prayed for, inter alia, "emotional distress and mental anguish suffered by Dyson as a consequence of her baby's birth defects" and "extraordinary child rearing expenses, including the value of Dyson's time devoted thereto, attributable to Decedent's physical and mental abnormalities." Complaint, July 23, 1997, at 4.

On January 21, 2000, Winfield moved to dismiss Dyson's claims for emotional distress and extraordinary child rearing expenses. In a September 21, 2000 Memorandum Opinion, the Court granted Winfield's motion, reasoning that the applicable law permitted Dyson to recover only "what the deceased would have been able to recover had he lived" as well as the "reasonable expenses of last illness and burial." Memorandum and Order, Sept. 21, 2000, at 21. Emotional distress and extraordinary child rearing expenses, the Court reasoned, were not included in these categories. Id. at 22.

Dyson now asserts that the Court's decision was incorrect as a matter of law.*fn1 She argues that, although the Court was correct in regard to its interpretation of the statutes, if erred in failing to consider the availability of such damages under the common law. In support of this, she cites (for the first time) several cases that articulate her argument. Winfield opposes this argument. The Court will now resolve the issue.

ANALYSIS

I. Standard of Review

Upon a motion for reconsideration, a court will revise its decision if if finds "(1) an intervening change in controlling law, (2) the availability of new evidence, or (3) the need to correct clear error or manifest injustice." McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. NASA, 109 F. Supp.2d 27, 28 (D.D.C. 2000) (Lamberth, J.). See also Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1206 (D.C.Cir. 1996); EEOC v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 116 F.3d 110, 112 (4th Cir. 1997). "A trial court has broad discretion to grant or deny a motion for reconsideration." McDonnell Douglas, 109 F. Supp.2d at 28. See also Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc., 514 U.S. 211, 233-34, 115 S.Ct. 1447, 131 L.Ed.2d 328 (1995); Liljeberg v. Health Services Acquisition Corp., 486 U.S. 847, 864, 108 S.Ct. 2194, 100 L.Ed.2d 855 (1988).

II. The Plaintiff's Motion to Reconsider

Prompted by the arguments that have heretofore remained absent from this dispute, the Court finds that the plaintiff may seek damages for her extraordinary child rearing expenses but may not seek damages for her emotional distress.

A. Recovery for Extraordinary Child Rearing Expenses

As explained in the Court's September 21, 2000 Opinion, extraordinary child rearing expenses are not recoverable under the D.C. Wrongful Death and Survival Statutes. That, however, is not the end of the matter in this case. Subsequent to the passage of these statutes, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia recognized that a plaintiff may recover for extraordinary child rearing expenses under a common law cause of action for wrongful birth. See Cauman v. George Washington Univ., 630 A.2d 1104, 1105-06 (D.C. 1993); Haymon v. Wilkerson, 535 A.2d 880, 884-86 (D.C. 1987).

In the case at hand, the plaintiff brought her action under, inter alia, the "common law of the District of Columbia relating to medical malpractice, negligent breach of duty to inform, and wrongful birth." Complaint, July 23, 1997, ΒΆ 1. Thus, under the controlling precedent of the District of Columbia, the plaintiff may ...


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