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Samm v. Martin

December 28, 2007


Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (CA-6206-03 & CA-6208-03) (Hon. Zoe Bush, Trial Judge).

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

Submitted July 19, 2005

Before FARRELL and RUIZ, Associate Judges, and KERN, Senior Judge.

Appellant appeals from a summary judgment dismissing her claims of conversion and negligent supervision against appellees. Appellant is a tenant in an apartment building managed by appellee William C. Smith & Co., Inc. She sued John Martin and Patrick Blades, who worked as desk clerks at the building on behalf of the management company, and her neighbor, Joan Waldron, for $10,000,000, claiming that they stole numerous items of personal property from her apartment. Appellant also sued the apartment management company for $50,000,000, claiming negligent supervision over the alleged thievery of its employees, Martin and Blades, during the course of their employment.*fn1 We affirm in part and reverse in part.

Factual Summary

Following is a summary of appellant's claims that appellees are responsible for the disappearance of her personal property.*fn2 In October 2002, appellant gave a key to her apartment to John Martin requesting that he water her plants while she and her mother traveled to Africa. They returned from their trip a month later, in November. In February 2003, appellant began to notice that various items in her apartment were missing. For example, appellant stated in a deposition, in February she purchased two "bubble" champagne glasses and left them in her apartment. She went out for two hours, and came back to find the glasses missing. She also noticed that her apartment was "rearrange[d]" and that other items were missing as well.*fn3 [Id.].

Later on, appellant claims, the individual appellees began to flaunt their alleged thievery in her face. She said that Martin took three chairs from her mother's apartment;*fn4 she found one in the apartment building's lobby and two discarded in an alley. She said that Joan Waldron (who is Blades' grandmother and appellant's next door neighbor) also took and then threw out a large Jell-O display box that belonged to appellant. According to appellant, "Most of the items that [Martin] stole . . . , he put them by trash compartments. And for some strange reason, I will be walking or going downstairs or walking down the basement, and I encounter them."

Appellant testified in deposition that she saw her candy jar (with her candy in it) on Martin's desk. She also claims to have seen Martin eating out of her dish and bowl, and that he had her towel inside his laundry bag that was left outside his office. Martin decorated the lobby of the apartment building with Halloween dolls that she had bought from CVS two years earlier. Appellant also claims to have seen Martin wearing an Egyptian ankh that belonged to her.

Appellant claims that while she was away in Africa, Martin stole her coin collection, including a very rare Ghanaian half-dime, as well as her stamp collection. She believes that Martin stole them because she had advised him to start his own collection as an investment, and had shown him her collection a month before she went to Africa. Appellant also said, however, that the Ghanaian half-dime had been missing since May 2002, prior to her trip in October. She also admitted that the coin collection actually belonged to her mother.

Appellant testified that she saw Martin's wife wearing appellant's clothes, and that when she encountered her in the street wearing them, Mrs. Martin "jerked and, like, she wanted to run. She wanted to change directions." Appellant also said that Waldron used to wear appellant's clothing.

Appellant claims that she saw Blades, the night clerk, with various items that were missing from her closet, such as a laptop computer, speakers, CD players, Japanese animation, and a Play Station. That same night, she saw Martin remove from his office eight Lalique vases appellant claims belonged to her mother. Appellant had last seen the Lalique vases in her closet two years before she went on her trip to Africa.

According to appellant, she has since changed the locks to her apartment using an independent locksmith so that appellees cannot gain access with a master key; she claims that nothing has been missing since then.


Summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Super. Ct. Civ. R. 56 (c). We review appeals from summary judgments de novo. See Blackman v. Visiting Nurses Ass'n, 694 A.2d 865, 868 (D.C. 1997). We review the entire record in the light most favorable to appellant as the ...

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