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Henson v. W.H.H Trice and Co.

December 21, 2006

KAREN HENSON, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS,
v.
W.H.H TRICE AND COMPANY, ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gladys Kessler United States District Judge

Memorandum Opinion

Plaintiffs' claims arise from the death of Santino Henson in March of 2003.*fn1 An unknown person shot and killed the decedent in a parking lot at 33 K Street, N.W., in Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Protective Services ("Metropolitan") provided security services at the location.*fn2 Defendants are business entities and individuals that own and/or manage the parking lot and apartments at the location.*fn3

Plaintiffs bring a survival action and assert claims for negligence, nuisance, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful death. Plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages.

The case is presently before the Court on Motions to Dismiss and Motions for Summary Judgment by Defendants Trice, Diggs, Bush, Temple Courts Associates, and Meade. For the reasons stated below, the Court rules on Defendants' motions as follows: 1) Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Karen Henson as an individual, Karen Henson as Next Friend of Dominique Henson a Minor, and Karen Henson as Next Friend of Raymond Stewart a Minor, [#53] is granted; 2) Defendants' Motion to Merge Counts and Dismiss Ad Damnum Clauses [#54] is granted; 3) Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Count I (Negligence) [#55] is denied without prejudice; 4) Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Punitive Damages) [#56] is denied without prejudice; and 5) Defendant's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Count III of the Complaint (Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress) [#57] is denied without prejudice.

I. BACKGROUND*fn4

A. Crime and Security Efforts at Temple Courts

Temple Courts is comprised of a 10 story, 211 unit apartment building located at 33 K Street, N.W., and townhouses located in back of the building. There is a parking lot between the townhouses and apartment building.

At the time of the incident relevant to this lawsuit, Defendant Temple Courts Associates, a District of Columbia partnership, owned Temple Courts. The partnership has two principals: Defendants Bush and Diggs. Defendant Trice is a wholly owned subsidiary of Bush that manages Bush's properties.

According to Plaintiffs, when Temple Courts Associates purchased the Temple Courts property in 1986, the surrounding neighborhood had a significant crime problem, and some of the buildings' residents were regular drug users. Between 1986 and 1990, drug users and traffickers created pervasive security problems at the location.

In 1990, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") and the District of Columbia Housing Finance Agency ("DCHFA") worked with the owners and managers of Temple Courts, and others, to form the Northwest One Task Force to combat drug use and crime in the area.*fn5 Anthony Ditteaux ("Ditteaux") served as Trice's president at that time. Ditteaux attended task force meetings, secured funding from Temple Courts Associates for upgrading building security, installed security cameras, and installed an access card system. Ditteaux also hired Edward Mace ("Mace") to serve as a site manager for Temple Courts. Mace hired a new security guard company, arranged for armed special police to patrol the premises, and participated in task force meetings. Plaintiffs claim that these efforts dramatically reduced crime and drug problems at the properties.

In 1995, Ditteaux and Mace's services at Temple Courts ended. In 1997, Defendant Meade became Trice's business manager. Plaintiffs maintain that Temple Courts again became a high crime area after the personnel changes. During Meade's tenure, Trice stopped participating in the Northwest One Task Force and stopped collecting police department crime and incident reports. DCHFA and HUD reports reveal that drug use and sales were occurring at Temple Courts. Between 1999 and 2003, Temple Courts Associates reduced its spending on security services from $209,000 to $160,000. In 2000, Meade applied for a HUD Multifamily Housing Drug Elimination Grant. According to Plaintiffs, the application was denied because Trice lacked the police record evidence and crime statistics necessary to satisfy the agency's "objective crime data" requirements.

According to Plaintiffs, in 2001, visitors to Temple Courts wrote letters to Trice describing pervasive drug trafficking that was occurring on the building's second floor. Meade suggested installing a surveillance camera at the location to address the problem, but Plaintiffs claim that his recommendation went unheeded. In May of 2001, Meade received a letter from the United States Attorneys Office indicating that United States Marshals had seized drugs from two Temple Courts apartments while executing a warrant. Trice evicted the residents who occupied the apartments where the drugs were seized, but Plaintiff contends that Trice failed to evict tenants for drug offenses on any other occasions. Plaintiffs claim that Temple Courts failed three consecutive annual HUD facilities inspections in 2001, 2002, and 2003. In 2002, there were three murders on or near the Temple Courts parking lot.

According to Plaintiffs, in November of 2002, Meade contacted Metropolitan's President, Derrick Parks ("Parks"), and cancelled the armed special police's 2:00 a.m. patrol shift which had covered the building and parking lot. Plaintiffs claim Parks advised Meade that crime had increased 15 percent and he also told Meade that eliminating the patrol would ...


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