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Dingwall v. District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority

February 15, 2001

CAROLYN A. DINGWALL, APPELLANT,
V.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA WATER AND SEWER AUTHORITY, APPELLEE.



Before Steadman, Schwelb, and Glickman, Associate Judges.

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

Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia

(Hon. Brook Hedge, Trial Judge)

Submitted November 28, 2000

Carolyn A. Dingwall appeals from an order of the trial court dismissing her suit against the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (WASA). The trial judge held that the action failed because Ms. Dingwall had not provided pre-suit notice to WASA, as required in actions against the District of Columbia by D.C. Code § 12-309 (1995). Ms. Dingwall contends that WASA is a separate corporate entity that is amenable to suit in its own name, that her action was not brought against the District of Columbia, and that § 12-309 therefore does not apply. We agree with Ms. Dingwall's position on this issue.

The District contends, in the alternative, that the judgment should be affirmed because Ms. Dingwall lacked standing to bring the suit. We agree with the District with respect to the first of the two claims asserted in the complaint, but we conclude that Ms. Dingwall had standing to bring her second claim. Accordingly, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.

I.

This suit concerns a three-story Victorian house located at 459 Florida Avenue N.W. in Washington, D.C. The building is owned by one Lucille Y. Baguidy. According to the allegations of the pro se complaint, the original plaintiffs, Ms. Dingwall, Delphine Jones, and Jacquelyn M. King, were "property managers" for and tenants of the premises. *fn1 At the time the complaint was filed, the plaintiffs were renting the top floor of the house, and they "intended to use this space for the purpose of operating a business." *fn2 The complaint alleged that the second floor unit was "unoccupied pending the arrival of [a] new tenant family."

In their complaint, the plaintiffs asserted a claim of negligence (Count I) and a claim of "breach of covenant of quiet enjoyment (private nuisance)" (Count II). *fn3 In Count I, the plaintiffs alleged that WASA failed to exercise due care in investigating and remedying a disputed water bill. According to the plaintiffs, WASA's negligence resulted in the disruption of water service and the loss of water pressure at the premises.

Although Ms. Baguidy, the owner of the premises, was not a party to the action, the plaintiffs purported to assert their negligence claim on Ms. Baguidy's behalf. According to Paragraph 12 of the complaint, "[WASA]'s negligenc[e] by improperly handling the problem of no water at the 459 Florida Avenue address resulted in a loss of revenue for the owner." In their prayer for relief with respect to the negligence count, the plaintiffs demanded judgment against WASA as follows:

1. Compensatory damages of $9,699 for lost revenue from an inability to collect rents totaling $1,200 per month, payable to Lucille Y. Baguidy.

2. Consequential damages of $2,000 for expenses in cleaning, plumbing and painting of premises due to a lack of water, payable to Lucille Y. Baguidy. (Emphasis added.)

In Count II of their complaint, the plaintiffs reiterated their prior allegations and asserted that they had ...


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