United States District Court, D. Columbia
November 1, 2005.
DEBORAH A. REDMAN, Plaintiff,
PHILIP A. GRAHAM, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES ROBERTSON, District Judge
Deborah Redman brought this action pro se against her former
landlords, the law firm that represented one of the landlords in
an eviction proceeding against her, and the realtor involved in
the sale of her residence by one landlord to the other. Ms.
Redman's amended complaint asserts claims under the Fair Housing
Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3601, et seq., the Americans With Disabilities
Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., the District of
Columbia Human Rights Act, and the District of Columbia Rental
Housing Act. On August 3, 2005, I dismissed Ms. Redman's claims
against Schuman and Felts, Chartered (the law firm) and Long &
Foster Real Estate, Inc., and Lewis Bashoor (the realty firm and
the agent involved directly involved in the sale) as res
judicata. Ms. Redman has moved for clarification of that order.
In addition, defendant Philip A. Graham (plaintiff's former
landlord) has moved to dismiss.
Ms. Redman resided at 40 G Street, SW, Washington, DC, from
1996 until September 2002. Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl."), ¶
3.*fn1 Defendant Philip A. Graham was her landlord until August 8, 2002, id., ¶ 4, when defendant Dr. Raymond J.
Pitts, Jr., purchased the property, id., ¶ 5. Long & Foster was
the seller's agent in the transaction, id., ¶ 6; Schuman and
Felts were the seller's attorneys, id., ¶ 7.
During the period when Mr. Graham was showing the property to
prospective buyers, he filed a complaint against Ms. Redman in
the Superior Court of the District of Columbia seeking to enjoin
her from preventing his reasonable access to the premises. Deft
Graham's Mtn to Dismiss, Exhibit 1. The court ruled that Mr.
Graham's complaint was moot because in the interim the property
had been sold, id., p. 2, but it granted summary judgment to
Mr. Graham on Ms. Redman's counterclaims of breach of quiet
enjoyment, abuse of process/malicious prosecution and
retaliation. Id., pp. 4, 5, 8, 9.
After completing his purchase of Ms. Redman's residence, Dr.
Pitts sued in Superior Court for the District of Columbia for
personal use and occupancy . Defts Long & Foster, Bashoor's Mtn
to Dismiss, Exhibit A, p. 6. On September 2, 2002, the court
granted possession to Dr. Pitts. Id., p. 4. Ms. Redman's
numerous appeals from that ruling were unsuccessful. Id.
On October 15, 2002, Ms. Redman filed tenant petitions with the
District of Columbia Department of Consumer Affairs, Office of
the Rental Administrator, Rental Accommodations and Conversion
Division ("RACD"), id., p. 1, naming as respondents Mr. Graham
(the seller), Dr. Pitts (the buyer), and Long & Foster and
Bashoor (the realtors). Id. In that proceeding, Ms. Redman
alleged that the sale to Dr. Pitts was for the specific purpose
of achieving her eviction and was "retaliatory," id., p. 2, and
that Long & Foster acted in collusion with the seller and the
The hearing examiner ruled that Ms. Redman's retaliation and
illegal eviction claims could have been but were not pleaded by Ms. Redman in the
Superior Court case and were accordingly precluded by the
doctrine of res judicata, id., p. 5. Ms. Redman withdrew her
appeal of this ruling. Pl's Opp to Deft Long & Foster & Bashoor's
Mtn to Dismiss, p. 2.
In the present action, Ms. Redman alleges that she is severely
disabled and relies on an electric scooter for mobility, Am.
Compl., ¶ 12; that the defendant landlords failed to cure
substantial housing code violations that she had brought to their
attention, id., ¶ 13; that the landlords admitted the
violations, many of which were life-threatening to a person of
plaintiff's limited mobility, id., ¶ 23; that, in retaliation
for her complaints, the defendants filed complaints against her
with the D.C. Rent Administration and sought repeatedly to evict
her illegally, id., ¶ 13; that, by bringing groundless suits
against her, Mr. Graham (landlord #1) and Schuman and Felts (the
law firm) engaged in malicious prosecution, id., ¶¶ 27, 28;
that, even though she obtained stays of eviction process, the
defendants repeatedly filed suits in the D.C. courts that were
intended to intimidate, threaten and coerce her, id., ¶ 44; and
that defendants discriminated against her because of her
disability, id., ¶ 42.
Standard of Review
On a motion to dismiss, I must accept all well-pleaded factual
allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor
of the plaintiff. Taylor v. Fed. Deposit Ins. Corp.,
132 F.3d 753, 761 (D.C. Cir. 1997). "[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 (1957); Kowal v. MCI Communications Corp.,
16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994). "Indeed it may appear on the
face of the pleadings that a recovery is very remote and unlikely
but that is not the test." Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, 534 U.S. 506, 515 (2002)
(quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)).
The doctrine of res judicata operates as a bar to
relitigation of a cause of action that has been reduced to final
judgment on the merits in a prior suit involving the same parties
or their privies. Parklane Hosiery Co. v. Shore, 439 U.S. 322,
326 n. 5 (1979); I.A.M. Nat'l Pension Fund v. Indus. Gear Mfg.
Co., 723 F.2d 944, 946-47 (D.C. Cir. 1983). The doctrine bars
relitigation, not only of matters that were determined in the
previous litigation, but also issues that could have been raised
in that action. Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980);
Appalachian Power Co. v. EPA, 251 F3d 1026, 1033 (D.C. Cir.
2001). Res judicata is the basis of the rule that a tenant who
fails to assert a legal defense in a landlord-tenant proceeding
may not raise it in a subsequent proceeding that involves her
eviction. Shin v. Portals Confederation Corp., 728 A.2d 615,
619 (D.C. 1999).
All of the claims in this case involve Ms. Redman's eviction.
She has pleaded the same facts and named the same parties here as
in her D.C. Superior Court case and her proceeding before the
RACD. She did not raise her discrimination and Fair Housing Act
claims as defenses in Dr. Pitts' suit for possession, but she
could have. See, e.g., Barton v. District of Columbia,
817 A.2d 834, 841 (D.C. 2003); Flynn v. 390 Watson Place, Inc.,
63 F.Supp. 2d 18, 23 (D.D.C. 1998). We have found no court decisions
holding that Ms. Redman's claim of retaliation could have been
interposed as a defense in the possession suit,*fn2 but Ms.
Redman laid that claim before the hearing examiner and did not pursue an appeal from his
decision that it was barred by the doctrine of res judicata.
Morever, plaintiff asserted retaliation as a counterclaim in
defense of Graham's suit against her, and that counterclaim was
unsuccessful. Plaintiff may not relitigate her claims here.
In my earlier order, I found that Ms. Redman's claims against
Schuman and Felts, Long and Foster and Bashoor were precluded by
the doctrine of res judicata. On her motion for clarification,
Ms. Redman points out, correctly, that Schuman and Felts,
Graham's counsel, was not a party to the prior proceedings. The
result will be the same, however: plaintiff has not stated an
otherwise viable cause of action against the law firm that
represented the seller and the realtor who was the seller's
agent. An attorney is not liable to third parties for filing a
cause of action on a client's behalf. Conservative Club of
Washington v. Finkelstein, 738 F.Supp. 6, 10 (D.D.C. 1990);
Morowitz v. Marvel, 423 A.2d 196, 200 (D.C. 1980). Schuman and
Felts will be dismissed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for
failure to state a claim. Graham will be dismissed based on the
doctrine of res judicata.*fn3
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